I have always loved the bicycle. From my second-hand chopper through to my single speed mountain bike, I have relished the grace and freedom that can be experienced on two wheels. However, it was the arrival into my life, at nine years old, of a Diamond Back BMX that truly set my heart racing. Despite outgrowing it during my early teens, the bike has stayed with me over the subsequent years. It stands as a constant reminder never to take life too seriously. As adults we can become so easily wrapped up in our frustrations, limitations, and obligations that we loose sight of the joy that can be derived from simple lessons learnt in our childhood.
I remember the BMX as a beautiful machine. Even at that young age, I felt that it was something special; the frame, wheels, brakes, pedals all seemed to be the genuine article. Some of the older kids in our neighbourhood were jealous, but most were simply excited to get their hands on it for a few minutes and have a ride. The bike afforded me a small degree of respect from those who I had previously tiptoed around. Therefore, with the exception of occasional trips to the BMX track, I mostly rode around my local area. We made jumps out of bricks and planks of wood, carried friends around on the rear pegs, left long skid marks in our wake, and endlessly sought out the highest kerb, step, and drop off. The bike was my first taste of real independence.
I still have the Diamond Back sitting in my parentâ€™s garage. I havenâ€™t ridden it in years, but I can vividly remember the texture of the grips, the curve of the brake levers, my distorted reflection on the chrome frame, and how the rear pegs felt through the soles of my trainers. I am hard pushed to recollect, in such detail, the various sensory nuances of all the other bikes that came before or since. The BMX is rooted in my memory of childhood. The freedom, the lessons, the limits, the friendships, and the laughs. The bike only played a small role in all of this, but it is there nonetheless â€“ everyday, as I ride down the hill to work. My knees pumping, small stones spitting out from beneath the tyres, hands wrapped tightly around the grips, and my eyes watering as the wind hits my face.