FULLY CHARGED

By Tony Donaldson tonyd@hi-torque.com

 

Everybody has a story about how they got into riding bikes. Mine starts pretty typically from when I was a kid. I had a hand-me-down bike that my parents put training wheels on. I started riding that on the sidewalk, and, suddenly, I had my first taste of autonomy.

Then my parents took off the training wheels. I was so scared when my dad let go of the bike the first couple of times that I rode into the grass for a semi-soft crash. Eventually, I turned into a better rider, and the following Christmas I found a yellow Woolco-branded bike (made by Huffy) next to the tree—high-rise handlebars, a banana seat and a bow on it. That bike was my ticket to greater freedom. I could ride to all my friends’ houses, blocks away. I learned to skid, powerslide, jump and even bunnyhop on that bike way more than I’m sure the people who designed it intended it for.

I had a choice for my next bike; it was between a 10-speed (they didn’t call ’em road bikes back then) and a BMX bike. My need for speed—and a practical bike for riding to school—won out, and I found myself on a Columbia 10-speed. I’d race all my friends on it for fun and would do laps around the park for hours.

Then my best friend Lance, who got me into everything else, got a BMX bike. His was a Diamondback Silver Streak. It was beautiful. Watching him at the local jumps sold me on getting a BMX bike. I mean, I had to be able to ride and jump with my best friend, right? I lobbied my parents hard, and again they delivered at Christmas. It was my first bike from a bike shop—a Schwinn Predator—and was chrome-plated chromoly bliss! That was my baby. I kept it clean, shining it up every night.

The first day I rode that bike to school, I pulled up to the bike rack, and a group of kids who would soon become my closest friends welcomed me into their fold and took me riding that day after school. We would soon become inseparable. My circle of friends expanded, and new experiences came rapidly out of it. We’d race at the local track, then on to the state series. In between races, we’d emulate all the freestyle tricks we read about in the magazines—long before the internet or even most VHS video content was available. That eventually led to me forming my own freestyle team, and as a teen I made money doing shows at various fairs and festivals. We did well, had fun and had a little taste of what it’s like to be a rock star.

Eventually, it was time for college. I kept riding, but not as much. A friend who worked for the Associated
Press
knew I was interested in photography and took me under his wing, so while in college I freelanced for AP. I decided to go to a BMX race to shoot it and reached out to all the magazines I read growing up, saying I’d like to meet the editors going to the race. The man who would become my mentor, then editor of BMX
Plus!
magazine, John Ker, called me up and said they weren’t planning on going to that race but asked if I’d cover it for them. I excitedly agreed. They loved what I shot, and long story short, I ended up moving to California to work for the magazine a few months later.

I’ve since met all my childhood heroes and proud to say they’re all my friends now. We even get to ride together sometimes, and you might occasionally see some of them here on these pages riding some of the bikes. Their riding talents far outweigh my own, so they can make any bike look as good as it possibly can.

I realized that my life has been shaped by bikes. The best people I know are avid bike riders, and we all know the freedom that can only come from two wheels. Still, I keep meeting new people because of bicycling, learning something from each and every one. There are many I have met who used to ride and have rediscovered it again because of electric bikes. Talking to people at the Electric Bike Expo and just meeting other people riding on the streets is always fun, and I’ve made some great new friends.

If you haven’t ridden a bike in a while, take a ride on an electric bike and see if it doesn’t inspire some of those same feelings of freedom you had when you were a kid and took off on that first ride away from home.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

We don’t get nearly enough input from our readers. We’d love to hear from you. If you have an experience to share, a story to tell, a complaint, a compliment (about us or any company in the industry), whatever, please e-mail me at tonyd@electricbikeaction.com. We’re also always on the lookout for good stories from contributors. If you have an idea, drop me a line!