On a scale of one to ten, my childhood was a solid three. It’s not that I was abused or neglected. I may have even mentioned in one of my other posts, that I really didn’t like being a kid. However, with that being said. Thanks to my grandparents, there was some really, really, bright spots in my childhood.
One was a little Corvette ride on car my grandfather brought home from the Chevy dealership he worked at. It was pretty cool. A 1966 vintage I believe. You sat on the roof, and a steering wheel protruded through the hood to steer it. The last time I saw it, was out the window, covered in a thin layer of snow. Then poof, it was out of my life forever, never to be seen again.
However, the brightest light bestowed on me by my grandparents was a green Schwinn Stingray. By my best estimates, it was a 1972 or 3. What made my Stingray the best of them all was that it was a five speed.
It was the coolest bike ever!
I think that now, but back in the day, it was somewhat of a love hate relationship.
Prior to my grandparents awarding me that Schwinn Stingray, I was riding boring old, non-speed bikes with coaster brakes. For some reason, bikes with speeds, whether it’s a shift lever on the cross bar, or thumb levers on the handlebars, they have hand brakes. The reason for this is beyond my scope of knowledge, and I don’t feel like asking Google why.
But it is a fact.
With coaster brakes, if you need to stop, you just peddle backwards, and the back tire locks up and you stop. This is one of the first, instinctive response you learn in the early days of developing your bike riding skills. Hell, that quick peddle backwards becomes a survival instinct. You peddle yourself into trouble, a rapid back pedal, timed perfectly just might save you from over stepping your skill level.
Making the change to a speed bike, it was like learning how to ride a bike all over again. Actually, it was like learning how to save you bacon all over again. Now, that deeply ingrained response to danger was useless. Instead of bringing you to a screeching stop. You are answered with a high pitched ratcheting sound. Meanwhile, the obstacle you are trying to avoid is rapidly closing in.
As you pick yourself and your bike up off the ground, you review the events, and take stock of your injuries. Use the hand brakes, you tell yourself.
Use the hand brakes!
What made the Green Schwinn Stingray a much more painful lesson in failing to make the transition was the location of the five-speed shift lever. If you hit something, and your momentum carried you forward, that shift lever met you square in the nads. That is what we called them back then, “nads”.
I called that chromed shift lever the nut buster.
Any man reading this knows how painful a lesson it is, to take a shot in the nuts. Especially by a steel blade shaped edge. The best I can recall, I needed two such incidents to firmly plant in my head, the proper way to stop my Schwinn five speed nut buster.