One of the earliest memories I have of my first bike was when we moved from Chicago to Santa Cruz in 1972. It was a Kermit The Frog green Stingray with jungle bars, a banana seat and a sissy bar jacked up to the max. Depending on the day, you might find Amos Otis, Gates Brown or Mickey Lolich in the spokes, clipped on to the fender with clothespins.
The big Mayflower truck was parked in the front yard, and instructions were to pack everything in and allow me to ride my bike up the ramp to seal the deal. This would be the second biggest bike fail of my young life, the first being the clipping of Bob Gibson and Al Kaline to my fender for motorcycle sound effects.
The ramp had a decent slope and the U-shaped driveway provided enough room to gather speed for the climb. I had taken a couple of laps around just to be sure, like Evel Knievel at Caesar’s Palace. One must be sure.
On the third lap, I committed to the stunt and made my way up the ramp, losing speed at an alarming rate, finally crapping out about three quarters of the way up. I fell over like Arte Johnson in the raincoat on the trike from the Laugh-In skit.
Flash forward 40 years: I think of bikes much differently now, but some things don’t change.
There is an entrance to a lightly used MUP at the beginning of my commute to work, an entrance which is graded very much like the moving truck ramp of yore. Regardless of which bike I am riding, this hill always brings to mind the epic Ramp Fail of 1972. It is just steep enough with a landing, where if missed, will result in a journey down an even steeper embankment into the creek. While track standing is a work in progress with me, I do not trust myself to stick the landing, earning the highest marks from the Eastern Bloc judges. The ascension is equally as tough – if this little 75 feet of grade were paved, I’d give it a shot, but the gravel is loose and there are a few minor potholes. Riding clipless increases the hazard that would significantly contribute to a more vivid flashback, just without the crowd watching.
So, I walk up and down that hill with my bike on my shoulder, you know, to make me look like I know what I’m doing. Just like Rowan and Martin.