I still remember the euphoric feeling I had the moment I realized I had learned to ride a bicycle at the age of 6. It was a tiny, solid rubber tires, cheap rusty yellow bike, but it felt like a million bucks that warm august afternoon.
My patient instructors were a combination of my lifetime and one and only dear father and a few of my then clean friendly neighbors in the Solokoetxe street in Bilbao. From that moment I have enjoyed enormously riding bicycles.
Back then, my neighborhood had little traffic and a bunch of my friends and myself raced along the narrow streets dodging innocent civilians in our way.
My yellow bike, which like so many other objects and clothes, I inherited from my elder brother, didn’t last too long. One given day it literally snapped in two pieces when I jumped from the curve into the asphalt. It could have been a fatal accident but I didn’t even had a scratch from that fall. I remember I felt a mixture of sadness and amusement at the same time. When my dad saw me coming home with half a bike on each hand he figured it was time to get me an upgrade.
When I was 8, I graduated into a nice little blue BH bike, Spain made brand. My dad bought a bigger version to my brother Julio which I inherited years later. After my brother’s BH came a very nice spanking new BMX-California which only lasted me two years. I was happily riding along my deserted neighborhood on a hot august afternoon when three young gypsies jumped me with a knife. I was paralyzed in fear and they snatched my precious bike from me. It was a very sad day for me and it didn’t get any better when I delivered the news to my father. He was pissed off because I chickened out at the mere sight of three armed kids. According to him, I should have tried to kick them in the balls, shit! I still don’t know if that would have helped anyway.
Over the 14 years I lived in this unique miniature mansion at the verge of “El Casco Viejo”, my family inherited a few bikes from family friends. These bikes were always too big for me even when I reached my astonishing maximum height of 5’6″ at the age of 18.
I was tired of hitting my balls with the cross bar of the frame of these humongous bikes, so one give Christmas my father felt it was time to do something about not only his offspring but the potential offspring of his offspring and bought me one of the first mountain bikes available at that moment. Of course, it was the cheapest model and weighed a tone with no suspension at all. I rode the hell of that bike as well.
I remember going up and down this mountain nearby, called El Pagasarri, many times with my friends. I remember rocketing downhill helmet less at speeds exceeding 80km/h on rocky terrain and very narrow and sinous dirt roads next to bottomless cliffs. I really believe is a miracle that I am still here telling these stories. I cannot remember how many times I lost control but miraculously avoided certain death.
I have never been any good or have any special endurance or skills on a bike. My highlight in my cycling history was in grade 10. I was riding uphill the Pagasarri with my friend Iker Ugarte when my science teacher, Pedro, came from behind with his brand new, 100% aluminum, $3000 mountain bike and attempted to overtake us with an effortless look on his face. What was his surprise when I followed him at his darting speed and kept up with him all the way to the top with my $150, 2 tone, rusty mountain bike and did not ever shed a drop of sweat. I will never forget that look of disbelief on his face, his ego had to be shattered and more so when I got to the top and immediately after I went down again to catch up with my friend Iker and climb the final and steepest run along with him. I still don’t know where I got that burst of Herculean energy but it sure bumped my teenager ego a few notches.