Pedal It Forward

Used bicycles are a gift that keeps rolling on

What starts with b and connotes freedom to young and old and in-between? If you guessed “bicycle,” you got it! My son, Sylvester, just turned five and he has been on one form of wheeled conveyance or other since he was three months old: bicycle trailer, handlebar front seat on my bike, tricycle, scoot bike, rear child seat on our bikes, trail-a-bike, back of a cargo bike, and he is now on his third two-wheeled bike.

The really cool thing is that every single one of these was handed down to us from bicycling friends who had outgrown them. And we, in turn, have handed down all that we have grown out of. The first two-wheeler that my son rode on his own was a small blue and white Specialized that we got from friends and, yes, part of me wants to have it bronzed and hung on our wall, but the more rational part of me knows that bikes need to get ridden by another little person finding his balance. And so we passed it on.

My son just graduated from 16-inch wheels to 20-inch wheels, and it is such a joy to ride with him as he navigates on this bigger bike. His current bike was given to him by a dear 10-year-old friend who had just gotten too big for it. My husband lowered the seat, put on some smaller handlebars and—voilà!—Sylvester was ready to roll. We go for longer rides these days, and Sylvester’s joy is as contagious as a ’60s pop song!

If you have any too-small bikes sitting in your garage collecting dust and rust, fix ’em up and think of a kid you might give one of them to—a neighbor down the street, a schoolmate, a niece or cousin, or a friend of the family. There are lots of kids out there who do not have bikes that fit them well, and by passing down your old, unused bikes, you’ll be spreading freedom, joy and health to our youth.

Sarah Hadler lives in Santa Rosa and works for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

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