Lum: Bicycle memories

Su Lum

Trapped at home by the road closings of the USA Pro Challenge bike race, I was reminded of my joy when, at age 8 or 9, my parents gave me a brand-new bicycle.

I had already learned to ride the beat-up two-wheelers that belonged to our neighbors, and I’m sure, though I wouldn’t swear to it, that my older sister had her own bike, which I am quite sure she wouldn’t have let me touch but which, if so, I definitely would have ridden on the sly.

My main memory of the beater bikes was of having to stand up because my feet couldn’t reach the pedals sitting down.

The brand-new bike, a one-speed with foot brakes, served as my escape and transportation until I got my driver’s license almost a decade later.

In kid time, a decade is roughly 175 years, so we had plenty of time to bond deeply, my bicycle and I, but I dropped it like a hot potato as soon as I learned to drive, and I didn’t have another bike until I moved to Aspen.

I don’t remember where I bought my blue Aspen bike — that was almost 50 years ago (10 years in my time) — but I’ve always had it in my mind that I paid $25 for it, so I probably got it at a garage sale.

Saturdays in Aspen back then were one gigantic garage sale after another, and if you didn’t find what you were looking for, you could paw around in the dump, an open field across from the present public schools. You could dump anything, and if the egalitarian scavengers didn’t pick it up in a few days, the dump bulldozer would dig a new hole and bury it.

I digress.

This old blue bicycle was perfect for me because of the foot brakes, very difficult to come by in those modern times but what I was used to. It had three speeds, but the gears never worked properly (or I never operated them properly), but I was used to that, too. One speed, foot brake — it was my kind of bike.

I rode it to work at The Aspen Times and back, and when the bike trail from the new Clark’s Market to Cemetery Lane opened up (don’t ask me when), I used to ride my blue bike to Slaughterhouse Bridge and back, especially enjoying looking into the backyards of the new mega-homes (now third-generation tear-downs) along the way. I did this every warm-weather day for a couple of years, thinking it was an enormous workout.

When they were teenagers, my daughters Skye and Hillery were mortified by the blue bike and wouldn’t be caught dead riding it, so I was astounded when, in the early ’80s, some scumbag stole my blue bike from the rack in front of The Aspen Times.

It was, of course, unlocked — who on earth would pick that bike among all the many better, unlocked bikes in Aspen?

I missed the blue bike and knew there was no way I could replace it — the bike world then was light years ahead of my old one.

Years had passed — two or three, maybe more — when Hillery told me she had a surprise in the living room. I looked, and there was the blue bike. What a moment.

Hillery had run across the bike in the yard of a condominium a few blocks away, recognized it as mine, took it and rode it home. Yes! I got it tuned up as good as new and rode it until decrepitude (mine) took over.

Now it hangs in the toolshed.

A few months ago, my friends Hilary and Doug were spring cleaning the tool shed. “Do you want to keep that old bicycle?” Doug asked me and I said that yes, I couldn’t bear to throw it out, muttering something about memories.

Soon after that, I was telling my daughter Hillery about the shed cleaning, and she said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever throw out that blue bicycle.”

Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks that life, in the end, is memories — the photo albums, the letters, the old bike. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at