TR Maloney-Sr. OEM Sales Manager
My bike always lived outside. We didn’t have a garage, we had a carport. That meant chaining it up every night to the other bikes that belonged to my sisters and a brown tandem with a history I did not know. Every morning I would get up, eat way too much Captain Crunch and then run outside to my bright yellow bike. It was a Sears Free-Spirit 10-speed road bike and the model name applied to my desire to be a “free spirit.”
Freedom is hard to find in a house with a hard working divorced mother, five sisters and an older brother. Everything was a scrum. If I wasn’t fighting for a slice of pizza on a Friday night after the high school football game I was fighting for a seat in our Oldsmobile Delta 88. No matter what I was doing I always felt crowded. When you have seven kids in one house it can be noisy too…and not always with children’s laughter. Times were tough in our house. Having a bike was a luxury – not a right of passage. The only time I felt free from the crowding and the noise was on my bike.
Looking back I now see how weird I was back then. I would wait until the sun leaked just enough light into sky to allow me to hit the wide suburban roads. I would circle the neighborhood from Monroe to Madison to Jefferson down to River Drive and then back up Jackson to Broadmoor and then back down to complete the loop…over and over. I would keep expanding my loops as my little town came to life with house lights and cars. The neighbors knew I was Jean’s kid and would always wave. We were known as “Region Rats”, Children of the local steel factory workers.
Riding my yellow Free Spirit was my life. From the first ray of sun to the glow of the corner streetlights I was on two wheels. It didn’t matter that the brakes barely worked on the flimsy steel rims or I had to pump up the tires at the gas station almost every day. My seat was slammed all the way down so this poor kid could “grow” into his bike extending the life and validating the expense of the purchase. Shifting? What was that? I would move the shift levers all around until the bike stopped making horrible noises. Shift levers that were perfectly positioned on either side of the stem to stab the rider in the heart during a crash. Life was simple back then. I only needed a little sunlight, one gear and enough road for my escape. I would ride for hours without a water bottle, helmet or computer. Now days it seems like most of us need enough tech to land the Space Shuttle to ride our bikes for 1-hour. Times have changed, but the feeling of freedom has not. For me, there’s no better feeling than propelling a bicycle with one’s own power. There’s just something special about riding a bike.
I am lucky to have spent most of my adult life in the cycling industry. Bikes have been on my mind and in my heart since I can remember. I am also very lucky to be working at Cane Creek in North Carolina. Cane Creek is a special place. Here I have a lot of “brothers and sisters” to remind me of the happier times of my youth. We care for each other and look out for each other like family. Cycling makes life better and we live to make bikes better. Now instead of Monroe to Madison to Jefferson I go Cane Creek to Mills Gap to Hooper’s Creek. My free spirit lives on!