I’ve just begun watching Stranger Things, the moody, spooky Netflix sci-fi series about a group of kids searching for one of their own who goes missing. And then the weird stuff transpires. Set in the 80’s, when I was a teen, the show has a very Stephen King vibe to it (there’s even a direct shout out to him). Season 3 is being released on July 4th, Independence Day, fittingly enough. Because like on the show, when you’re a kid, bikes mean the ability to feel free. The wind in your face and hair, and that feeling of almost flying, or floating. Luckily, grown-up kids get to recapture that sensation, too.
Sure, you can get some speed and air on a skateboard or skis, but that’s not the same, and you’re limited in distance. I am not the only adult who still enjoys that sense of freedom that comes I think uniquely from biking. On a bike as a kid, you just feel like you can go anywhere. Of course in the show, like in life, they’re also practical — for getting from point A to point B (or point C for crazy, if we’re talking about the show.)
For those of us fortunate enough to be able to ride a bike as a kid, and then to rediscover them as adults, there’s just something cool, nostalgic and magical about them. The bikes in Stranger Things don’t talk, so they don’t have any lines, but they definitely are characters. The fact that the producers of the show made special editions of two different models available for purchase tells us they know the bikes are integral to the characters’ journeys, too. In fact, the show might not even work if they had to walk everywhere.
The original bikes had to be built from parts. The first two promotional bikes for fans (one modeled after Mike’s, one like Lucas’s) each sold out within 24 hours. But according to Bike Radar, the new “Mad Max” version is being sold at Target, and not marketed as limited. If you have a kid that’s the right age and size who is a fan of the show, you can bet they’ll be asking for one. At only $219, it’s not a bad deal, either. As far as I know, they don’t offer sizes for adults (so far).
When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs, my friends, brother and I all got around by bike. To escape home and our parents, bikes gave us the means to go on our adventures. We searched for crawdads, explored the drainage ditches and culverts, dodged cars and neighborhood dogs, chased each other, had races, and who knows what else. Going to school and to each other’s houses was all done with our trusty steeds.
My bike was an orange Schwinn with a banana seat and a back rim. One speed, you had to pedal backwards to brake. Man, I loved that bike. I have a faint memory of my father teaching me to ride it with training wheels in the parking lot of my elementary school. But I know I also had tricycles when I was much younger, so it was probably a different trainer bike. When it came time to upgrade to the Raleigh bike that I’m riding in my logo photo, I’m sure I probably didn’t miss the Schwinn much. Somewhere there’s a photo of me on it, looking back over my shoulder, looking relaxed, content… and free.
“Keep Austin Weird” is our city’s motto. There probably are some government labs running secretive experiments, but nothing as crazy as in the TV show (one hopes). At least I haven’t heard any reports of rips in time, faceless monsters or stranger things than that. Thousands of kids here ride their bikes, have a blast, go on adventures, and experience that special freedom and the wind in their face and hair.
There are more than a few grown up kids pedaling their way around town, too. Look closely as they pedal by. You might just catch a gleam in their eye and a silly grin on their face, as they remember when they were young, and are still experiencing the joys of biking. I should know, I’m one of them.
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