It was the summer of 2000, and I’d enrolled in a Grade 12 Physics class at a nearby summer school to make up for the poor grade I’d gotten in the school year that’d just come crashing down around me. I was turning over a new leaf, but swapping my convenient downtown lifestyle for a more suburban routine — and without a set of wheels to call my own, I took to biking the 20 minutes to school to keep things simple.
I figured I could get used to this — I’d finish my last year of school in The Credit Woodlands, a school where many of my Grade 6 classmates wound up and had the program I was looking for. As I spent my summer days there under the tutelage of Mr. Burnham, I made my peace with its windowless interior and started filling my transfer form to make it all final.
That is, until I walked out from class one day and saw nary but a cut lock where my bike should’ve been.
I was livid, berating myself for being so stupid, and resigned myself to seeing out the rest of the class by taking public transit and carpooling with some of my new friends.
I ended that summer with a transfer to Streetsville Secondary School — at least partially out of spite — and I haven’t owned a bike since.
I always meant to get a bike after that, but it just never worked out. Living so close to the big city, school was usually a bus ride away, and I’d end up working along major public transit routes as I started my career. Heck — I didn’t even start driving until the day after I turned 30. But I thought back to my early days in Mississauga, learning to ride on a royal blue Sears bike, realizing that decades later it’s up to me to model the right behaviour so I could get my son on a set of wheels himself.
This adulting business is hard.
Fortunately, as fate would have it, I wouldn’t need to look very far — my return to the world of biking was only a few tweets away!
Ha! Awesome that @SchwinnCanada just followed — I haven't owned a bike since mine got stolen when I was 16. Good reminder to get a new one!
— Casey E. Palmer (@CaseP) May 4, 2015
Sometimes Twitter’s full of surprises.
I’d tweeted with Schwinn Canada for a while (thanks to Melissa Finn’s insistence that I get my butt on one after my all-too-lengthy hiatus), but never considered that anything would come from it! I tweet with brands all the time, but I treat them like I’d treat anyone else — like people with ideas and personalities. I crack jokes, share opinions, and hope to leave everyone involved even a little different from who they were before. But sometimes it turns into something… more.
With September being National Self Improvement Month, Schwinn Canada wanted to help me improve my life by doing something I hadn’t gotten up to for almost half the time I’ve been alive — making sure I had a bike of my very own to ride around my city, getting fit while having fun zipping along Toronto’s streets!
Heading to my local Canadian Tire — the only Canadian retail chain carrying the Schwinn brand — I grabbed my Schwinn Onus mountain bike, a slick-looking aluminum beast designed to take on any kind of terrain. I know I live in Canada’s biggest city, but with a toddler to drop off every morning, I just don’t see myself commuting to the 9-5. So instead of adding to the trendy road bikes that plaster the city, I chose one that could stand up to the trails on the numerous camping trips my family’s planned ahead.
But Toronto is not the Mississauga where I grew up. Back when I was biking, it was a city of 600,000, a suburb equal parts busy neighbourhood hubs and quiet trails where I could cut my teeth on shredding some rubber! But Toronto is a busy little town of 2.8 million people, and riding on those streets is nothing short of intimidating. In fact, I would’ve ridden my new bike home, but I’d bought it after dark, and without lights and a bell attached to the frame, I was just asking for a ticket!
- a helmet in the darkest of greys to look cool while keeping cool
- front and rear lights with laser guides and all sorts of blinking patterns
- a bell with that classic bike bell sound to let everyone know when I’m coming
- both a U-lock and a cable lock because in this city, bikes can vanish from anywhere, and of course,
- a portable bike pump in case my tires don’t want to stay… tires.
Since bringing the Onus home, my son and I have worked at getting it road-ready to handle anything I might come across and that’s probably the greatest part of all — setting a good example for my son in an age where fitness seems to be an afterthoughts for so many people! One of parenting’s biggest challenges is modelling good behaviour — that my life and the way I do things are far bigger than just myself. And in this case, I have Schwinn Canada to thank for the assist on teaching my son the right things.
So it might’ve taken half my life to get here, but I’m a bike owner once more, ready to explore my city in new ways! You never know when good fortune will come your way, and Schwinn Canada really hooked things up with this bike!
Life’s too short for regrets, and I’m glad this is one I can leave squarely in the past — where it belongs — and hope to keep riding this set of wheels for a long time to come!
May your paths always be good ones,
Disclaimer: Though I was compensated for this post, Schwinn Canada gave me something I hadn’t managed to give myself for far too long now — the joy of having a bike to call my own, taking me back to my youth in the ‘burbs where I just remembered being… happy.
Until the next, my peoples!