Toy manufacturer Fisher Price recently introduced a stationary bike for kids, 3 to 6 years old. My first reaction was, “Does this mean children have abandoned the Great Outdoors completely?” There are those who will argue that some children live in apartments with nowhere to play outside, so isn’t it better to at least get some exercise indoors?
But exercise for a child is not just physical, the mental aspect is tremendously important. A child’s imagination is pure creativity. It is through games, imaginary situations, a child’s mind develops in preparation for a life ahead.
A real bicycle, or tricycle is often a child’s first taste of independence, and freedom. A chance to venture forth alone and unsupervised, if only to the end of the street. With a group of children, a bicycle becomes a horse to play cowboys and Indians, or a car to play cops and robbers.
Before the bicycle was invented I’m sure children used a broom or a stick to represent the horse, but the games were similar. Games that involve chasing each other, friendly competition. However, a stationary bike is already a pretend bicycle, so a pretend bike can hardly become a pretend horse. And how do you chase someone on a stationary bike?
To me the other thing this stationary bike represents is the ‘Fear Factor.’ It has completely taken over our way of life, and that is the real reason children no longer play outside. When I was a kid my mother told me, “Look both ways before crossing the road, and don’t talk to strangers.” Then she sent me out to play, and I was not expected home until it got dark.
I believe there have always been child predators and other dangers, but the problem is because of television and the media in general constantly dwelling on the negative, people are in perpetuity made aware of the dangers.
The actual danger becomes blown out of all proportion. It has even reached the stage where in some areas, parents who allow their children to walk to school unsupervised, are charged with neglect.
When 9/11 happened, people were fond of saying, “If we allow ourselves to live in fear, the terrorists have won.” I believe the ‘Fear’ had crept into our lives long before 9/11. I was reminded of this recently when Charles Manson was back in the news because of his health issues.
It was at the end of the 1960s, about the time of the Manson murders, that everything changed. Prior to that people left their doors unlocked at night, teenage kids climbed into cars with strangers, as they hitch-hiked across the country. After Manson, doors were locked, and people stopped picking up hitch-hikers. The “Bad Guys” had won. Long before there were Terrorists.
Today they have classes in High School to teach Social Skills. Social skills should be learned in pre-school, playing with other kids. It is where a child learns to share, and to fit in with others. Bullying is rife in schools, because kids have spent their early years with mommy, and are suddenly thrown in with a mix of other children, with no clue how to deal with the situation.
Whether a stationary bike for kids is a good or bad thing is a matter of individual opinion. To me it symbolizes the isolation that our children suffer from an early age. Pre-school should be the years to start learning social skills by playing, (Preferably unsupervised) with other kids.
School years are for book learning and strengthening social skills. By High School and into the teen years the individual should be honing social skills and learning how meaningful relationships work. However, if a child is a misfit from an early age, one who finds it difficult to socialize with others , it will be a burden he or she will carry the rest of their life.
Social skills cannot be learned from a book, only by experience. Real experiences that is, like riding a real bicycle.
In the final days of 2016 Ferdi Kubler, one the last of my boyhood cycling heroes died at the age of 97.
Up until yesterday the 29th. December 2016, Ferdinand "Ferdi" Kubler was the oldest living Tour de France winner, having won in 1950. He was World Road Champion in 1951.
He raced against Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Louison Bobet, and on any given day was equal to or could even beat these riders. He was a climber who could also win in a sprint.
1950, the year Kubler won the tour, was the year I got my first lightweight bike. I was 14 years old, still at school, and too young to race.That didn’t stop me from following all the big races.
The Tour de France was then as it is now, the biggest one of all. There was no live television broadcasts. Just photographs and written stories. The British “Cycling” weekly magazine was the first news source of what was going on.
Every year during the Tour, I would order the French sports papers, LeEquipe and Miroir Sprint. These would arrive two or three weeks later, but were full of large format action photos. I knew only a smattering of French, but could pick out the names.
In a very short time could recognize the individual riders without referring to the captions.
Just as today I can recognize all the top riders, and often watch TV race coverage with a foreign language commentary, or with no sound at all.
And so it was this 14 year old kid from England, followed this group of larger than life heroes. Names like Italian cyclists Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, and Fiorenzo Magni. French riders, Louison Bobet, Jean Robic, and Raphael Geminiani. Belgian’s Stan Ockers and Rik Van Steenbergen. And then there were a Swiss pair Ferdi Kubler and Hogo Koblet
Over the years, I have written in detail about all these riders, there are links to the articles in the above names. The only one on this list still living is Raphael Geminiani. Who is at the time of writing 91 years old. Many died young, Fausto Coppi caught malaria and died in 1960 at age 40. Hugo Koblet died in a car crash in 1964, aged 39.
Above: Kubler leads Fausto Coppi
Ferdi Kubler was one of the great riders of his time. Like the others of his era, his best years were lost during WWII when he was restricted to racing in Switzerland. He was already 31 when he won the Tour.
In the Grand Tour events, Kubler won the 1950 Tour de France in front of Stan Ockers of Belgium and Louison Bobet of France. He was also 2nd in the 1954 Tour de France behind Louison Bobet of France. In addition, Kubler won the Points Jersey in the Tour de France that year as well.
He also stood on every podium step of the World Championship Road Race. He was 2nd. in 1949 and 3rd. in 1950. Won in 1951. Now that is perseverance and consistency.
Kubler won a 3rd. podium spot in the 1951 and 1952 Giro d'Italia. He won many of the important races of his day. For example the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic twice, in 1951 and 1952.
I salute you Ferdi Kubler, a great champion, a gentleman and my hero.
There were times when I felt you would live forever, or at least to be 100.
You did come pretty close.
Addendum Dec 31/16
The picture below Was sent to me by ex Manchester Wheeler member Brian Booth. It shows Ferdi Kubler enjoying a game of snooker at the Manchester, Fallowfield Track Clubhouse, during a visit to the UK in the early 1950s. Brian's Dad is on the right wearing glasses. On the left in the shadows holding a cue is Reg Harris, British World Sprint Champion and famous Manchester Wheelers member.
2016 was somewhat of a banner year for me, in that I reached my 80th. birthday. That is not something that happens every day of the week. In less than six weeks I will be 81, but somehow that is no big deal. The next big one for me will be my 90th. in 2026.
And that will be here soon enough, at the rate time flies when a person reaches my age. I now look back to my childhood and it all seems such a short time ago. Never once during my teen years, or even my twenties, did I consider, or even think about the fact that I might live into the next millennium.
Why not? I now ask myself. I was only 63 when I passed through New Year 2000. There was always a good possibility that I would. Why did it never even occur to me until somewhere around New Year 1999?
George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the young.” Shaw was born in 1856, and died in 1950. I was 14 years old when he died, and for some reason I remember it well. Probably because my father was Irish like Shaw, and made a bid deal about it.
I wish now that I had paid more attention to scholars like George Bernard Shaw, because my youth was indeed wasted on me. Looking back, I had so many dreams, but that is all they were, just dreams. Never once did I take steps to make those dreams become even a remote possibility.
I did what most do, I stumbled aimlessly along. Rather than doing what I wanted to do, I did what was expected of me by others. In spite of this, I did have a few more successes than failures, and I should be at least grateful for that. And I am.
Today I am recycling my old dreams. Doing what I wanted to do back when I was wasting my youth. I am achieving moderate success, but I can’t expect much more. After all, time is running out for me.
Youth is a precious gift, because it is the gift of time, and all success needs is time. If anyone does anything long enough they will become good at it. That is practically guaranteed, but youth cannot see time in the future, youth wants instant success. When instant success doesn’t materialize, youth gives up.
I know this to be true, because I was young once, a short time ago.
Can a bicycle frame be considered art? The term I always use is “Functional Art.” Anything manufactured whether it is made by hand or mass produced, can be considered functional art.
Furniture for example, a chair in order to serve its purpose has to be comfortable to sit in, but when it comes down to making a final choice, quality, and appearance will play a big roll.
Aesthetics and function go hand in hand, hence the term Functional Art. If someone made a musical instrument that looked beautiful but sounded awful, what use would it be apart from something to hang on the wall and look at? Likewise, the beauty of a well-crafted bicycle is in the way it rides and handles
When I built frames in England during the 1970s my customers were almost exclusively racing cyclists. They bought my bikes because they handled well and were reasonably priced. On moving to the US in 1979 and I saw that framebuilders paid a great deal of attention to detail and finish of the product, because their customers were swayed by aesthetics as much as what was beneath the paint.
To take this discussion one step further, does the individual craftsman or artist inject something of himself into whatever it is he is making? Does he breathe life into an inanimate object and give it a soul almost. How else does one describe a feeling?
A handmade musical instrument by a known and respected craftsman will feel different when played and sound better than a massed produced factory made item. How does one describe the difference?
How do these qualities get into the musical instrument other than through the artist? Through his design and skill. I will go so far as to say there is a part of me in every frame I built. Also when you practice a skill long enough it becomes second nature, automatic without conscious thought.
This is not a new notion, the Native American called this “Hand Magic.” Nature bringing something into creation through the artist’s hands. When an ant colony builds an ant hill, is this any different from man building his cities and roadways? Just on a larger scale.
The Navtive American sees mankind as part of Nature, not separate from it. There is nothing in Nature that is not beautiful. One can dive deep into the ocean and find beauty, or go to places where humankind rarely travels and find the same.
The only ugliness is man-made. Man builds a barn in a field and paints it red. It is an eyesore, a blight in the environment. Given time the barn becomes derelict, nature takes over and the barn becomes a thing of beauty. Photographers come to photograph it, artists come to capture it on canvas.
If the artist is connected to the creative source in the first place then his creation will be beautiful to begin with. It is not even necessary for the artist to be aware of this.
When I built frames some thirty years ago, had anyone put forward this point of view to me, I would have said they were full of crap. It was only towards the end of my framebuilding career in the late 1990s did I realize that all creativity or art comes from one source only. Be it music, painting, or even bicycle frames.
To put it another way. Back in the 1980s when I was building frames, there were many import frames coming in from Italy and other parts of Europe, as well as Japan. These would be built in factories, usually by a team of builders. One would braze bottom brackets, another head lugs and son on.
Some would be more conscientious than others, but to most it was just a job, a pay check. Does it strain the imagination too much to see that frames built in this manner can never consistently measure up to those built by an individual builder, whose life passion is framebuilding, and his reputation rests on every frame.
I am just putting forward my thoughts and ideas. Not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. If you disagree that is fine, and I would be pleased to hear your point of view.