By Leon Scott Baxter
In fourth grade I wanted a Mongoose BMX racing bike for Christmas. We didn’t have much money, so, instead of the elite two-wheeler, Mom got me the Kmart version. I really didn’t mind. It looked pretty much the same as its expensive cousin. It seemed to work as well as a Mongoose. But I was concerned with what my friends would say when they found out my bike came from a discount store.
“Why not tell them it’s a Winning Bike?” Mom advised. There was something about the idea that I liked. So, when asked, I held my head high and announced the bike was a “Dubya Bee” (WB, you know — Winning Bike). I guess the confidence paid off. No one wanted to admit they’d never heard of one, so I was praised for my new vehicle.
Then I told Mom I wanted to race it. This was before helmets were mandatory for street riding, but, for racing, helmets were necessary. I was the only 10-year-old wearing his mother’s motorcycle helmet sitting atop a Blue Light Special.
In a flash I was left in a cloud of dust. As I struggled to catch the mob, the leader rode into a turn with a high wall, like a wave just about to crest. With speed and the right lean, one could take a turn like this. He had the speed, but leaned too much. He went down, as did the rest of the mob.
Suddenly, I was closing the gap. But I had no experience racing. No speed. No lean. But, no expectation, either. To avoid the carnage, my Dubya Bee and I went where no racer had gone before, I was later told. I rode the crest of the wave, a five-inch rim, and strolled by the other racers like a ride at the park. The trophy was gaudy: big, and red and green (a great Christmas decoration). I never won another. A month later I retired from the sport. But, I fondly look back at those days when a boy could find pride in a cheap bike and his mother’s helmet.