While "knolling" his work area with precision this New Year, the author came across some memories of the first cycle ride.
Courtesy Photo

Happy New Year! With some time off from work, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks cleaning workspaces, bikes, the house, computer files, and my life. In Pittsburghese, I’ve been redding up for 2014. A well-knolled workspace makes me smile. The term knolling comes from the Tom Sachs’s video Ten Bullets. The 22-minute video is designed to teach new employees at Sachs’s studio the precise rules and principles that govern the art studio hierarchy. Follow all the rules, and you may keep your job!

Howard Booth

Bullet #8 is Always Be Knolling (A.B.K.). Knolling is the process of cleaning and organizing a workspace by first putting away all materials, tools, books, equipment that are not in use. All like remaining tools and materials are grouped together and finally aligned at right angles to the table, workspace, or room.

While knolling my computer, I came across a column that I started a year ago about cyclists’ memories of when they first learned how to ride a bike. We’ve all got lots of memories of many different first-time experiences. Take your pick: falling in love, car, school, plane ride, tying shoes, pony ride, baby, job, or marriage. Here’s some first-time bike-riding memories.

I first learned to ride a blue Schwinn one-speed on Bentley Road in Cedar Grove, NJ. It was a long quiet street in a new suburban development. The surrounding streets were hilly. Ours was flat and perfect for learning to ride. My dad got me rolling, and then with a push from behind and a yell, “Go,” I was flying on my own. Exhilarated, smiling, and rolling faster and faster until I got to the hilly part of Bentley Road and realized my dad (now far behind me) had told me about pedaling, but he hadn’t mentioned a word about how to turn or stop!

Suzanne Brown also has fond memories of her dad teaching her how to ride: “I’ll never forget the first time I rode a bike. It was Christmas Day, a long time ago. I was 5 years old, and I had no idea what I was getting that year, so it was quite a surprise when I unwrapped a sparkling blue Schwinn with a white banana seat! My dad put it together as I anxiously waited nearby, biting my nails and spitting them on the driveway. After about a million hours it was finally all put together; she was a beauty! We hurried out to the front sidewalk, each of us as excited as the other. I jumped on her. A little uneasy, but my dad never was one to let me be a sissy, so with a little push and a lot of enthusiasm, I was off. I didn’t stop. I just pedaled, my dad running alongside me cheering. It was a great day and a memorable one.”

Michael Chiacos remembers teaching his brother Danny to ride a bike with his friend Scott: “It was at the school where my mom worked, and Scott and I both had big pieces of carpet. We ran alongside my brother as he took his first pedals, throwing down the carpets if he fell to cushion him. He was soon off and riding!”

Erika Lindemann and her first bike, built by her father and brother.
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While Erika Lindemann doesn’t have any strong memories of learning to ride, she does recall, “My dad and brother built me a new dirt bike, and I learned on that.” Here’s Erika proud and smiling with her first bicycle!

My friend Ty says, “I remember when I first learned how to ride a bicycle! It was in a parking lot with my mom and my brother Kiva in Florida. It was my first time riding without training wheels, and our mom would hold us up and start running with us while we pedaled, and then she’d let us go. As soon as she let go, I would start crying because I was so afraid of falling, and I kept falling and falling. But eventually I stopped falling, and that’s when I became a bicyclist.”

Christine Bourgeois remembers that the small road by her parent’s farm in the French region of Lorraine has never been well paved. “But more than 40 years ago, when I got my first bicycle, it seems like the condition was even worse. With the help of my cousin who pushed me (maybe a little bit too hard), a training wheel broke off in the five minutes of my first ride. My dad, who has plenty of tools to fix farming equipment, grabbed a wrench and said: ‘Pas de problème!’ He removed the other training wheel, walked with me to the barn where there is a gentle slope, held my saddle for a couple of meters, and gave me a small push before letting go. The speed and the bouncing on the bumpy road felt GREAT!”

A relatively new bike convert, Carmen finds rolling a timeless pastime.
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Not everyone learns to ride as a young child. Carmen didn’t get on a bicycle until she moved to Santa Barbara. She remembers, “I never learned to ride a bike as a child. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try. I must say, it is pretty weird to be a grown-up while learning to balance. But now that I’m getting better, I would not give it up for anything in the world. I love riding in the sun, riding without worries, without a sense of time or hurry.”

My friend Elizabeth doesn’t know how to ride a bike. Someday I’ll help her learn. I’ll never forget her birthday, because it’s on February 2, Groundhog Day. For you Southern Californians who don’t know about this special day here’s the story: The Western Pennsylvania weather forecaster, Punxsutawney Phil, will be making his annual prediction in less than a month. Phil is the regional patron saint of shadows. Every February 2, more than 50,000 revelers gather in rural Punxsutawney to imbibe alcoholic spirits and at dawn, in below-freezing temperatures, venture to the sacred stump and watch as Phil either sees his shadow or not. See it, and there will be six more weeks to prep your bike for spring riding. In Santa Barbara we don’t have to worry about shadows — it’s always time to roll.


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