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Thursday
Aug192004

Stingrays and Typhoons

StingrayDrag races. Chase on bikes. Motocross racing. Transportation. Street credibility. Freedom.

These were the things a bike meant to every kid in my neighborhood. For us, bikes were something we lived on, especially during long summer breaks from school. You might say that our lives revolved around our bikes, though at the time we really didn't realize it.

On any given summer day in our neighborhood, you could find our crew of boys having a drag race, or playing bike chase (where one person is deemed "it" and the rest get a minute lead to try and evade that person within the chase boundaries) or maybe having a dirt bike race wherever we could scratch out a route in our cement jungle.

Now, all of my neighborhood friends all had the Corvette of kid bikes — the Schwinn Stingray. The Stingray was a very, very cool bike to have. Combine a 20" rear slick, coaster brakes, a banana seat and sissy bar handlebars, and you had a stylin' kid-ride. Interestingly enough, the Schwinn Stingray is enjoying a comeback.

I nor my family had the money to buy a new or even a used Stingray, but early in my kid-life, I was fortunate to land cousin's old, blue Schwinn Typhoon, which needed a bit of work. The Typhoon's frame and structure was nearly identical to the Stingray, except that the crank gear was about 15-20% smaller.

With my dad's help, wasn't hard to turn my Typhoon into a very respectable street bike that looked just like a Stingray. In fact, over its lifetime, my Typhoon was also turned into a cool BMX bike (for the time) with knobby tires, BMX handlebars and an off-road seat.

What I came to love most about the Typhoon was its smaller crank. Initially, I thought it a disadvantage, since Stingray riders were able to ride with less cranking. However, as I adapted to my smaller gear, I began to build more leg muscle and developed a high cadence. In drag races, I was the quickest off the line and generally smoked Stingray riders at the finish.

On longer tours, races and chases my improved muscle tone kept me riding easily with the Stingray boys and allowed me the ability to launch an attack even at full spin on a hill, while my Stingray riding pals were left pumping for dear life.

The Typhoon's small gear has even impacted my road and mountain bike riding today, since I can maintain a good cadence on various terrains, and can still kick in the afterburners when they're needed.

Unfortunately, my Typhoon has been lost, and I don't know where it is. Could be buried in my parent's garage somewhere, wheelless and rusting. Once I moved to a 10 speed and mountain bikes, I apparently lost interest. I'll have to do some searching at mom & dad's place next weekend and see if it's still there.

My post here really has no point other than to share fond memories, inspired by the renewal of the Stingray. I suppose the new Stingrays will be bought by guys in my age range, trying to relive the good old Stingray days. I have to admit I'm tempted. Still, I hope some young kids manage to get a few and experience the fun of riding one too. Maybe I should start thinking about a bike for Nathan? ;-)

So what are your memories of biking as a kid? Did you have any fond experiences of "living" on your bike? If so, I'd love to hear about them.

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