Story and illustration by Andrew J Fitt
Some things remain with you for years, and if you’re lucky, maybe even forever. I’m going to be 46 soon, and a lot of things have happened during my lifetime. Most of them I can remember, while some have totally been wiped clean from my memory.
Occasionally, I mentally stumble upon something that I haven’t thought about in decades, not sure if it was a real event, or possibly the result of my imagination. Maybe a combination of both those things.
I can definitely tell you about one of the favourite things that I distinctly remember about growing up in Trinidad, that one activity that I still dream about on a regular basis—bike riding.
I loved riding bikes. It was a decent way to get my excessive energy out as a boy who couldn’t get around much by himself without help from others due to cerebral palsy.
I believe that learning to ride long before I took my first steps at nine years old may have well played a major part of my developing that ability. I’m told that I was around five when I first got onto a tricycle, my parents holding me upright, my feet barely reaching the peddles.
Knowing myself as well as I do, I was more than likely in a mad rush to figure out how to go as fast I could. I was the only kid who wore a helmet back then because of my disability. Almost nobody else wore any kind of protective gear in those days; it wasn’t the cool thing to do. So my reasoning probably went something like: ‘If I’m going to be made to wear this thing, why not get the best use out of it!?’.
However, when I could get away with it, I would leave the helmet off, because honestly speaking, I wanted to be cool too! And it was hot. Having the wind in my hair also heightened the thrill of riding for me.
As I got more comfortable with my abilities, my determination to be more independent and daring increased. I used to love nothing more than going out in the driveway of my house in Carenage on my tricycle with my younger brother on his bicycle and race up and down the steep incline. I considered that a form of expression and freedom during those early years.
I also had a big, low three-wheeler that was built like something out of an episode of The A-Team, which I constantly abused by crashing into different obstacles, including other bikes, whether they were being ridden by other kids or not at the point of impact. That thing could take a beating!
When I eventually learned to walk on my own, it didn’t end my fixation with riding. I was more hooked than ever before. I wanted a real bike! A bike like the one on which my friends were riding, a cool-looking machine that could burn rubber—one that left tyre marks when you hit the brakes hard. The only problem with getting one was that I couldn’t balance properly on my own two legs, much less a two-wheeler. This was a challenge that was quickly overcome by training wheels, which I would subsequently use on all my bikes from then on.
Now, you’re probably thinking that training wheels on a bike ridden by a teenager is going to be somewhat awkward and difficult to pull off. That might’ve been the case for somebody else, but as you may have guessed by now, I’m not somebody else!
My training wheels were reinforced with wrought iron from our old fence that we replaced from the house we bought in Diego Martin after we moved. By doing this, my bike was an indestructible machine that I could make do almost anything!
I covered the neighbourhood at a breakneck pace with my brothers and our friends, dodging people on foot and other forms of transportation, outmaneuvering dogs, riding through puddles of water after a downpour in rainy season, and a lot more. That bike did stuff that defied reasonable thought!
Whenever my family went anywhere that we knew would have others riding, my bike was there in the back of the car along with the rest. The Fitt boys were bikers!
I bought a high-tech trike a few years ago, and for a while I used to tear up the streets in the neighbourhood just like the old days. I still got the rush of adrenaline mixed with freedom I experienced over the years. It was fantastic! Just writing this article delivers immense happiness and nostalgia.
Sadly, my trike developed a problem with the gears and the chain system, causing frequent issues whenever I tried to ride it for any length of time, making it a painful process.
The only thing that prevents from complete sadness over the issue is that very often when I dream, I find myself on some sort of bicycle, tricycle, or two-wheeler sans training wheels.
And nine times out of ten, I have no helmet on whatsoever.