Exclusive: Grandma Rides a Bike

One of our most loyal readers is my grandma. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts and – to my surprise – bought a folding bike last week. I decided to take this opportunity to learn more about her history with bikes. Without further ado, I present a Let’s Go Ride a Bike exclusive: very special interview with Gram.

Gram Folding Bike - Jahon

Gram Folding Bike - Jahon

What made you decide to buy a bike?

I hadn’t ridden in a long time but you inspired me to start again.

Why a folding bike?

I’ve had my Mongoose bike for ten years, but it’s a big bike. I wanted a lighter bike, so when I saw you riding your friend’s folding bike I decided to buy one because I can take it on the bus and train to Boston and other places if I want. I find it easier to ride, too. I have arthritis in my hips and knees so when I ride it hurts at first but then the pain goes away. I’m interested in learning about yoga, too, because I read that it helps arthritis.

Gram Panda Shot!

Gram Panda Shot!

What is your primary means of transportation?

I’ve never gotten around to getting a driver’s license and have always walked or taken public transportation. I passed the written test for a learner’s permit but never followed up with driving school.

What was the first bike you ever owned?

When I was a kid my sister Marilyn and I shared one used bike. I bought my first new one when I was about 27 years old [my age!]. I think it was a Schwinn 3 speed.


Can you tell me about my mom’s first bike?

I bought your mother her first red and white Sears bike for Christmas when she was four years old. It had training wheels on it.

Did she ride a bike to school?

They lived near the school except for high school later and they usually walked there.

Gram, circa a while ago 3 Daughters - my mom on left

[Gram on left] [3 daughters - my mom on left - also has 3 sons]

Did you ride your bikes together as a family?

We used to ride long distances on any kind of road available, but not more than about 25 miles away, because we brought all the kids and picnicked at Crane Beach in Ipswich and Marblehead Beach. Grampy and I rode with all of our kids and their friends. No other parents came with us because no other parents we knew rode bikes. Some drivers would do double takes thinking we had fifteen kids because we usually had that many with us. Joey was four when I got the new bike and I had him in a baby seat on the back. Joey rode his own bike when he got big enough, too. All of us did.

Marblehead Beach (not my photo) - I remember digging for mussels here as a kid

Marblehead Beach (not my photo) - I remember digging for mussels here as a kid

How do you feel about biking around Salem? Does it feel safe?

There are only two bike paths in Salem and the bike commission people want to make a lot more. I’m hoping Salem will get on the ball and build the many more bike trails they’re always talking about. They built two but then the economy slowed down.

The traffic here is terrible and this state is one of the worst for bad drivers and congestion. I bought a helmet and it’s the first time I’ve bought one. I’m more nervous to ride than I used to be. Back at Rainbow Terrace I lived next to a bike path where there were railroad tracks long ago that went quite a ways from that area into Marblehead. It was a nice way not to have to worry about cars.

How has biking around Salem changed since you were a kid? Did a lot more people bike back then or fewer?

I think biking was on an upswing in the late sixties when I bought my first bike. There was a big movement towards saving the environment then, just as there is now. It kind of went underground though until recently.

There weren’t many bike paths around. The Marblehead one was around but not the newer one in Salem. I think the streets then and now weren’t any safer or any more dangerous. We never used helmets but safety is more stressed now. Seat belts for cars and baby seats weren’t used then either.

Thanks, Gram! You’re awesome.

She saved this note from when I was 4!

She saved this note from when I was 4! - my message still applies

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21 thoughts on “Exclusive: Grandma Rides a Bike

  1. grambev says:

    Jeekers dorothy! Do you have to make me get a lump in my throat and bawl my eyes out reading this? I love You Too! : )

  2. Trisha says:

    YAY for grambev! Awesome story and beautiful family photos. Your handwriting has improved over the years!

  3. Tinker says:

    Does this mean we have to censor ourselves, so we don’t say/type something inappropriate for your grandmother to read/hear? ‘Cause I have almost forgotten that, my grandmother died 30 years ago, and my mother 10 years back, and I have gotten in the habit of saying whatever I want to. (And you are not too old to be my daughter either.) Sigh.

    Just tell me when I can go back to being a dirty old man, okay?

  4. Ghost Rider says:

    Two words: HELL YES!

    On a related note, I can pin the blame entirely on my grandfather for instilling in me the passion for bikes I’ve had almost all my life. Some of my best experiences on a bicycle were with him…even when I was an up-and-coming young road racer and he was in his early 70s, he could still dominate me on a bike.

    You go, grandma!!!

  5. [...] Is a Great Interview With a Cycling Grandma (LGRB via [...]

  6. I should proof stuff before I press ENTER. I’d let it go if inappropriate apostrophes weren’t one of my pet peeves. That should have been parents, not parent’s.

  7. Charlotte says:

    Yeah Gram!
    I’ll wave if I see you when we’re out riding the North Shore.
    You have beautiful roads to ride up there, and I’m coveting a pair of Salem Cycles bike socks with the witches on them.
    Yeah bikes!

  8. roseread says:

    As another Salem resident/cyclist, I know what your grandmother means about riding in Salem. The drivers are crazy, the traffic is horrible, the streets are narrow, and there are few amenities for bikes. The path to Marblehead is great though, and Salem is a much calmer city that Somerville or Cambridge for bicycling. Hopefully the bike commission will improve Salem for cycling.

    Tell your grandmother that Summit Ave to Palmer Cove to Congress St. is a good workaround for Lafayette St. and traveling to and from South Salem. And here’s a yoga recommendation for her: the Yoga Loft of Marblehead has $5 community yoga classes on Thursday afternoon.

  9. Ashley says:

    Loved reading about gram:) I hope that my mom will instill the same love of bikes in my son. She loves to bike!

  10. Melissa Hope S says:

    Grandma Bev is awesome! So hip with her helmet and peace sign! She needs to visit Chicago and the bike path!

    • Trisha says:

      Seriously, I second Melissa’s comment. If Gram Bev plans a trip to Chicago, you need to let me know — I’m dying to meet her.

  11. Looks like you have bike-love in your genes. Nice article!

  12. sara says:

    This is so great. I love that you re-inspired Gram to get biking again. It seems like a wonderfully circular bike-love thing going.

  13. Darren Alff says:

    When I saw the title for this post, I knew what question I wanted you to ask your Grams. I wanted to know, “How safe does she feel riding on the streets?” And you did ask this! However, I’m not sure the answer fully satisfied me.

    I’m just imagining my grandmother… or aunt and uncle… or parents even, trying to get on a bike and ride down busy streets… and I think they would be scared to death. I don’t think they could do it.

    My grandma (92) is probably a bit older than your grams, but still! As we age and our balance gets worse, I think the simple act of riding a bike would get scarier and more dangerous. I would have loved to have heard your grandma explain how she feels riding in traffic or if she tries to avoid the traffic all together. More details here would have been wonderful. Maybe a follow up perhaps? I know I’d love to hear more.

  14. Lynn says:

    What an inspiration! Now she needs to start her own blog!
    I have no evidence of either of my grandmothers riding bikes (unfortunately, they are both long gone), and my mother stopped riding after a minor fall when she was about 40, but I have every intention of becoming the first bike-riding grandma in my family! Now I just need to get back to yoga so I can stay healthy enough till then (my daughter’s only 10, so it will be a while).
    Trisha, is your mother still enjoying her new bike? We need an update!

    • Trisha says:

      Yes, she is — and now that I have two bikes, I want her to come ride with me in Nashville. So much fun to have parents who are interested. :) Your daughter is also a lucky girl!

  15. anna says:

    My grandma rode her bike until she was about 65. Then she got problems with balance and had to stop. Her husband used the moped a lot. Both of them never got a driver’s license. Now I only have the other grandma left, but she can’t even walk properly anymore.

  16. grambev says:

    I rode wildly all over the place in any kind of traffic but am more careful than I used to be just because I’m more aware that any nut can come out of a side street unexpectedly and hit you or someone trying to pass another car or a drunk driver. I try to stay on the less traveled streets or even on the sidewalks at times. A lot of the streets here are narrow because this is a very old city. As for bad language – I grew up in the fifties : )
    BTW, my maternal grandparents used to bike through Beverly Farms when they were a young couple. BF is a section of the city of Beverly that thinks it’s an entity unto itself. My balance is fine. Funny but the only time I’ve fallen was three years ago when I was walking and wearing a new pair of Chucks and they were a size too big. I tripped on something minute, like maybe a pebble, but couldn’t feel it in time to catch myself.

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