I have dedicated my life to bicycles. I’ve worked in the bicycle industry for over 4 decades. As Director of Product Development for some of the World’s largest bike brands, I have overseen the development of carbon fiber races bikes, fixies, BMX bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, and just about every other bike you can imagine. But there is something special about working with kids’ bikes. For young riders, a bicycle represents a special kind of freedom and independence. And because of that the relationship between a kid and his or her bike carries a certain romance.
Nowadays I spend my days getting kids on their dream bike. And every time I see a kids eyes light up when they saddle up their new bike I’m reminded of my own story about being a young rider and my pursuit of the perfect bike.
This story took place over 50 years ago in Chicago.
When I first started riding, my bikes were either hand-me-downs or used. I remember my dad buying me a bike at a garage sale, stripping it down completely and repainting it bright red. Watching him was a great early lesson in bicycle mechanics and taught me skills that I still use to this day (I literally used these skills today to prepare a bike for a kid).
As fate would have it, my next door neighbor and close friend of my parents was none other than Mr. Rudy Schwinn, Head of Engineering for the Schwinn Bicycle Co. At the time Schwinn was the world’s finest bicycle. I dreamed of getting one! It didn’t go unnoticed by Mr. Schwinn that the bike I was riding wasn’t a Schwinn (it wasn’t even in the same league). And I remember him telling me “Someday we’ll get you a real bike”.
I became devoted to the pursuit of a Schwinn. I worked hard and saved. Shortly after my Elementary School graduation I pooled together my savings and asked Mr. Schwinn if he could help me buy my first Schwinn, a 10 speed Schwinn Varsity.
The look in Mr. Schwinn’s eyes told me “kid, now you got it!” Within weeks Mr. Schwinn delivered my shiny new Sky Blue Schwinn Varsity. I recall paying $79 for it. In those days that was a lot of money for a 13 year old. But to this day it’s the best $79 I ever spent. My new Schwinn was beyond cool with its 10 speeds, hand brakes, and racing handlebars.
I rode that bike everywhere…to the pool, to the ball park, to school and even used it for my daily paper route. With wind in my hair and a big smile on my face I felt the king of the neighborhood. My bike and I were inseparable partners. Cycling was now a part of my life.
It truly was a match made in heaven. The day I got my Schwinn Varsity was a monumental day for me (new bike day for a kid is almost always one of the best days of the year). But I had no idea how monumental that moment really was. What I know now is that Mr. Schwinn had his eye on me and years later would ask me to come work for him in the Schwinn factory in Chicago.
To be continued...
Brad Hughes is Head of Products at Prevelo Bikes. He has over four decades of experience in manufacturing, product development and sourcing bicycles. When he is not working for Prevelo Bikes, Brad runs sourcingdoc.com where he helps entrepreneurs with new product ideas learn how to develop and source products.