In the early 1950’s we kids hung out at the Rex Theater on Main Street in Sumter, South Carolina. Saturdays they showed the latest cowboy movies and serials. We even had cowboy celebrities make public appearances to promote their movies. I saw Jay Silverheels who played Tonto in the Lone Ranger. We saw movies starring Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Lash Larue, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Durango Kid. When we left the theatre and climbed on our bikes to ride home our imaginations transformed us from skinny kids on bikes to dashing cowboys on speedy stallions.
As kids we lived on our bikes. People used to tell my parents that they had seen me in the next town on my bike. I was probably ten or eleven years old. Maybe twelve. I was never satisfied with riding around town. My bike was my freedom. We only had Shelbys, Schwins, and Columbias but no recumbents.
Sometime in 1967 the minesweeper, USS Peregrine, got underway from Key West headed to San Francisco. I walked around my spaces to make sure everything was secured for sea. I was the ship’s engineering officer. I opened the watertight door into the after steering space. That is where the machinery that turns the ship’s rudder is housed. The space was packed with bicycles. Our guys had heard that we were going to stop at Midway Island on our way to Japan and that there were no cars there. They had done a “midnight requisition” run the night before we got underway to press all loose bicycles in Key West into service of the US Navy. We did use them in Midway and interestingly the guys on the remote island called their bikes “horses”.
I left the Navy and moved to West Palm Beach in 1968. I started running as a stress reliever and to stay in shape. As I worked my way up to 3 miles a night and eventually to 12 miles my knees started asking for relief. I bought a DF which I rode to work every day. On the way home from visiting a friend I crossed the Summit Boulevard Bridge near the Dreher Park Zoo and my front tire dropped into the expansion join of the bridge tossing me over the handlbars head first onto the bridge grating. No helmet. Half my face was peeled off, my eye socket shattered, and I received a severe concussion. After several surgeries when I finally was ready to ride again one look at the diamond frame struck fear into my heart. I now knew from personal experience how unstable the rider is on a diamond frame bike.
After not riding or running for four years I happened to see a move called “Brainstorm” starring Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood. They played Lillian Reynolds and Michael Brace, brilliant scientists who have developed a system of recording and playing back actual experiences of people. Using their invention they could actually experience what other people had experienced. Walken’s character rode a recumbent bicycle to work every day. When I saw that bike something clicked. I knew that was what a bicycle was supposed to look like. I had to have one. I did some research and found that the bike in the movie was called an Avatar designed and built by Dick Ryan. He put a later version of the bike into production and called it the “Vanguard.”
Here’s what Dick Ryan had to say about this movie on the alt.rec.bicycles.recumbent newsgroup in 2002:
Ah yes, the somewhat less than successful movie “Brainstorm”, Natalie Wood’s last movie. I got a call from a guy who had seen the movie and looked for the name in the credits. He went around to all the local bike shops and described the bike but of course no one knew what he was talking about. About 15 years later he saw an article somewhere about the Vanguard and called me. He bought a Vanguard but he also wanted an Avatar, note that we gave them a bike in return for putting our name in the credits. We didn’t have a bike available at the time and wouldn’t have given them one if we had one. (like most small companies we had 0 dollars on hand). But we had a customer who needed money for college bills and wanted to sell his Avatar. We referred MGM to him and he sold it to them for $500 more than he paid for it. They didn’t put our name in the credits. Just as you saw the bike in the movie. Not just any Avatar but the one that was actually in the movie (a very wealthy guy). I called MGM but nobody knew what happened to the bike. Maybe it’s lying in the back of Christopher Walken’s garage. I found a used Avatar which he bought.
I bought a used Vanguard sight unseen from a bike shop in Oregon. I rode it for 19 years until I discovered “The Bent Society”, a recumbent club that rides on A1A in Palm Beach, Florida. After my first ride and being called an “antique rider on an antique bike” I knew it was time to upgrade. Riding my Vanguard one day I met Yoric Knapp who was riding a
Bachetta. It was not long after that chance meeting that I was riding my new yellow Bachetta Corsa with the group on A1A. I am still an “antique rider” but have a contemporary recumbent. I love it and hope to be able to keep riding for years to come. Why do I ride a recumbent? For safety, comfort, health, and speed. Not to mention that they look so “rad”.