Boomer Bikes Had Kickstands

If you haven’t ridden a bicycle in a while, you may or may not have noticed that the styles have changed quite a bit compared to the bicycles that boomers rode as kids. For one thing, what the heck happened to the kickstand? Newer bikes rarely come with an attached kickstand anymore. Some children’s bikes still come equipped with one, and lower-end adult models sometimes have the device, but for the most part, the kickstand — standard equipment on a bicycle in the 1950s and ’60s — has disappeared.

Kickstands were that metal rod with a spring attached that was mounted below the pedal wheel sprocket. The spring enabled the metal rod to be kicked up or down for use. The purpose of the kickstand was to allow the bike to stand upright on its own. Kickstands usually had a bend near the bottom that set a more parallel surface to rest on the concrete or ground. That bend, plus the roundness of the rod, meant the kickstand was not always very stable. A brush against the handlebars or even a gust of wind may have toppled the bike over.

The thing was, many boomers had their bikes with them all day, every day. If they rode to a friend’s house, the kickstand could be employed when there was no rider. Boomers would pedal to baseball practice, parks, or, as was the case with Mister B, the occasional A&W Root Beer stand with his neighborhood friends, where the kickstands kept the bikes upright while they were at the outdoor counter, enjoying a cold root beer in a frosty mug.

So what happened to cause manufacturers to ditch the kickstand? Several factors seem to be in play, starting with the “cool” factor. The Schwinn bicycles of the 1960s set the standard for cool in boomer bicycles, picking up the mantle from Radio Flyers of the 1950s. As the 1960s rolled along, it just didn’t seem cool to have a kickstand any more. Yet there were probably other reasons that were more pertinent. For one thing, a whole “serious” class of riders was emerging. There was a split between leisure riders and racers and road riders. That contributed to the increased adoption of hand brakes over the more traditional coaster brakes boomer kids had learned to use, and multiple-speed shifts as well. Two-speed and three-speed bikes were available as far back as the turn of the century, but most boomers (in Mister B’s unscientific poll) had bicycles with only one speed, coaster brakes, and a kickstand. Pedal forward to propel the bike, flip the pedals back to brake. Hop off the bike and deploy the kickstand, which was always on the left side. The story goes that people usually mounted horses from the left, so when bicycles came around, people kept that tradition, and the kickstand followed suit.

As trail and mountain bikes became more popular in the 1970s, it became apparent that there was no reason for a kickstand. Riders were hopping on and pedaling away, not stopping at a store or an ice cream shop. Serious bicyclists didn’t want the added weight as well, and even though the spring was meant to keep the kickstand stowed when riding, the shock of rough terrain and the need for clearance below the pedals for potential objects on the trail could easily trip it into flipping open, thereby endangering the rider.

Finally, there began in the boomer years a rise in bicycle theft that required users to lock up their bicycles when not in use. Locks could be attached to street signs, fences or bike racks. In any case, a kickstand was not necessary.

Today’s bicycles have a myriad of styles, seating, speeds and tire options, so much so that they are barely recognizable as the same vehicle boomers rode as kids. Remember fenders on bikes? They were another casualty of the changing times.

Did you keep your boomer-era bicycle, or repurchase one as an adult, to relive that nostalgia for the freedom a bicycle offered? Does it have a kickstand?

Boomers Got the Word

When it comes to the games people play, there may not be a category more popular than word games. The latest of these is Wordle, yet another popular phenomena that Mister Boomer knows as much about as he does nuclear fusion. Yet Mister B has been known to enjoy crossword puzzles, the kind that are published on paper in these things called newspapers. But that’s a story for another time. For Mister Boomer, word games bring songs of the 1960s to mind. There was a series of “word” songs released in that decade that became part of the boomer vocabulary.

In 1963, The Trashmen boldly told us the bird is the word (Surfin’ Bird, 1963). When the statement was punctuated with, Bahpa ooma mow mow, bahpa oom mow meh mow, well, who could argue with that logic? The Beatles took on the task two years later, and told us the word is love (The Word, 1965). A year later, The Mamas & The Papas wanted us to know that despite the pontification by The Beatles, words of love, soft and tender, won’t win a girl’s heart any more (Words of Love, 1966). Meanwhile, The Association chimed in to tell us cherish is the word (Cherish, 1966).

The battle of words was hardly over. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote a song called, Words, that struck a chord with several bands:

Words that never were true
Just spoken to help nobody but you
Words with lies inside
But small enough to hide
‘Til your playing is through

The Leaves were the first to record it in 1966. That same year, The Regents released their version. But more than likely, the version most boomers recall is the one by The Monkees in 1967. Unlike the other covers, their version hit the Top 20.

In the end, it’s only words. Actually, that’s exactly what The Bee Gees told us in 1968:

It’s only words
And words are all I have
To take your heart away

How about it boomers? Which song holds the final word for you?