The story below is featured in my book, Dare Mighty Things: A Field Guide for Millennial Entrepreneurs. It tells the story of the very first bike I bought as a pre-teenager. Now, I am the proud owner of #PinkBike 2.0 thanks to Zak at Detroit Bikes. And I have this new classy ride up here at Mackinac Island to slow roll around the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.
I had the privilege of speaking to the future leaders last night, and taking a ride around the island with Carol Cain of Michigan Matters. Today I’ll be chatting with Opportunity Detroit and others all to get the word out of DMT!
Yep, my story begins with a pink bike. When I look back, I can see much of my stubbornness, impulsiveness, need to be different and tendency to dare from my first big purchase as a 12-year-old boy — a brand new ten-speed. At the time the Schwinn bike with two derailleurs and 10 gears represented freedom and coming of age. Only little kids rode a three-speed bike with a banana seat. I was 12 freakin’ years old. I had my own paper route. I was making good money shoveling snow for the neighbors. I was babysitting the most difficult kid in the neighborhood. And, damnit, I was going to buy me a bike. My own bike, with my own money.
I convinced my dad to drive me down to the Schwinn store in Mt. Clemens. Because a Schwinn was the Cadillac of bikes in 1975. This store had hundreds of bikes, and the inside smelled like rubber bike tires and chain grease and freedom. It was amazing.
The salesman/owner, who knew my dad, showed me lots of blue and green and black bikes. But they didn’t feel right for me. For one reason or another, they just didn’t “feel” right. Then I spotted the pink bike sitting alone in the corner of the store. “What about that one?” I asked. “Kid, you don’t want that bike,” the owner laughed. “It’s pink, been here for a while — it’s the only one we ordered and we can’t sell it.”
I want that one!
That’s all I needed to hear. I wanted that bike. I could feel it was right for me. My dad, trying to talk me out of the purchase, asked why I wanted that particular one. He told me if I needed more money for one of the other bikes, he’d make up the difference. “No,” I told him. “I want that one. I like the idea that nobody else will have one just like it. And, I like the idea that it’s different.”
That was my personality in a nutshell. I’ve always had a strong desire to go against the grain. To challenge convention a little bit. Sometimes more than a little bit. I knew I’d get teased by my friends some, but I also knew that I’d be remembered as the only boy with a pink bike. And that bike got me through high school and most of college at Central Michigan University.
And it had an added benefit of announcing my presence. When that pink bike was parked outside Anchor Bay Junior High School, the local drug store or, later, at my first real job at The Anchor Bay Beacon, New Baltimore’s local newspaper — people knew that I was there. It was my calling card. My first bold brand statement. By the way, if you walk into Skidmore Studio today you will note that we have two pink bikes in the lobby for the staff to ride around Detroit. Coincidence?