Saturday essay: Banana bike curls
Al Fritz died this month. Don't know the name? That's not surprising. Many don't. But if you were a child of the 1960s and '70s, you probably idolized his invention and its many knockoffs.
Mr. Fritz, who died at 88 on May 7, is credited with creating the Sting-Ray bicycle, that 20-inch bike featuring high-rise handlebars, a seat in the shape of a banana and, in some cases, a single- or dual-stick gear shifter mounted on the crossbar.
Actually, “creating” is a misnomer. Fritz, as the Schwinn company vice president for engineering in 1962, exploited an idea that kids had been employing in Southern California. His mass-marketed version eventually had sales of more than 2 million.
My Sting-Ray wasn't a Sting-Ray but a knockoff. And the front wheel was smaller than the back. The old man, putting it together one Christmas Eve, thought someone had made a mistake in the packing department and almost took it back.
The “banana bike,” as I called it, was a game-changer for a kid who, until then, had to “suffer” with the hand-me-down bikes of his older brothers. And it was a life-changer, too.
I was convinced, somewhat dourly, that riding that bike for hours on end had changed my hair color from dishwater blond to chestnut and, go figure, made it curly, too.
Convinced, that is, until my mom explained the facts of life to me and that puberty, not Al Fritz, was to blame.
— Colin McNickle
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- The student-loan balloon
- Saturday essay: Anatomy of a backache
- The Connellsville WCVI building: Another fine mess
- Kittanning Council conundrum: Why disband authority?
- Voter ID: A case reaffirmed
- Steel Valley change of heart
- Open contract negotiations: Let the sunshine in
- Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances
- Alle-Kiski Laurels & Lances