TO BE PERFECT, a Christmas present has to be both deeply desired and extraordinarily extravagant, which certainly describes the blue behomoth of a Columbia bicycle I found by our tree that magic morning in 1949.
They don't make bikes like that anymore, for much the same reason Mother Nature stopped making dinosaurs, but for a couple of years it made me king of the sidewalk. The bike had everything, including an electric horn, head and tail lights, big reflectors fore and aft, white mudflaps with red reflectors, blue handgrips with yellow reflectors and white streamers, dual rearview mirrors with green reflectors, a black leatherette tool bag with white reflectors suspended from the back of the seat, a compass, and a speedometer with odometer.
All this stuff was hung on a massive frame and rolled on great fat whitewall tires with a chain-link tread pattern. My father must have just hauled his paycheck down to the bicycle shop and given the owner carte blanche. So unstintingly had Mr. Nachman responded that it took me weeks to figure out something to add to the ensemble, and that was only a couple of leather straps (with reflectors, of course) that hung on the hubs to keep them polished.
I've never seen the fellow to that machine except the one Bicycle Bill used to ride around Arlington in the '60s, but that isn't a fair comparison because old Bill used TV antennas and sleighbells and Model-T klaxons and suchlike.
My machine weighed a ton, which is to say slightly more than its owner, and had a two-speed rear axle to help get things going. Perhaps you are saying to yourself, or to the person across the breakfast table, that this account may contain some exaggeration. It does not. So massive was that Columbia that when it and I went head-to-head with an Arnold Lines bus, we won. The bus was hauled off down Wilson Boulevard with a broken windshield, courtesy of my head, and with fluid leaking from something under the front end that had been ruptured by the bike. Although I walked away -- and rode the bike home -- the police wanted to describe me as injured. But my mother the doctor said no: "All the impact was on his head, you see."
All the Columbia needed was new mirrors, a little fender-straightening and some spoke-tightening, but the accident did suggest something else that could be hung on it. Crash bars.