My Wheels – Chapter 1
1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner

JC Higgins FlightlinerThis wasn’t exactly my very first set of wheels but it was the first with any sort of brand identity. There were probably three wheels in my very first set and they might very well be on the vehicle shown here. That’s the photo I use for my summertime “on the road” Facebook profile picture. The tricycle was followed by a peddle tractor that had its front wheels welded back on at least a time or two due to high speed crashes at the end of the sidewalk and a dimly remembered tiny bicycle with training wheels. The first two-wheeler that actually allowed me to hit the road was a 24 inch girls bike.

It was purchased at an auction or some other sort of sale and was very used. Dad made some repairs and we (at least I thought I was helping) painted it a dark purple. The color wasn’t carefully chosen because it was my favorite. It was carefully chosen because it’s what we had. That the bike was made for a girl barely registered with me. At first I could hardly reach the pedals from the seat and spent a lot of my riding time standing up. The lack of a horizontal bar turned out to be a major advantage. I eventually grew into then out of the 24 incher. A slightly older aunt had retired her 26 inch bicycle and it became mine. That was great initially but, as I became a teen, riding that light blue girly bike became less and less attractive. “Sure,” my Dad said. “You can have a new bike. All you have to do is pay for it.”

I set my sights pretty high. It took close to a year but through odd jobs and, no doubt, some gifts, I eventually accumulated enough to buy a shiny new bicycle from the Sears catalog. I couldn’t afford the Deluxe Flightliner with chrome fenders and “torsion spring-action fork” but I could afford the regular Flightliner and I’d still get dual headlights and a rear carrier that sorta kinda had fins. It came partially disassembled in a big box. Unpacking that bicycle and putting it together was the most exciting thing I’d ever done.

I rode it to the nearest town once in awhile but that was more than three miles each way and took some planning. I didn’t need a destination, though. That bike spent a lot of time going nowhere in particular on Ohio 49. During the summer, when school was out, my sister and I spent a lot of time at our grandparents. Somehow I frequently talked Dad into wrestling the bike into the trunk so I could ride it around the extremely small town where they lived.

J. C. Higgins FlightlinerThis is not a picture of my bike but one from the internet that looks pretty much the same. At some point I removed those headlights I’d lusted after to get the look of a big air scoop. The “fins” were pretty handy for tying down packages but not so popular with passengers. I moved on to motorized transport in 1962 and the two year old Flightliner lost its spot near the center of my world. Embarrassingly, I can’t even remember whether I sold it then or later. It would be 1979 before I’d buy another new vehicle.

Jim Grey rescued me again. OK, maybe rescued isn’t exactly right but only because I didn’t need rescuing at the precise moment he planted the seed for this series but I will someday. Back in August of 2012, when I had no post ready by my self imposed Sunday deadline, Jim gave me an idea for a series of articles that require very little time to prepare and can be used at any time. That was the start of the Trip Pic Peek series. Recently, he unknowingly gave me another idea. First, he turned me on to the Curbside Classics automobile website. I subscribed to the blog and find I read about half of the posts. Then Jim did a series of Curbside Classic posts himself as a guest blogger. He wrote about cars he had owned in the sequence that he owned them. That was the seed. His articles were fun to read and I’m guessing they were fun to write. I decided to start my own series along those lines though I won’t go anywhere near the depth of some of the Curbside Classic posts and, as you can see, I’m not limiting myself to cars. Trip Pic Peeks will remain the true safety net since they can be produced in just a few minutes. Like My Gear and My Apps, My Wheels articles can be prepared and stockpiled as time permits. This third My… series should come in handy as My Gear and My Apps approach the present and temporarily peter out. The first car is just a couple chapters away.

18 thoughts on “My Wheels – Chapter 1
1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner

  1. Wow! I should send you a bill for blog consulting! 🙂

    My first bike was a used 20″ Schwinn that Dad and I painted metal-flake light blue. Then I got a brand new Huffy BMX-style bike, and then a used 26″ 3-speed of indeterminate origin, and then a new AMF 26″ 3-speed. As an adult I’ve owned a Schwinn mountain bike (before Schwinns went to heck qualitywise), a Trek Mountain Trak, and now my favorite bike ever, a 1986 Schwinn Collegiate 26″ 3-speed that I bought used on Craigslist and had restored. Nothing like a big springy seat for a middle-aged butt.

    • Good point about the consulting. I could put you down for a percentage of the profits.

      You’ve owned more bicycles than I have but I’ve got you beat on number of vehicles. Many chapters in the future, you’ll see that I’ve returned to a big springy seat. Actually never left. I don’t believe I owned any bicycle at all between the Higgins and my current Korean made Schwinn. That’s something I didn’t realize, and would never have guessed, until I started tallying.

  2. All I remember about my first bicycle. It had two wheels and was very easy to fall off. But, then again, I could also fall off my tricycle.

  3. By the way, one of the funniest-ever bicycle riding took place on that episode of Fraser, when the two “boys” were learning how to ride a bike.

    • I wasn’t familiar with the Frasier episode but just found a short and very funny clip on YouTube.

      I remember falling off of that 24 inch bike a lot. By the time I got the Higgins, the falls weren’t as common but they were a lot more dramatic and hurt a lot longer.

  4. Very cool. My first was a Schwinn Jaguar circa 1955. I’ll post a photo on FB* but it is not of my bike. It was hard to find a pic with the exact same color and headlamp as mine. Mine had a real racoon tail at the rear reflector and a speedometer/odometer front and center. Once got it up to 50 MPH going down Jail Hill! *FB = Link2Link

    • I never had a speedometer or a raccoon tail though I dreamed of both. I once had some sort of plastic thing with a sort of blade in it that was supposed to show speed based on air flow. It was pretty much useless. I believe the Flightliner had reflectors in the carrier which was cool but not nearly as cool as the real electric lights in the Deluxe Flightliner.

      That Jaguar sure looks sharp (direct link here). Looks like it had hand brakes which was pretty unusual for a fat tired bike in those days.

  5. Pingback: My Wheels – Chapter 2 1948/9 Whizzer | Denny G's Road Trips Blog

  6. Hey…My husband bought a JC Higgins Flightliner today at a flea market. It’s all chrome and needs the tank and rear reflector lens, and a new set of clean handlebars. Rides great and looks great too! It has a model number of 469200 786558. Can you give us any information using this number? Do you know of a place we can get replacement parts? We’re glad we came across your website today.

    • I’m so sorry that I really have no help to offer. I definitely like the idea of you restoring one of these bikes. The catalog pages I included are from a collection of vintage catalogs here though I doubt there’s much help there, either. My article was made of only memories from my youth but those are very fond memories and I really hope you succeed in making your Flightliner just like new.

  7. Pingback: 2014 in the Rear View | Denny G's Road Trips Blog

  8. How do I start a blog?
    My first bke was also a white and red Flighliner. I went all over the wash. DC on it. After I used to deliver the News paper called Evening Star. By the way the people at the Russian Embassy in Kalorama Street, DC were the best tippers.

  9. Pingback: 2015 in the Rear View | Denny G's Road Trips Blog

  10. I loved my Flightliner , one of my special moments were to ride the red and white bike a little after dusk. I turned on the rear light and front twins lights and rode several times around the house, I went around California street NW to Massachusetts ave, made a right onto Kalorama street and back to California st NW Washington DC. Yeah! those were the days.

  11. Pingback: 2016 in the Rear View | Denny G's Road Trips Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *