Granddad's Astroflite creates lifelong hobby
March 25, 2014
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - It was a 1966 Murray Astroflite that started it all and Maj. Doug Warren can thank his grandfather for that.
"In 1966 my grandfather, Willie K. Patterson, won a brand new bike at a local department store here in Huntsville," said Warren, an Army Contracting Command-Redstone procurement officer and Huntsville native.
It was a random drawing and Patterson wasn't even interested in riding at first. Eventually he became a steady rider, but fifteen years later it was the young Warren who was intrigued by the horns, gadgets, and control panel.
While he wanted a bike like his grandfather's, his parents said as a child he wasn't responsible enough to own an antique bicycle. Instead, in 1984 when he was 8 years old, he received a BMX as his first bike as a Christmas present.
"I rode it to school and around my neighborhood with friends, especially after the popularity of the movie 'E.T.,'" he said. He continued to ride it until it "wasn't cool."
Warren said he always appreciated the appearance of the classics and never forgot about his granddad's Astroflite.
"In high school, I finally talked my grandfather into letting me take home that old bike. Of course, then it went from sitting unused at his house, to sitting unused at my parents' shed," Warren said with a laugh.
Eventually, Warren started restoring it and it became a hobby that has stuck. When he came back from Afghanistan in 2011, he got back into restoring the Astroflite.
"It's always a work in progress, but it's 99 percent back to its original condition and sitting on my living room floor. Luckily, I have the best wife in the world who understands how it enables me to unwind. She supports it," said Warren.
Their 8-year-old daughter Abigail often rides her own 1958 AMF Convertible bicycle with him. He bought it for her and though she enjoys it, Warren said she has her eyes on a modern, pink bike.
But she recognizes the value of her current one, he said. She asked that, if she gets a new one, he hold on to the old one for her. That makes Warren feel good, just as riding with her in general does.
"It allows us to unwind and enjoy time together, just honking horns with streamers waving," he said.
He also said riding a bike with a horn and streamers doesn't always fit in.
Warren said he believes he stood out at an ACC walk/run/bike event when he rode his 1942 Goodyear Hi-Way Patrol with "wings" amidst a sea of modern bikes.
"Hey, with one gear, a skip-tooth chain, and balloon tires, I still finished in the middle of the pack. Not bad, considering the bike averages 15 miles-per-hour downhill with a good wind," he said.
Warren said for him riding isn't about speed or winning.
"It's just about throwing on my tennis shoes and jeans at the end of a long day and getting away from technology, enjoying nature. It's exercise, and it's also therapy," he said. "It's very therapeutic after being deployed or for whatever you're going through."
Besides the Astroflite and the Goodyear, Warren has six other vintage bicycles. Except for the Astroflite, he rides them all.
"My black and chrome 1950 Monarch Super Deluxe with parade struts is my special occasion bike," he said with a big grin. "I only ride it in perfect weather."
Warren said he rides his 1966 Sears Spaceliner the most and considers his 1980 Schwinn Cruise 5 somewhat of a "cheat" since it has five gears. His other bikes are a 1959 Firestone 500, a 1968 Columbia Fire Arrow and a 1961 Evans Viscount 700.
"These bikes, with the exception of the Schwinn, all have one gear. They were all made in America with metal, steel and chrome. They all weigh at least 20 pounds each. They're not like bikes today," he said "By comparison, many bikes today have more than twenty-five gears, are usually made in China of aluminum and other lightweight materials, and frequently weigh less than ten pounds."
Warren said he learned that the Goodyear was sold in 1942 for $28.
"It was a different world back then," said Warren. "A bike ride can be nostalgic and with the way the world is today, having something so simple to do is really wonderful."