Biking Back in the Day
I grew up biking in a tiny town in the country, back in the days when kids were allowed to explore the outdoors without supervision, helmets, or GPS trackers. During summer vacation, I spent many hours either swimming or riding my bike. My bike was not exercise back then – it was a combination of joy and transportation. It got me out of town onto the curvy, hilly roads with the wind rushing over me. For long rides, my friends and I would stop at a natural hillside spring and take some big gulps before riding off on the next leg of our journey. My hand-me-down red Schwinn three-speed was freedom.
I have great memories of being a kid and riding my bike. Did you ever attach a playing card to the frame so it would flap against the spokes as you rode? It made your bike sound like a motorcycle. Did you ever weave streamers through your spokes for decoration? One year for the Fourth of July parade, my uncle dressed up my bike in red, white and blue, with a big leather bag on the handlebars. I wore a cowboy hat and rode in the parade as a member of the Pony Express. Over the years I had a few nasty falls, got run over by a ten-speed, and even broke my foot on a bicycle. But nonetheless, my bike was freedom.
Biking in the Now
One day last spring, a few weeks after my ex and I decided to call it quits once and for all, my feet found their way into my local bike shop. It was pretty much unplanned. I had not saved for a bike or given much thought to what would best fit my needs. After talking with the shop’s bike expert, Butch, for about 20 minutes, I plunked down my credit card for a brand new, charcoal gray metallic Trek Verve 2. (For those of you who speak bike lingo, it’s a ladies hybrid. Heavy frame, comfy seat, upright, slow.)
Several new friends came into my life who also bike. They gave me great encouragement and advice as I slowly conditioned my legs and my asthmatic lungs for longer rides. They probably answered hundreds of newbie questions, advising me on training, maintenance, and safe routes and sharing their knowledge and love of cycling. By July, I had put 600 miles on my Verve and started looking for a used road bike that could take me further and faster. I set a secret goal to ride 1,000 miles before year end, and on December 10, 2014, I achieved that, finishing up my cycling season on a trainer in my living room.
All of those miles in the saddle last year helped transform me in so many ways. I gained several new friends, which turned into a regular biking club on Thursday evenings and dozens of great stories and inside jokes. The miles made my legs and lungs stronger, my outlook brighter, my horizons wider. I saw rainbows, birds, all kinds of animals, and discovered beautiful back roads all around Ohio. I achieved things last year that I would have never thought possible. But mostly, those miles helped me ride more smoothly through a very difficult time. Riding with friends and having wind in my hair has the same effect that it had on me as a kid.
At 44, biking is still freedom.