A long time ago, there was a little girl, the oldest of four, who got an awesome brand new bike! It had a blue banana seat and the high bar at the back, with those great big handle bars that went waaaaay up high, kinda like a Harley motorcycle. Very cool.
One problem…she didn’t know how to ride it!
I remember that little girl. I’m pretty sure that bike was the coolest bike on the planet. I don’t remember who got it for me (oops!), but it was awesome. Probably my Dad. It’s something he would have quietly picked up for his girl.
Anyway, being the oldest of four, I knew that no one would have time to teach me to ride. So, I decided to teach myself. I remember going along, sitting on the bike, holding onto the picket fence trying to get my balance. I’m pretty sure that it actually worked, since I can ride a bike to this day and I don’t remember anyone teaching me otherwise.
That bike was freedom. I could take off away from my siblings, away from troubles, away from everything. As fast as my legs could take me! I remember that!
All too soon, I had to pass that bike on to my little brother and I got someone’s old 3 speed. Now, that was awesome too! Suddenly, I could climb that hill that we grew up on. More control, yet, more freedom. I put many miles on that bike! Except, now, I had others able to accompany me. We set up “roads” and “gas stations” and “drove” around our little “town” with our bikes. Hours and hours up and down that country driveway…
Then, I started to earn my own money. I started to save up. I knew what I wanted to save up for…a “mountain bike”. Back then, that meant a bike that weighed about 40 lbs! with big fat knobby tires. They had 6 or 8 speeds. Oh, and hand brakes! It was the perfect solution for my skinny 3-speed tires on the gravel roads. I wanted to go farther and faster everywhere was gravel!
I remember going to McLeod’s – the local hardware store – and getting my own bike. That I paid for. My siblings were so jealous! It was all I wanted. It was PERFECT!
My first ride – I was going to be cool – I offered to ride up the hill to the mailbox. Easy with all those gears I now had. Only, now, I had hand brakes. And one hand had the mail in it. And I had to go downhill and turn into our driveway in the middle of the hill. And I didn’t quite know which hand brake was the front and which was the back. And I was showing off. And…and….yep….face plant in the middle of the gravel road! And the mail went everywhere. And my siblings laughed. And my mom smiled, knowingly…. And my dad wondered what the heck had happened to my face since he’d left that morning! 🙂
Well, that wonderful bike stayed with me up until three years ago when I got my hybrid bike that I have now. I didn’t want to let it go, but there was no room, and it was soooo heavy, and I was soooooo out of shape! It was time to move off to that bicycle heaven in the sky…
The first year after I got this bike, I rode it, maybe, 3 times. Huffing and puffing all the way. Then we started training last year to do the MS Bike Tour and in about a year, I have put more than 400 km on that bike!
Last year, I suddenly remembered that freedom of riding from my childhood. How it feels to hop on and let my legs take me somewhere. I am not a runner, so the thrill I feel taking off on the bike is so very powerful to me!
To feel the wind in my face. To be flying down the side of the road, seeing the Rocky Mountains in the distance or hearing the birds singing. To watch the grass sway in the wind as I cruise by. It is so exhilarating! To ride for a couple of hours brings me such joy and elation! It is difficult to describe. I don’t mind the hills because I feel my legs pushing hard and my heart pounding in my chest, reminding me that I am ALIVE! I am MOVING! I am BLESSED.
I like to ride with my friends. It gives us a chance to talk, but also to just BE. Words don’t have to fill the spaces in time as the wheels keep turning. We are just there, miles disappearing under us. Cares being left at the side of the road. We are like kids again, out for a “joy ride”.
I went out for a ride recently on a warmish, Chinook kind of day. I long for Spring. I long for my tires to hit the road again, miles disappearing again. Spin class and stationary biking leaves me aching for the sunshine or even the windy days. But, they are something at least to keep me, while I pine for the fresh air and the dusty roads of my cycling journeys.