I don’t have fond childhood memories of riding a bike (and I sincerely hope yours are better than mine). Instead I had two relatively minor accidents while learning. One involved a dive into a spiky plant with thorns. The other, I got trapped under my bike and dragged down a hill.
So I didn’t try to learn again until I realized some of my college classes were too far separated. If the teacher let the class out on time, you didn’t have any other delay, and you walked as quickly as possible, you’d make it. Guess how often that sort of luck happens?
So I got a bike and wobbled around campus. I clipped at least two or three people– the pedestrians really weren’t paying attention. There’s nothing quite like threading through half-awake college students (and college students often wake up just in time for class, even for afternoon classes) to invigorate you.
Then I played bumper bike with people at the cross walk. I’d try to curve around the outside, but sometimes I’d end up pedaling very, very slowly, trapped inside a mass of people who we talking on a cell phone, half-asleep, or talking with friends. Once someone stepped directly in front of me. I braked, he grabbed my handlebars, and we stood there looking at each other before he let my bike go. It was an odd moment.
After two semesters, I put the bike away. Now I’m trying to pick it up again. And it’s not, in fact, as easy as riding a bike. It may be as easy as falling off a bike. Or as easy as giving up and walking beside your bike, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.
There’s shiny vintage-style bikes out now, which are curvier and prettier than my mountain bike. They gleam and shine in the stores, a row of attractive possibilities. And there are bike bells with flowers, butterflies, or dragons on them, adorable wicker baskets, color-coordinated water bottle holders, attachable lights to cut through the dark, and a multitude of helmets. I admire these shiny toys greatly, even though I don’t need them. They’re better meant for serious cyclists, not people who have to push off with their feet a few times to get enough momentum to begin pedaling.
Still, I can go down a small hill with the best of them, whirring along effortlessly, letting gravity do the work. It plays enough pranks on me, it owes me something. And maybe I’ll get some good memories to balance out the disasters. Or at least a bike bell, so pedestrians can hear me coming…
Do you bike for fun or transportation? Where do you go cycling? (Bike paths, sidewalks, side of the road, crazy scary hillsides?)