Since moving to Dallas, I have been slowly getting back into cycling. I’ve had 2 bikes (both around 25 – 30 years old) that my dad had given me that were just sitting in closets over the years and I decided to take them out, clean them up, and actually ride. I’ll probably talk about those technical aspects at some point but I thought I’d take the time to talk about something I was thinking about on my morning ride yesterday. I got to thinking about when I started to ride a bike and why I (and probably others out there too) love to ride.
Learning to ride a bike is something I think everyone can vividly remember from their childhood. I still remember my tiny black steel frame “BMX”-style (or so I called it to make it sound more impressive) with the black and yellow checkerboard padding on the top tube. I still remember the rickety training wheels and how badly I wanted them off. My dad and I would take trips down to Hopewell School to try riding in the bus shed which was the closest flat and vacant area to give it a shot. Once I figured it out your social capital in school sky-rockets. You’re instantly part of the group in your class that “knows how to ride a bike.” Once I knew how to ride I’d be on that bike quite a bit. Instead of walking around the block with my family, I’d ride the bike alongside (sorry skateboard, you were so quickly and unceremoniously retired).
I’d eventually outgrow that bike both physically and mentally. At some point everyone at school learns to ride a bike so now you needed to have a “mountain bike” in order to be part of the upper echelon of riders. After some requesting eventually my parents agreed and bought be a new bike (21 speeds. Don’t forget, more speeds is inherently better in the mind of an elementary school kid). This would be the bike I would ride alongside my sister to tennis lessons, the summer pool, and to friends houses over the years. I still cringe when I think about how I would carelessly leave the bike in the driveway or toss it to the grass as I ran inside. It’s a miracle that my dad trusted me enough to ride some of his old bikes (some of which are now my current rides) when I outgrew the mountain bike. We’d ride through the town for a few hours and I still remember stopping for a break at a local school and eating a half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich we’d packed for a snack as I caught my breath (I’m still not a very strong climber).
And I think this was my revelation yesterday morning. I love to ride because of the memories that come with it. Learning to ride is something that almost everyone can relate to and for me it goes hand in hand with the careless summers of my youth. It reminds me of time spent with my family and my friends. I still get on the bike and while I ride nothing else matters. I love the silence of a finely tuned machine that just whirs as the tires hit the road. I love the challenge and pain of a steep hill and the joy/terror of speeding down the other side. I love the memories I’ve made and I look forward to those still left to make: setting a new best time on my morning route, a leisurely roll on a Saturday morning with Sara, and someday passing the joy of the bike onto my own kids.