My husband surprised me with an early Mother’s Day gift, a new to me mountain bike I have dubbed Wonder Kitten. I am completely smitten with my Kitten, but I had many great times on my old bike, Whiz Kid. In honor of both of my WK’s, here is a piece I wrote last year when I returned from Oregon and never posted. Hope you get to enjoy a bike today!
“My bike is here! My bike is here!”
Seeing the movers pull my dusty green bike from the back of their truck transports me back in time to my first bike ride when I was eight years old. The bike was pink back then- a spray paint job by my Dad who knew it was my favorite color.
I was a late bloomer as far as bikes were concerned. My brother had been riding for nearly three years by the time I figured out how to balance on the seat without tipping to the side. I distinctly remember the rush of freedom when I managed to keep the bike upright for longer than five seconds, and experience the thrill of being in motion.
My elation immediately gave way to panic. How do I stop? I had always fallen over. I had been instructed on how to use the brakes, but so far, my knowledge was theory not practice. My mind raced and I could not process how to activate the brakes. I simply dragged my feet out of instinct to slow the momentum of the wheels. The bike stopped- in the middle of a barbed wire fence.
I shed a few tears, mostly from fear. But I hopped right back on the seat, and started up our long dirt road of a driveway. Though the joy of riding had only lasted a mere moment, I was eager to experience it again and extend the duration.
The movers parked my green bike in the garage. I teased my husband “I guess one of us will be hitting the trail today.” His bike had been stolen while we were on a temporary work assignment, (the reason for the movers), and the replacement had not yet arrived.
“We’ll see,” he grumbled.
I began unpacking the boxes with intense focus. The sooner I finished the job, the sooner I could hop on the bike. But as objects began to pile around me, I became lost in the mountains of toys, clothes, books, and art supplies. Where was I going to put all of this stuff? How had I accumulated so many unnecessary goods? A broken toy car. Why had I moved a broken car? Magazines I’d already read, a book I’d hated. My mood soured as I sorted items into piles of trash, donate, and keep.
My hope of mountain biking dwindled with the opening of more boxes. I glanced at the clock every few minutes to calculate how much sunlight was left in the day. 3:45pm. 3:57pm. 4:03pm. If I left by 4:15, I could still ride for an hour before the sun set.
Priorities shifted, and the pile of shoes on the floor no longer looked so important. Finding my bike gloves and filling my water bottle moved up do the top positions on the to-do list. My husband noticed the shift in mood and wished me well. That’s the thing with mountain bikers. We can’t begrudge anyone the joy of the ride.
In my hurry to grasp the last bits of sunlight, I forgot to check my bike over. The tires were aired up. The brakes were in order. But after riding for a couple of minutes, I noticed the handlebars were loose. Every time I hit a bump, they turned off kilter and I’d end up steering sideways. I turned around to head home, hopelessly disappointed, when another biker passed.
“Yeah, my handlebars are just loose. Going home to fix them.”
“Do you have a tool?”
“Not with me.”
“I have one. I’ll tighten them up for you.”
A few moments later, I waved goodbye to my knight in biking armor and headed in the opposite direction. Finally, just me and the trail. If I hurried, I’d be able to ride my favorite route before the sun set behind the mountain.
My legs were weak. The work assignment had taken us to Oregon. The rainy weather had not proven great for hitting the trails. I hadn’t ridden in months. Hills that I used to glide up with ease were now obstacles that forced me to get off my bike and walk up the incline.
But every few minutes, my muscles would remember what it is to ride, and I’d have a glorious stretch. The perfect rhythm of exertion to climb to the top, and the rush of wind and jubilation as I barreled down.
At the end of the trail was a patch of large rocks, an obstacle I had never crossed on the bike. Usually, just looking at those stones makes me wonder how they would feel pointed in my backside.
But I was giddy, exuberant and fearless from the ride. I took a chance. I crossed over the rocks with ease. I wondered if it would have always been that easy, or if I had simply waited for the perfect moment.
To say I was happy simply doesn’t cover it. I was bursting, just bursting with the joy of riding a bike- the same freedom I felt that first summer of riding bikes at eight years old. I paused to drink some water, and without assembling them, thoughts flood my mind. This is my life. I get to do this.
We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s like riding a bike,” to depict a skill that can’t be forgotten once it has been learned. Perhaps that phrase is better suited to describing an activity that fills you with utter bliss. From the first ride, to the thousandth, each one has been a treasure- the feeling of flight without ever leaving the ground. Now, a roadmap back to childhood adventures. What other activity can do all of that?