For years I’ve been telling myself that I should own a bike. It’s faster than walking, cost effective, and great exercise. As an introvert, I recharge by spending time alone outdoors. I hate driving and am a strong supporter of public transportation. So bikes seem like the way to go, right?
The problem with riding a bike is — and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this — I haven’t ridden one in a very long time. I haven’t owned a bike since I was ten years old, and as an adult, I’ve only been on a bike once: in the summer of 2008, when I visited a friend in Richmond, Virginia, and we attempted to ride through Carytown on a busy Saturday afternoon. I lost control and crashed into an old man within minutes of our commute. People on the street clapped and laughed, and if iPhones had been as popular then as they are now, I’m sure there would be plenty of videos of my less-than-gracious crash floating around somewhere on the Internet.
We have four bikes in the KNOM garage. They are rarely used. Almost every day, I tell myself that one of these days I’m going to pull one out and go on a long bike ride, but I haven’t been able to shake the belief that I don’t know how to ride a bike anymore.
Over the years, I’ve had several friends offer to teach me to ride, but there’s always an excuse or two to push the lesson. I’m tired. I can’t find the air pump. Walking is just as effective. My foot is still healing from my latest injury. (I’ve had a series of knee/foot injuries over the years…) But, in the end, that’s all they were. Excuses.
I finally rode a bike this week. There was nothing particularly special about it. It was Wednesday. Middle of the week, nobody-cares-about-this-day Wednesday. I’d like to say that I chose that day because the sun had finally come out and the temperatures were decent, but really, I’ve had plenty of other days like this one. Better days, even. I got off work, and I thought to myself for the millionth time, “I should go on a bike ride today.” And, for a change, I did.
I pulled out onto the street and, well, it was like riding a bike. For the first time I could recall, that phrase actually made sense. Riding a bike is like riding a bike. Muscle memory returned almost instantly, and before I could think about what I was doing, I was already down Front Street, passing our Subway and movie theater.
There was no triumphant cheering or epic sound bed guiding my swift ride along the Bering Sea. My only moment of panic came when I passed three people walking towards me and two cars followed behind me. I whispered under my breath to keep my anxiety in check, riding a bike is like riding a bike, riding a bike is like riding a bike…
Once I found my rhythm, I became attuned with my surroundings: blue skies, dirt roads, a gentle breeze, birds. So many birds, and the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore officially announcing the end of the winter thaw and the beginning of summer. I rode three miles out of town. My legs ached. I took a break. I rode back.
The following day, I did it all over again.