Friday, 11 November 2011

Childhood Joy Rediscovered (Again)

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
As a child, I couldn't wait to learn to ride a bicycle. First on the grassy hill in front of the house, then out on our little suburban street - my dad jogging along behind, holding onto the seat, exhorting me to "keep pedaling", until suddenly I left him behind. I kept pedaling, and the world was mine!

I had wheels, and my boundaries grew - from my street, to my block, to the neighborhood defined by the "busy" streets. The bikes grew too, from that first little bike soon passed down to a younger sister, to a bigger one, with fat tires, coaster brakes, and a basket. It was great! As an avid reader, I was overjoyed once allowed to ride to the library on my own - I could get more books whenever I wanted! I taught our little dog to ride in the basket, and the two of us had our faces in the wind every day. Whoopee! I had wheels!

By high school, I had traded up once again - getting a Schwinn 10-speed, and a job. My boundaries had expanded too. Even the steepest hills were no barrier now, and I was old enough to be allowed out after dark. I could now ride for miles, and did. Oh, the fun I had! When I went away to college, that bike did too - providing plenty of exercise along with my new-found freedom.

Once out of school, my commutes got longer (and I was making more money). I got my first car, and the bike gathered dust in the garage. About 20 years ago, I sold that old 10-speed to buy a mountain bike. It wasn't suitable for in-town riding, but made for some fun weekends. As I got older, it got harder to ride the hills - it wasn't as much fun anymore. Eventually that old mountain bike was pretty much just gathering dust in the garage. I still liked being out, and on the move, though. I live in a gorgeous part of the country, with plenty of trails and paths nearby. Hiking and walking was more my recreational speed; with the car for work and errands about town.

I believe in living as "green" a lifestyle as possible. In order to put some effort behind my beliefs, I joined a local organization advocating for pedestrian and bicycle safety. I went to a lot of public meetings, met with a lot of elected officials, and kept speaking out that transportation need not mean only cars. Over the years, and through our collective efforts, we now have a pretty good start on a bicycle-friendly community (and a nascent bus system, too).

And this summer, I figured it was finally time for me to stop merely advocating and "walk the talk" - put my muscles where my mouth is, so to speak. I'm old enough to need my comfort, though. The old mountain bike out in the garage never did work very well other than recreational. I saved up my money, and went shopping for something I could ride about town. I'm amazed at the advances technology has made in bicycling. I was thinking a little-old-lady cruiser-type bicycle, but eventually decided a hybrid would better suit my needs and riding style.

And it does - it's perfect! It has the suspension (oh, what a concept!) in seat and handlebars, and upright sitting and wide, padded seat of a cruiser. But then it has the gearing and brakes like my old mountain bike (definitely a plus, as my house sits up on a hillside). I never liked strapping my purse on the back rack, or wearing a backpack, so I love having a bike with a front basket once again (and now they make detachable baskets - I just lift it off and use it as a shopping basket in the store, and then carry it in the house to store my helmet, water bottle, and lock). And a bell - I had to have a bell! - I'm a town rider now, I wanted a bell :-) I've also found that an Ipod - turned down very low, so I can still hear traffic noises - makes riding so much more enjoyable (I always have the radio on in the car - why not enjoy my music while out on the bike?)

I've rediscovered the simple joy of having the wind in my face once again. I use the bike for running errands about town, even bundling up to keep riding as the weather has gotten colder. I've noticed I can get a little farther up the hill to my house, before having to get off and walk, each time I go out. Before, I'd started having problems with my knees, feeling like I was kneeling on gravel. The doctor said I needed to strengthen the tendon that runs under my kneecap. When I get out on the bike regularly, I've found I can once again kneel without pain. And need I even mention the savings in gas money, or the benefit to the environment? That I'm losing weight and getting in shape? All that aside, it's just plain fun!


Jaesi said...

Just brushed the dust off of my bike and pumped the tires. I need the exercise and a cut in my expenses. Let's hope that I can handle it still!

SARINA said...

I rode a bike since childhood, and I still do on occasion, evenso I do have a car. Leaving the car at home at weekends and trondling along the country lanes gets you to see everything without wizzing past and poluting the athmosphere.

Winter said...

Inspiring and well written piece.

It has always been my dream to have one of those giant tri-cycles. lol the ones with the big basket in the back. I am almost 40 and hate to drive. I am too hippie for road rage and cannot stand the fast pace of the highway. A bike suits me well. I had a good street bike, but it popped a tire and through neglect and procrastination ended up as scrap. Maybe this spring I will look into my Old Nana tri-cycle dreams and once again join the ranks of the green-commute :)

Lisa said...

I loved bicycling as a child but haven't done much as an adult. Which is kind of strange since I don't drive. Christmas is coming so it would be an ideal time to treat myself me thinks!

Your post is so well written it makes you WANT to ride a bike! Thanks.

Fabric Fanatic said...

Please share what make and model bike you've chosen. thanks!

Sadge said...

I have the 2010 model of the woman's Cypress W, by Giant:

My local bike shop offers a discount to members of the local advocacy group, plus it was the previous year's model - I paid $375 US. I'm 5'6" and went with a medium frame size. The shop didn't have that size in stock, but was able to order it for me - I got to choose the "cappuccino" color.

A hybrid bike has bigger wheels, so covers more ground with less effort, and smooth road tires sized mid-way between the cruisers' and road racing bikes'.

Bell, basket, and helmet I got at Wal-Mart.