Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cyclist or Bike Rider?

Go get 'em Angels
I recently purchased what I consider to be a pretty fancy new bike. And by “pretty fancy” I obviously mean “not purchased at Target.” I was in the market for a road bike, the kind of bike that could get me a little speed, not necessarily the kind of bike I would have hooked up to the Burley kid-hauler when my daughter was 4. I wanted the kind of bike that says “lycra” not “low-rise capris.” Before my fancy bike came along, I was riding a perfectly serviceable hybrid mountain bike, which was about as sleek as a Sears Huffy dirt bike, circa 1980. It’s a very comfortable ride but also kind of “chugga-chugga” in the speed department.

When I started looking at road bikes the first thing I noticed was the absence of pedals. It seemed to me that these bikes were not going to go very fast, or really go anywhere at all, without this important part but a tiny voice inside my head told me not to point and say “that bike has no pedals.” The second thing I noticed was that when the sales guys were discussing prices, they always threw in the phrase “with shoes and pedals” before quoting a total. Playing it cool, I would nod my head as if to say “oh yeah, I’m totally down on the new shoes and pedals.” I’ve seen those people who actually ride fast, decked out from head to toe in skin-tight, super-hero-like black and neon suits and rigid shoes that make them walk like penguins. But I never really imagined I would BE one of them.

I’ll never forget my first two-wheeler bike. In fact, the bike itself made sure I would never forget it by leaving me with indelible scars on my right ankle where the crank arm, apparently with a minor manufacturer’s flaw, used to routinely gouge the skin off whenever my ankle brushed against it as I pedaled. The razor sharp edge probably could have been filed down or something, made more ankle-friendly but my sister (with whom I occasionally traded bikes) and I simply learned to ride with our right foot as far out on the edge of the platform pedal as possible. But of course, when you are Charlie’s Angels on bikes, and you are chasing the bad guys or the bad guys are chasing you, you might accidentally forget and let your foot get too close to that arm again and although you have become inured to the pain, you would arrive home at the end of hot summer night of crime-fighting to find the entire inside of your right foot awash in blood. Damn, shaved the ankle again.

Despite this flaw, however, I loved that bike. I had a troubled history with bikes already, in that I had been riding my training-wheel bike until about age 7 or 8. I was always tall, so by the time I was 5 my knees would whack the handle bars every time I pedaled but I gladly suffered through the constant bruising to avoid the terror of balancing on two wheels. And although it took some work, I learned to accommodate the high-speed cadence required to make a 20” bike, with loose, rattling training wheels travel as fast as the big kids on their big-kid bikes. One day, though, it finally hit me how totally dorky I looked hunched over on my wee little bike, pedaling furiously with my knees turned way out to avoid the constant entrapment of the tiny handle bars, half a block behind everyone else. I knew then, it was do or die. I learned to ride a bike the next day and my parents rewarded me with the awesome new, ankle-shaving bike from Sears, with a beautiful, blue-flowered banana seat. That bike rocked.

Until, of course, the 10-speed became the “in” thing, a bike with hand brakes so you could learn to ride no-handed and pedal backwards and chill out, listening to the sweet tick-tick-tick the pedals made in reverse. Who would want to ride around on a goofy banana seat when you could have a bike with TEN speeds, man? All those gears added up to mind-blowing potential. Sometime in the teen years, my dad bought me a 10-speed, a shiny black speed machine that practically shot sparks it was so intimidatingly cool. It was a Puch, which, for reasons that I cannot now comprehend, I fully believed meant “bad-ass, ass-kicking, high velocity bike of sweetness” in some foreign language. Now when I see that name, I just think “Puke? Really?” Another childhood myth, ruthlessly shattered. Anyway, I got a lot of miles out of the Puch and now have no recollection of what became of my bike of sweetness.

There have only been a few bikes in the intervening years. My red Trek 330, purchased in 1988, the first summer I spent in Minneapolis. A mountain bike I bought from a college boyfriend who I foolishly lived with for six months in Washington, DC. I think I actually overpaid him for that bike in exchange for the promise that he would never again contact me and ask for the bike back. There were a few years when I didn’t own a bike. And that brings me to my current mom-bike and my fancy new road bike. On my mom-bike, I feel like a kid and I wish for a basket with plastic flowers on the front. On my road bike, I feel like a poser, but am secretly pleased when I can race the trains that occasionally run parallel to the bike trail. I sometimes wish I had that banana seat bike back, so I could be one of Charlie’s Angels again. We need more crime fighting on bikes. In the end, though, I guess it doesn’t really matter who we are on a bike. It’s just important that we are out there, riding like the wind, shaved ankles and all. Enjoy and be safe, my friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment