Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My bike and me

This is the summer my bike and I reunited. I've had the same bike since I was a teenager, but hadn't ridden it in years and years. This summer, motivated by high gas prices and yet another resolve to get in shape, I decided to pull out the old bike. Taking it down off the hook from which it's hung in my parent's patio for about 10 years, I could tell it needed a lot of work. A lot. The tires were flat, it was covered with rust, and one of the brake lines was disconnected. Fortunately for me, I have good friends who know a thing or two about fixing bikes - Emily and Vaughn. Here's Vaughn with his bike, and Emily with my bike:

Emily fixed my tires, and taught me how to get the rust off the bike. Then she fixed up other various things she noticed were wrong. She is very skilled, as I talked about in a post earlier this summer. Vaughn is equally skilled. He replaced my brake line and put a kick stand on the bike. After he fixed it up, he told me to take it for a ride to make sure everything was working. I rolled up my right pant leg (something people love making fun of me for), and self consciously rode up and down the street. He sat on the porch and watched me, making me feel like a little kid.

Once my bike was road worthy, I started to ride it regularly. I love feeling the air blow through my hair as I fly down the streets. Yes, I look silly but trust me, I'm going so fast no one can even tell it's me, so no worries. My wind-in-the-hair days were short lived however, as friends starting lecturing me about getting a helmet. When I was a kid (a long time ago) nobody wore helmets. It's not that it wasn't cool, it's just that it wasn't done! So, anyway, I got my first helmet and I wear it most of the time but sometimes I just have a need to feel my hair blowing in the breeze. I figure if I keep on the back roads, I should be ok. Right?

One thing I've thought about a lot this summer: you know that expression, "Don't worry - it's like riding a bike! You never forget how!"? Well, I think that expression might need to be tweaked just a tiny bit to be more accurate and not give returning bike riders false confidence. I found that although it's true that you don't forget how to balance on a bike, you do forget some of the finer points. Things like turning a corner without putting your foot down, getting started again after stopping for traffic lights, or keeping out of that horrible pit of death between the edge of the sidewalk and the grass from which it is almost impossible to get out once trapped. These are things that don't immediately come back to you and you may have to make a fool out of yourself a few times before you've mastered these skills again.

Needless to say, it's been a fun summer with my bike. The thing is still a mess (just this afternoon I was on a ride with Sarah and the handle bars came loose), but I love it anyway. To anyone out there thinking about buying a bike or getting out your old bike - I'd highly recommend it. I've grown to really love my bike. And I appreciate bikes more in general - I stare at them as they ride by, feeling jealous of their bells, baskets, and other accessories. Next summer I'll focus on beautification, this summer was about function. Function and fun. (Should I make a cheesy joke about putting the fun in function? Too late, I already did.)

And for those of you who know my goal of riding my bike to work this summer: I haven't done it yet. But I will! (Well, most likely.) I'll keep you posted.


Katherine said...

Man, Elizabeth! You sure put the "fun" in funny! I made a complete fool of myself earlier this summer when I tried to get going at a traffic light and my foot slipped off my pedal. I am nothing if not graceful! I also abhor the "pit of death" and fear for my life when I get stuck there!!

Sarah said...

I've often thought about riding my bike to work, but am worried for my safety along Platt Road in the mornings...I wish there were better sidewalks/bike paths! I think riding to Subway would be fun, but again, wondering about safety along Michigan Ave.

Elizabeth Downie said...

Platt Road - especially at your intersection is dangerous even for cars! So yeah, it'd be really scary for you! Michigan Ave is too risky too! Let's face it, you don't live in a safe biking area :(

Emily said...

You should just ride to work tomorrow and get it over with. Then you'll probably be like "that was so easy" and ride every day. And then you can get some nice tight bike shorts and jersey. And then all the sudden you will be the hot biker girl that everyone beeps at on their way to work in the morning while wishing they could be that cool. And you can jam to your metal the entire way.

Kathy said...

I have an idea- let's stick a playing card in our tires and have a race down Lambkins. Everyone will think there are a couple of motorcycles outside for sure!

You should definitely get some of these for your bike. SOOOO COOL!!

Elizabeth Downie said...

I would LOVE to get some of those! And yeah, let's race for sure. This Saturday at noon. I'll be the one with the flames painted on my bike and helmet.

Angela said...

hahhahaa. i bought a new bike this summer. it's super rad and I named it Old Red even though it's new. And i put a ring-a-ding-ding bell on it. It's pretty rad. Every time I've had it out riding (to the library or to deliver food to the missionaries, etc), I get looks... envious looks from the neighborhood kids. and i just smile and ring my bell as i pass on by. And no, i refuse to buy a helmet. An entire childhood was spent on various bikes and i've got no concussion or brain damage to speak of... so. Up the rules!