I learned early that if I was out on my bicycle, I wasn’t expected to escort younger siblings and I could go beyond the walking boundaries set by my parents.
I bought my first ten-speed with money earned berry picking my sophomore year in high school. It was an orange Nishiki with tires so thin it was a wonder they hugged the pavement at all. I felt like I had a freedom pass to the world.
When I embarked on my first overnight bike trip to the San Juan Islands the following summer, the wing bumps on my back popped right out of my tee-shirt! It was a thrill to know I had everything I needed in my panniers. I wasn’t alone, but I wasn’t with grown-ups!
That bike was stolen my junior year in college and I felt truly robbed, not only of a possession but of my ability to escape. It had become a joyous habit of mine to roll about the tree-lined streets at dusk when curtains hadn’t yet been drawn. I could peek lovingly into homes, remember my own and yet feel happily distant from it at the same time. Once more I used summer earnings to buy a bicycle.
I am not a hardy rider anymore but it is a June ritual to pull my bike from the patio, dust off the cobwebs and ready it for summer riding. My mom told me to bring my bike out to her house some time. She wants to know if she can still ride one. My dad laughed, unable to imagine his 77-year-old wife hopping on a bike. I know my mom just wants to see if it’s true that one really can’t forget how to ride a bike. I’ll bring it out to her because despite her age I know she’ll get on it and ride 50 feet just to prove she can do it.
It isn’t the mechanics of riding that I fear will fade. I don’t want to forget the joy and triumph I felt to be a girl in the world, pedaling beyond the lip of my driveway, feeling independent and free to explore the side streets of life for the first time.