I rode my bike a lot when I was growing up. My bike was a single-speed 20-inch with baskets in the back. It wasn’t fast, but I could carry a load of books back to the library and come home with a bunch more. On Saturdays I could ride from one garage sale (which I knew as a “tag sale” growing up in Connecticut) to another around town, occasionally buying a used paperback or jigsaw puzzle (as long as they could fit in my bike baskets).
Often I just rode my bike for the fun of riding it. When I was a teenager, I got a full-size bike, with three speeds, and I could manage hills better, but I still struggled to keep up on weekly bike rides with the local American Youth Hostels group. I dreamed of someday getting a ten-speed bike.
As an adult I finally bought one, and I loved the speed and ease of pedaling. There were no baskets, of course, but now I had a car for trips to the library or the supermarket. In good weather, when I worked close to home (about three miles, I think), I rode to work.
Then I got married and had kids. I knew there were bike trailers you could get to pull a child behind a bike, but I preferred walking with a stroller. Then with a toddler. Then with a toddler on a tricycle. The bike sat in the basement, or in the garage, or in the shed, as we moved from one house to another over the years.
For exercise I bought a Schwinn Airdyne, which I rode regularly for several years. It was boring, compared to riding outdoors, but I listened to books on tape. Sometimes these were interesting enough that I actually looked forward to riding the bike so I could hear more of the story.
Then I got a job with a much longer commute, and exercise got squeezed out of my schedule. We moved here to a town with a Y near the house, and I discovered I like the elliptical machines better than exercise bikes. For a few years I was running for exercise as well, but my knee, never the same since an accident (on a bicycle) at age twenty-two, started acting up too much.
So I decided it was time to get my bike out of the shed. I gave away my ten-speed (the police department was collecting bikes to refurbish for children) because I’m not flexible enough anymore to get my leg over that crossbar. But someone had given us a ladies 3-speed at some point, and that’s just what I wanted. Once I paid for a tune-up at the bike shop to fix it after so many years of disuse, that is.
They say you don’t forget how to ride a bike, and they’re right. My first attempt to get on it failed, but that was because the seat was too high. My next attempt was pretty wobbly at first, but by the time I reached the end of the block I was gaining confidence. For the next half hour or so I enjoyed the feeling of speed as I zipped along. Not much speed, I’m sure, compared to a lot of the cyclists I see around. But enough for me.
Today I decided I was ready for a longer ride. I had seen a sign for a bike route when we were visiting someone at a nursing home recently, so I headed over there. Once I got off the main road, I had the road mostly to myself. The only motors I heard for quite a while were riding mowers and farm equipment.
Eventually I decided I’d probably gone far enough and turned around. Later I checked a map and figured out that I had gone at least five miles each way. Not bad for my second time out. One bonus of all that exercise was that I found myself wanting healthier food for lunch (as often happens to me after exercising). So I filled up on hummus and vegetables, broccoli salad, and fresh fruit.
Tomorrow afternoon I’ll head to the library (with a backpack for the books), which will give me more in-town riding. I even found the key to the bike lock that came with the bike, after going through our drawer of spare and unknown keys.
Next, to consider finding a group to ride with.