Two wheels and the dirt

It’s always weird to get back on my bike.

For years, we were inseparable. Being a college student without a car, I made my bike my primary mode of transport. I rode every day, from home to work, from work to my friend’s house, from my friend’s house to home. I would ride it to the Mall. I would ride it to the library, from one side of town to the other, letting the road be swept behind, silenced by the hum of the knobs on my mountain bike tire – each knob working together to keep me upright, creating a harmony of balance upon the asphalt.

I used to say I was a bike person. Not true. Really, I wasn’t a bike person – I was simply too cheap to buy a car. I would have loved to have the freedom that came with being able to go anywhere quickly, regardless of weather – in rain or snow or suffocating winds.

Instead, I found a different kind of freedom. Sitting upon a bike seat, floating on two tubes of stale air, you feel a rush of wind that you can only get on a motorcycle. It’s a breeze that doesn’t just blow your hair back – it envelops your body. It glides through the hairs on your arms and escapes under your clothing. It stings your eyes when it’s cold, and brings tears when the wind crosses it incorrectly.

It’s freedom from anything. Your bike can go places your car can’t, and it can go faster than you could on foot. You can cruise downhill as if tied to the end of a bungee cord, friction holding you back from burning a hole through the cement. Off road sends you bounding around like a pinball. The speed is relative – 15 miles per hour feels like 100.

So I’ve started riding my bike again – strapped to the top of the car in the morning, strapped between my legs on the way home. And, though the winds can be horrible and the route can be unruly, it gives me time to think – time to unwind fully, in a way that the fitness center never can.

It’s peace and quiet in a city filled with noise. It’s a float through 5:00 traffic, weaving between people and cars and buildings as if the laws didn’t pertain to me. It’s just me, my bike, and my music. Even though I sometimes go out of my way, it’s still the best part of my day so far.

So if you see a guy riding a Gary Fisher mountain bike with peeling paint (after ten years of abuse) and an over-large helmet (the same ten years) down Western Avenue near 57th street around 5:00 PM, you’ll know it’s me.

You might think I’m riding my bike. But no.

I’m doing much more than that.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 7th, 2007