I recently saw a video of Anthony Desnick talk about how bicycle riding changed his life and I began look at how riding a bicycle became incorporated into every aspect of my own life.
I definitely remember getting my first bike at age 10 and learning how to ride it. It was the 70’s and my first bike was a purple and yellow Stingray. I never ridden a bike before but I took it out to the back parking lot of our apartment building and was determined to ride it. I didn’t have a parent carefully hoovering over me to ensure my safety. I just got on it and rode. Yes, I wobbled and tragically crashed into the garbage bins but I figured out how to steer and pedal. I was hooked.
For me, it was freedom from being confined inside during the summer break. Freedom to go wherever I wanted because I choose where to go. I was in charge where I felt I had no choice. I was one of those kids that was always active. Running around and pushing the limits of urban living. I’m pretty sure I pushed my mom’s tendency for peace and quiet to the limit. I’m pretty sure she was relieved when I started riding a bike.
Fast forward to adult me and I’m still riding a bike. Now as an adult, I have found like minded bicycle people. They come in all shapes and sizes. Bicycle riding has become a lifestyle choice.
In my mid twenties, I was in a bicycle messenger business with my ex husband. When I met him, he was a bike messenger and I was a ‘suit’. I rode my bike but I was considered a bike girl friend only. My bike identity was overshadowed by my bike messenger partner. These things happen when one partner controls what people see and do. These things happen when you are young and try to fit into something.
The thing is, I always identified as a cyclist, despite my partner. I always felt he and I had different approaches to the bicycle. For him, it was a tool. A means to an end. For me, the bicycle was an identity. It meant freedom, it meant freedom to choose where you go and how to get there.
The business fell apart as with the marriage but I came out of it with a firmer understanding of who I was. Sure, I could of come out of it with a hate of bikes and hate of the cycling lifestyle but something happened. Getting back on a bicycle helped me see what I missed. Freedom and giddy happiness as you fly down the street, over hills, on a trail.
I will be turning 50 soon and my identity is firmly placed. As a cyclist, as a woman, as a writer, as a parent. All of these identities wrapped up because of a bicycle lifestyle.
I currently organize a Critical Mass movement in Seattle. I see it as an interim lead, organizer, motivator to cyclists to mass together. Come together and celebrate why they ride a bike. For me, it is more than just a political movement, it is a life movement. Making life better for everyone around. It is a constant reminder to me why I ride.
The companionship and friendships that are forged with cyclists, the giddy happiness that happens when bikers get together, the sadness that touches us when a fellow cyclist is hurt or killed. We are a band of merry fools. If cycling makes us fools, then be it. I fully embrace this.
See you out on the road, my friend.