I can’t really remember when I started riding road bikes. It happened as a natural extension of my relationship with my husband since he is so into bike riding. Perhaps it was my brief relationship with triathlon’s that sparked my interest in bike riding again.
Growing up – I was constantly on my bike, blazing through my neighborhood with no fear. In the evenings, all the neighborhood kids would ride their bikes in a circle at the dead end on my street just because we didn’t have anything else better to do but it just seemed to feel like the right place to be.
Back then, wearing a helmet to ride your bike wasn’t a thing. So some of the crazy stunts I pulled, or just some of the stupid mistakes I made on my bike could have ended up a lot worse than they were. Usually I walked (okay LIMPED) away with skinned up and bloody legs or arms, only to be right back in the saddle the next day. I loved my bike.
I loved the feeling of the wind whipping through my hair, I loved how fast I could go and the feeling of your stomach dropping as you went for it down the steepest hill you could find. It was like freedom to me.
As I aged out of the “it’s cool to ride your bike” thing, I forgot about my bike. I think my parents gave it away to my cousin – I really have no clue. I think I also forgot how much fun I had on a bike until I revisited the idea as an adult.
And even then, I approached “bike riding” with so much more caution as an adult. Everything seemed harder and more complicated. The hills seemed scary, the idea of riding without a helmet absolutely ludicrous. What happened to that bike riding fool I was so many years ago?
I eventually found my grove again on the bike. I found friends who also liked to ride their bikes, and while we didn’t ever meet to ride in circles in my neighborhood – we did meet up to ride several mile loops that led absolutely no where. Biking became “exercise.” I enjoyed it, but I always felt like it was so much harder than I remembered.
When I got pregnant, my doctor banned me from road riding. I haven’t set foot on a bike in over a year. Last night, my husband aired up my bike tires and brought my bike upstairs for me. I pulled my helmet, gloves, special shoes and sunglasses out of a bag that hadn’t been opened in a long time. It was like seeing a good friend whom you’ve lost touch with – and while you are excited to see them, it’s weird at first no matter what.
I was terrified all over again. How do I change gears? Will I remember how to clip in and out – what if I fall and make my knee hurt even more? I didn’t want to go for a ride anymore, it seemed too hard.
I did it anyway.
My husband offered to come outside to help me get started – but I refused. I needed to just do this on my own. If I was going to fall, I wanted it to be on my own so I could just get back up again, shrug it off and not have to tell anyone about it in the first place.
That first down up stroke was the most nerve wracking. It was like committing to something all over again. It took me awhile to get my left foot clipped in. I got my feet squared away and started working with the gears, trying to remember how to do this, praying I wouldn’t screw things up and cause my chain to pop off (I seemed to always manage to do this to my bike before).
I only rode my bike for about 20 minutes. I avoided the big hills and kept it in an easy gear. My knee hurt. My posture was all wrong. I felt out of breath. But I did it.
And maybe this weekend I’ll do it again. And maybe the time after that I’ll tackle that hill in our neighborhood without throwing on the brakes. I have to get back to that person.
I know I’m looking for myself again. Waiting, wanting to see that girl fly down the hill, wind blowing her hair, eyes wide and a scared but excited grin on her face. I need to find her. I’m searching at the end of every street.