When I was a kid, I had a few different bicycles. The first was the pink Strawberry Shortcake bike I got for my fifth birthday, which I rocked until I got too tall for it. My next bike was a blue one that, at the time, was inherently uncool, but I think these days it would be considered vintage and rad. And then for my tenth birthday, my mom gave me a red 10-speed, which was the coolest and I rode the hell out of it, spring through fall, for the next couple of years, until… I don’t remember. I think I just stopped.
Spring came early this year, and with it came the realization that wow, I’d gotten out of shape. Not even in my wildest imaginings am I an athlete, but, you know, I have muscles and I missed being able to see them. So I knew I had to get off my ass. I’m not much of a fan of exercise. I understand its importance, but I’ve always had a hard time sustaining any sort of exercise-for-the-sake-of-exercise regimen for longer than, say, a few months. Knowing myself, I figured that I’d have to come up with something I actually enjoyed doing where the exercise part was more of a bonus than the sole purpose. And that’s when I decided to buy a bike.
I did a little research, but not too much, because if you research anything online very much it ends up being like this:
And since my goal was to buy a bike instead of just to think about buying a bike, I went ahead and bought one. Here it is:
My friend Greg says, due to those shameless red rims, I must’ve gotten it at Mary Magdalene’s bike shop, and sure, let’s go with that. I love it, though I would like to point out that I have never ridden it while wearing a pair of peep-toe pumps. Or any pumps, for that matter, because I don’t want to kill myself.
I’ve been out on it several times now, when it hasn’t been raining and I’ve had the time to do so, and for the most part, I do feel like I did when I was a kid, zipping all over town. I live in a pretty good town for bike-riding, since almost all the streets are side streets and I can kind of wind around here and there and not worry too terribly much about getting run over by a car. And going out for a ride is a great way to unwind after a stressful day at work (many of my days are stressful), because, aside from the flashy red details, it’s a fairly spartan bike — only seven gears, and no clock or speedometer — so I lose all track of time and I have no way to judge my progress. I’m just out riding a bike. It’s pretty nice. I make myself go a little further every time, and I push myself just a little bit harder. I’ve learned that this town is a lot hillier than I ever remembered it being (and really, there are some serious hills), though I don’t mind going uphill so much, because then I get to go downhill. It’s rather impossible not to feel like a goofy, exhilarated kid when zooming downhill on a bicycle. I always take my phone and my keys with me, but they’re in a bag strapped to the back, so really I’m on my own, in a peaceful limbo without time or email or text messages. I love it.
I’m a big fan of walking. I can walk for miles. I’ve been all over the place with my dog, literally from one end of town to another. When I’m out with the dog, people tend to leave me alone, I think because Sweet Pea apparently looks like some kind of vicious attack hound. People cross the street to avoid us. I think this is utterly hilarious, because for the most part, my dog is the biggest sweetheart, who, when we walk, maintains the stupidest, happiest grin the entire time. The reason why I mention that is because I think it’s spoiled me. I’m used to being left to my own devices when I’m out and about, but being on a bike sure is different from walking the dog, because when I’m on a bike, people seem to feel it necessary to try to start conversations with me. By “people” I mean “men”. The first time I went out, the only people who talked to me were children who were also on bicycles, who yelled “HIIIIII!” and I yelled “HIIIIII!” back at them. You know. Solidarity. I think this led me to believe that we’re all just bike-riding people in this crazy world, and then there was this:
Since then, every time I go out, I get at least one stupid comment. Here are some examples:
— “So you’re out getting some exerciiiiise.”
— “Hey baby, where’d you get that bike?” (The store, you dumbass. Wait! No! I GOT IT FROM YOUR MOM.)
— “Hey, how you doin’?” And then, after I’d continued on in silence for about half a block, “I SAID! HEY! HOW YOU DOIN’!?!” (Jesus! I’m fine! Stop yelling!)
And then of course there’s my personal favorite:
— “Hey, you’re riding a bike.” (You are correct, sir.)
I suppose a benefit of bike riding is being long gone before getting a chance to realize how incredibly stupid some of the things people say are. I’m not sure what they expect me to do. Turn around and fall in love, perhaps?
Right now we’re in that not-quite-summer part of the year where it’s technically still spring, but the weather is jumping the gun, and today was sunny and the temperature was in the low-to-mid 80s. I went out after I got home from work, and true to habit, I took off like Speed Racer, only to be going uphill a few miles from home when I realized that at some point I might want to learn how to pace myself. I was sticky hot and uncomfortable, thinking about how I need to stop considering a more comfortable seat for my bike and actually get around to buying a more comfortable seat for my bike. But everywhere smelled like peonies, which is an intoxicatingly heady scent (except for me: I smelled like sweat and the Dior perfume that I was sweating off, so mostly like sweat, then) and there was a lovely breeze for which I was incredibly grateful and the day was over and I had no plan, no route, no purpose other than to be out on my bike, just going to go.