Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.
— Mark Twain.
I was visiting our outdoor co-op, preparing for the spring Fern Hill camping trip, minding my own business. I passed by an aisle of bikes when one of them, its steel frame a to-die-for color called coastal grey, started calling to me.
“Take me home,” the bike said. “Now.”
It’s name was Novara Fusion.
“I can’t,” I said. “What will I tell Nick? He’ll want a new bike too.”
“I’m 20% off. Today only. He doesn’t need to know.”
I took the bike home and hid it in our shed.
Is there any invention of man or woman more perfect than the bicycle? It’s the most efficient machine in the world. Four times as fast as walking with no more effort.
You’d think the Greeks or Romans would have invented something so basic, but you’d be wrong. The ancient dream of a human-powered vehicle was fully realized only a century and a quarter ago, and sparked revolutions. It was an achievement on a par with any you’d care to name—the telephone, the computer, the electric light bulb. It took the conception of air tires, ball bearings, gears, and spoked wheels to do it. It paved the way for the automobile.
Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.
— Susan B. Anthony
I had my childhood bikes, but when I went away to college I put away childish things. Then, in my junior year, tired of the long trek from Calhoun College to the Kline Biology Tower and feeling pathetic and alone, I bought a used three-speed. On it I would race down the streets of New Haven at night, riding rings in Beinecke Plaza for the sheer joy of it.
Then medical school and a long dry spell of serious adulthood. Then Nick.
“You don’t know how to teach anyone anything!” Nick said to me, throwing his first two-wheeler down in disgust.
Fortunately, his friend Jay and Jay’s mom Jennifer were with us.
“Nick,” Jennifer said, “You get back on that bike and you pedal hard and you look straight ahead. Now go!”
Go he did and that was that. From then on we rode together, he on his twenty-inch, me on a rusty Irish racer I’d picked up long ago and had mostly ignored since. I was too old for it by the time Nick learned to ride. I needed something more genteel, with fewer, easier gears, a softer seat, and standard handlebars. I waited for the right thing. A year passed. Enter the Novara Fusion.
Every week, I visited it in the shed and caressed its steel, coastal grey frame.
“When?” it said, its handle bars full of reproach.
“Patience,” I said.
I was waiting now for Nick’s legs to grow.
Finally, on a routine seat-raising visit to the local bike shop, the technician announced, “Seat can’t go up anymore. He needs a new bike.”
“Okay!” I said. “No problem!”
We settled on a nifty, black, Trek 24-inch. Eight gears and hand brakes.
On the way home, I said, “So, Nick, guess what, I got a new bike too.”
A SHORT DISTANCE FROM MY BODY
We’ve been to his school and back (8 miles) and up and down the four-mile bike path by the creek. Mostly we go to the nearby park, racing over grass and dirt trails, across a soccer field, up and down a long asphalt straightaway.
Like Joyce’s Mr. Brown, I live a short distance from my body. But on a bike I am my body. I am earth and air. I can’t make plans or phone calls, can’t obsess about my weight, can’t do anything but ride. It’s pure meditation, pure ecology, pure democracy. Pure wind, pure union, pure now.
I’m told that catching a thermal in a glider and spiraling upward is like receiving the kiss of God. That’s an expensive kiss.
Give me an everyday, coastal grey, human-powered kiss.
Get a bike.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
It’s All About the Bike – How the most perfect invention came to be. This might just be the best book ever written.
Do you still ride?
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