Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bicycle Love

This post is my entry for the touring bicycle giveaway over at Lovely Bicycle.

A family of bikers

Until a year ago, I hadn't been on a bike since just before my fourteenth birthday when my family moved from a bike-riding-paradise of a neighborhood in Indiana to a two-lane-deathtrap of a highway in Kentucky.

Before that, my childhood had revolved around bikes. We biked from one friend's house to another, from one end of the neighborhood to another, or sometimes just around and around the neighborhood, going nowhere in an adrenaline-pumped loop. We dared each other to do tricks - down dirt hills in nearby construction sites or off the steep front porch steps of the big oft-empty house that sat in the middle of the neighborhood. I remember one afternoon when a friend attempted to master the "ghost rider," a trick that involved getting the bike going super fast and then leaping off so that the bike kept going to the end of the street.

I remember some days riding solitary around the neighborhood. I'd pump my legs as hard as I could until they burned, and then I'd push myself to ride just a little farther, just a little faster. I can remember many summer nights when I watched the sunset from my bicycle and then dropped it in the driveway to catch up with my friends for a game of tag in the dark.

During my childhood, my bike was everything, but for the past 20 years, it's been little more than nostalgia. So when my five-year-old asked me one day last year if we could start going bike-riding together on Saturdays, I replied, "Yes, of course!" and then immediately launched into a mental cheerleading routine - cartwheels, spread eagles, goofy grins - picturing many upcoming years of sharing my childhood love with one of my own children.

What happened was a little different than the idyllic image in my head.

Since we live downtown in a city, Eli and I drove to a nearby greenway at the suggestion of a biking friend. All started out well - we pedaled along the path with big grins on our faces, and I zipped back in time, once again becoming that 10-year-old girl who could lose all her cares on a bicycle.

Eli had a slightly different perspective. The path was hillier than I had expected - tough on skinny five-year-old legs pedaling a 16-inch bike. Several times, he had to get off and grudgingly walk his bike up the hill. "It's okay to walk," I told him. "If you ever feel like a hill is too steep to go up or down, don't be ashamed to get off and walk it."

And then we hit a huge, steep hill with a sharp turn halfway down. It was a little daunting even for me, so I feathered the handbrakes all the way down and then looked back to see how the little guy was faring. He started hesitantly down the hill and then changed his mind - he would walk this one. Except that now he had taken his feet off of the pedals, i.e. his coaster brakes, his sole method for slowing down on this monster of a hill.

I watched in horror as gravity took over. The bike and Eli zoomed down the hill, flopped to the side on the turn, and then skid the rest of the way, slamming into the back wheel of my own bike as I stood there in a stupor, too scared to move.

Letting loose a banshee cry, I scrambled to him, dropped to my knees, and began the injury check: eye - bruised, knees - skinned, elbows - skinned, thumb - skinned. Head looks fine. No broken bones. Okay, we can handle this.

Eli bike accidentEli bike accident
Brave boy and his battle wounds

As soon as he realized he had survived the crash, Eli calmed down and like a trooper, got back on his bike and rode the 3/4 of a mile back to the car. At home, I dressed his wounds, wondering what I would have done if he'd been seriously injured on that empty greenway far from the street. My idyllic childhood memories had been shattered. This biking stuff was scary business. How could my mom have ever let us wander off on a bike on our own? How on earth did she not have a heart attack every time our feet touched the pedals?

I was ready to pack the bikes back into the shed, thinking maybe we could save family bike rides for a few years down the when the kids are in their twenties.

But Eli had other plans. The very next weekend, still boasting a black eye and skinned up knees, he said, "Mom? Do you think we can go for a bike ride today?"

I recognized the gleam in his eye and knew he had fallen hard. This is how bicycle love begins.

Ready for a ride with the three-year-old

1 comment:

  1. Also, we never wore helmets!! Bike riding was definitely different back in the day.


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