Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ode to My Bike

Yesterday I had an unexpected couple hours of freedom in the middle of the afternoon, and the sun was shining. I considered going to a movie, but I've been trying to make exercise a priority, so I summoned my willpower and hopped on my bike instead. And as I rode through the cool, sunny afternoon, I thought about my relationship with my bike.

We've been through a lot together, me and my Specialized carbon-fiber triple crank road bike. I bought it the spring of 1993, when I decided that road biking might be a good option for exercise, and fun too. I had some new friends who were bike riders, and I joined a local cycling club. I learned road biking etiquette, how to change a tire quickly, and how to wear spandex unselfconsciously.

In the early years, I was a dedicated cyclist. I had a goal of 100 miles a week, and kept a ride log tracking distance, average speed, time, even altitude climbed. I got upset when my then-boyfriend scheduled a get-together with friends for the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, because that cut into my riding time. I took my bike to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival several years running (there's great riding there!). I flew it to Washington for a tour of the San Juan Islands, and to Virginia for a ride through the Shenandoah Valley. It carried me from the Sierras to the Sea on a week-long tour in 1995 and from San Francisco to LA on the California AIDS ride in 1999. A family member gave me a license plate trim ring that said "There are only two seasons: biking and skiing".

Then T and I started dating. He was a more casual rider, and would join me on group rides occasionally, but by the time we got married his floppy heart valves were slowing him down, and after his valve replacement surgery the following year he didn't go out on the road much any more. We were concentrating on conceiving, then carrying a pregnancy, then parenting. Cycling for me fell below the line on my priority list most of the time.

I remember vividly the first ride I took after T died. From my journal: "Three weeks today. I went on a bike ride for the first time in years. Turning on to El Monte and seeing the beautiful hills and knowing you weren't here to enjoy them had me gasping and crying. Then I got to thinking about how I love riding but it had not been a part of my life when we were together. Returning to that piece of myself was painful, like the pins and needles of a limb that fell asleep."

Returning to that piece of myself has been harder than I expected, what with the demands of a young child and a job, and the time commitment required for a good ride. I did acquire a kiddie trailer, so I can take B with me on occasion, and the weather here in Northern California is turning the corner into spring. I felt so good after yesterday's ride, and I miss loving a fit, athletically competent body. Starting now, I am making it a priority to get on my bike at least twice a week, even for just 30 minutes. And rekindle that romance!

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