When I was twelve years old we lived on a farm about four miles from town, and I wanted a new bicycle more than anything (except maybe Maureen McCormick, and I’ll admit to having only a vague idea about what I wanted with her). Not another hand-me-down bike, mind you, but a brand new bike of my very own like I hadn’t had since I was five and got one for Christmas and my grandpa taught me to ride it that very day. So I started saving my nickels and dimes and dreaming of a new bike. On our weekend stops at the sporting goods store I picked out the one I wanted, a white Columbia 10-speed road bike with black handlebar tape, saddle and trim, center-pull caliper brakes and Shimano derailleurs. I even remember exactly how much it cost – $179.99. After months of saving and scrounging and coming up short I began to despair that it would ever be mine.
And then one day, my thirteenth birthday to be exact, I came home from school and there it was, sitting on the back patio with a big ribbon on it. I had to pay dad for half of it, times were tough and money was very tight, but that still left me with enough to outfit it with a good lock, a saddlebag, tire pump and water bottle. Thus began my love of bicycling.
Throughout junior high and into high school, that bike was my freedom. In the spring and fall I rode it to school most mornings, and in the summer I rode to town most every day. Four miles in, four miles back, and many miles around town with my buddies in between. I wore out a set of tires every year, learned how to maintain and adjust it myself. I loved that bike.
Now that I don’t need a bicycle for basic transportation, but definitely need a form of exercise that I enjoy and can stick with, I’m rekindling my adolescent romance with biking. My current ride is a used hybrid with a heavy steel frame and badly tuned shifters that I got off craigslist a few years ago. In fact, the front derailleur cable snapped last year, so I only have half the gears working right now. But that’s enough. I love to ride. I love to feel the burn in my thighs, the wind in my face, the rush of air in my ears. This crappy old bike will get me through this year, but I’m already dreaming about my next bike, and saving my nickels and dimes.
Last night I took the bike for another spin and decided to push a little harder since the wife wasn’t along. I ended up doing 7.25 miles in 40 minutes (according to the MapMyRide app). Not bad for an out of shape quinquagenarian. It was my best time and distance since getting out of the hospital five weeks ago. And I felt like I could do another 7 miles no sweat. When I was young, riding my bike meant freedom. Now that I’m getting old and need to exercise for my health, it means a lot more than that. It means a new lease on life. I don’t know what I’ll do come winter, maybe try cross-country skiing or join a gym. But as long as the weather allows, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.