Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On Riding a Bike

Since I tore a ligament in my foot (which is really just another way of saying I sprained my ankle, but a torn ligament sounds so much more sports-injury-y), I’ve been riding my bike for exercise.

Every morning, I get up and go for a ride.  I ride through my own neighborhood, then walk my bike along a very short dirt path under a railway trestle and ride in another neighborhood for about an hour and a half. 

It’s a good work-out, but I don’t like doing it nearly as much as I like to run.

Today, as I rode, I tried to figure out why this is.  I remembered living in Berkeley when I was nine.  Every day after school, I would retrieve my three-geared bike from the garage (which I remember feeling at the time was an arduous procedure) and go for an afternoon ride.  I would pack a snack in my bike pack (a thrilling accessory purchased with my own money) and ride to the end of a court right above and behind the Claremont Hotel.  There, I would ride down a narrow dirt path to a cement staircase that rose high into the Berkeley Hills.  I would sit at the base of the stairs and eat my snack and watch the workers behind the hotel load food and ice into the kitchen.  And listen to the eucalyptus trees groan in an eerie, magical way as their trunks rubbed against each other.

Back then, I didn’t ride my bike for exercise.  I rode because I loved the intentionality and the power involved in getting myself somewhere on my own.  Riding back home, I took the descending hill at full speed, out of the saddle.  I didn’t use my brakes, and I didn’t wear a helmet.  I felt completely invincible.

Now when I ride, I wear a helmet.  (Of course I wear a helmet: I’d be a moron if I didn’t.)  I track my miles on an app.  I use my brakes liberally.  I worry about hitting one of those hard little eucalyptus gumnuts that litter the roads after a storm and losing my balance and ending up unconscious in the middle of the street. I futz around with one of twenty-one speeds.  I buy special bike-riding clothes.  I stop at stop signs.
It’s more fun the other way, the way it was when I was nine.  But I’m not nine anymore.  I don’t know how to go back to that other way.

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