Wednesday, August 4, 2010

confession of a lesser cyclist

I threw away my biker button.  Eldest and Middlest and I once matched.  Not now.

Flicked it away at the top of the last hill home, at the top of Monster Hill when all I had left was the long glide down and around into the edges of habitation and a short puff and grind up our steep but small hill home.

We had come more than 80 miles that day, the usual route home from the coast, a ride I've done for more than half a dozen years now. We had left early, made good time, the sky still fully light though the sun gone down.  But I was spent in more ways than one. 

"It's just that we don't want to hear again how you had to wait for us and pedal slow when we were younger."

"Then I don't want to have to be telling you to wait at the top of the hills and otherwise keep in sight of us slower ones."
There was a time I was the faster cyclist.  They were the ones trained me in riding slow.  I had to ride right behind them, jollying them on, cheering their effort, reassuring them, hearing their moans, keeping myself sane imagining how it would be when they grew up, grew strong and we rode together painlessly.

Which never happened. 

One summer I had to hold myself back, the next summer couldn't keep up. 

So, at the top of Monster Hill, glancing down at that button pinned into the strap of my camelback, I thought, "Biker chick? - hah!  This was never my dream anyway."  And I snatched the button out and tossed it away into the brambles on the side of the road.

And rode home freer in my mind.  When I came to the steep short hill home, I let the bike - gently - roll into the roadside ditch, pitched helmet and camelback and walked uphill unfettered.  Planning to come back for all the apparati . . . later.  Of course. 

Though I didn't go back.  Middlest was waiting for me at the top of our drive and though I said no, I'd get it later, she gently walked down and gathered up bike and gear and brought them back up, put them away quietly in the garage for me.  And now, I understand, even the button is still somewhere nearby.  Eldest secretly saw the flicking away, retrieved it, is keeping it hidden until I ever want it again.

It's not that I'm through with bikes.  I've ridden since that long ride, the regular errands and committments, the usual three miles into town, three miles back.  I settle into the saddle of the Oma and find myself saying out loud, Oh, I love this bike.  My quasi-retro-fitted road bike I also like fine - I can't tweak it close enough to the comfort of the Oma but I like its lightness.  I ride out along the fairgrounds just for the wind in my face and the coconut candy smell of hardhack in bloom.

I like the places I can only go on bike.  The up close,

the silent,

the secret gardens,

what happens in my lungs and legs when climbing hills,


and the people I only meet out riding,

"Would it bother you if I took a picture while you mend net?"

"Nope.  Wouldn't bother me.  Don't I see you ride past everyday?"

I don't exactly regret the years spent riding, the other choices we let go, the other dreams we never lived.  Considering the whole round of our lives together, I'm mostly glad I hitched onto Fritz's fascination with cycling, that we became the Biking Family, the Bicycle a kind of family brand, the team we all play on, almost a kind of faith we have in each other, in ourselves, in the world we move through. 

But this was never my dream.  And for me, the bike is a vehicle for going someplace else.  A way, not a place to stay.

Something I just had to say.


Lisa B. said...

Not that it was necessarily your intention--but this post and its small fit of pique comforts me on many many levels. And for the record, a monster hill would have *killed* me. Killed. But well done, you, for doing it and that whole long trip.

todd said...

Great post! I look forward (I think) to the day I can't keep up with my boy for a ride of any length.

Not two weeks ago I went bike camping, riding 75 miles over the west hills and back. My only preparation was my 5-mile, easy, daily commute. I had a good time, but my knees and tendons are still screaming that I have become old. I was done. I'm not listening! Pass the glucosamine/MSM/fish oil/CMO/comfrey/arnica etc! And stop with the beer. And I have. And in 2 more weeks I'll ride 880 miles to SF!

suzanne said...

Well said.

Mrs. Organic said...

This is exactly why I will never race - for me it sucks the joy out of it.

Emma J said...

todd - I am completely in awe (or ill) at the thought of 880 miles. Bike camping I haven't tried though Fritz has been campaigning for awhile.

Mrs. O - exactly. I hate this sudden need for speed. (Though I might not mind it so bad if I were the speedier one)

Lisa B - not my intention but always glad to oblige - any time you need a small snit just let me know.

m e l i g r o s a said...

'dont i see you everyday?' is better than any racing medal :D

Emma J said...

aww - thanks meligrosa

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