I was still sick on Memorial Day, with a deeper cough than I’ve had since maybe when I was a kid, but I was determined to enjoy the gorgeous weather on a day off. Becca told me to bring my bike by her place that morning so I could air up my tires after having left my bike in my building’s basement all winter. I was glad she knew to do that, and that she had a bike pump, because I sure didn’t.
I hate to admit it, but I was honestly relieved that morning to discover my bike was still in my building’s basement. I stopped going down there months ago once Kevin left, after both washers and dryers crapped out and it occurred to me a murderer could pretty easily access that space since my building’s back gate has no lock and the laundry room door frequently catches.
All winter long I’d feel the occasional pang of guilt, worrying about my bike, all alone down there. I’d bought it last May, the same week a much-liked co-worker at Groupon was killed on his bike by a drunk driver. I took my bike out a handful of times last summer, but I never got past my own general four-block radius. I was too afraid to go near major streets like Lawrence, Lincoln, or Western, all of which border my neighborhood in pretty unavoidable ways.
Yet there my bike was months later, with both wheels still there and everything. I walked it over to Becca’s and after airing up, we ended up going on a 15-mile ride to Evanston and back. To Evanston and back. I couldn’t believe it. I suddenly felt like I could go anywhere as long as I took my bike.
When we got home, I carried my bike up three flights of stairs and protectively parked it in my dining room, as I’ve done almost every day since. I rode to my friend Stef’s and back. I rode to the park. I braved Lincoln Avenue and Diversey and Lawrence. I felt alive and powerful and confused by the strange sort of fierce affection and attachment I’d developed for an inanimate object. I started to describe this to my bike fanatic friend Brianne, and she interrupted me to tell me she knew exactly what I was trying to say.
(I think I’m gonna name her Scout.)
The funny thing is, my mom’s entire family was made up of accomplished cyclists.
My mom’s brother is 65 and nearly qualified as an Olympic cyclist in the 70s. He still rides today, although in recent years he has moved more toward competitive in-line skating. He owns a company that designs and makes cycling gear. My mom’s parents met through a cycling group, and the local paper once wrote a feature about my grandfather for riding to work at the factory every day for years and years.
I, on the other hand, preferred riding my pink Schwinn in circles in my parents’ driveway growing up. It’s weird that this love is only just now hitting me at 28. But that’s also kind of awesome, because it makes me feel like there are probably many other cool things that someday I’ll discover a love for, and therefore life will always be exciting.
And I love it! I want to bike everywhere now. If only I too could bike to work.
I rode at night for the first time this week. I asked an old co-worker from Groupon to show me how to turn on my lights since it occurred to me I’d never once done so. Another friend of ours walked out with us, whose brother had died in a bike accident a few years ago. He has since become a strong advocate for cycling safety and helmets.
“Where’s your helmet, dummy?” he asked, and I held mine up.
“Never,” I assured him. I don’t blame him — if something could have possibly been done to prevent my mom from getting brain cancer, I’d probably be a little bit of a stickler for whatever that would be.
I rode home, half-amazed at my own boldness at riding on Irving Park, even signaling and making a left turn onto Broadway. Granted, it was 10:30 at night and there weren’t a lot of cars on the road, but I felt so daringly bold.
I’m sad I didn’t feel this way about biking last summer, but I plan to make up for lost time. Maybe I won’t be using my new Ventra transit card that much after all.