Monday, May 17, 2010

Becoming a Biker

My last post was Feb 8th. That's just embarrassing.

I spent this past Saturday riding a bike around Queens. My bike is an old Giant, rescued from the refuse pile and fixed up by my mechanically-inclined boyfriend. It’s not shiny or pretty, but the worn body makes it look like I’m much more of a biker than I am, like I’ve been riding for ages and know my way around the city’s bike lanes. Which I don’t, at all.

The Giant is quite a step up from my first and second bikes, both of which were pink. My first had a white banana seat with pink polka dots on it that I absolutely begged my parents for, and thin white streamers coming out of the soft white handlebar covers. It was a single speed with pedal brakes, and I’m pretty sure it came from Target.

The second bike, which I graduated to in Texas, was a pink ten-speed, though I never actually used the gears—I mean, I flipped the little switches, but couldn’t figure out what they did beside make it much harder to pedal. On this bike I moved up to handle brakes, and I remember the amazing feeling of coasting around corners in Texas, the hot air suddenly much cooler as it blew through my sweaty hair.

The Giant is a city bike, covered in dings and with some of the paint peeling off. It’s the first bike I’ve owned that doesn’t have a kickstand but does have a lock attached to it. The grip tape is dingy and some of it has slipped off, but there is a light on the back that blinks for when I’m riding at night. I’ve become familiar enough with the gears to use them all, but I still need a little reminder on how they work (“Go UP for downhill, and DOWN for uphill,” I sing to myself).

This it the bike I rode up and down the hills of New Paltz, through the busy streets of Park Slope, over the Pulaski Bridge from Queens to Brooklyn, and along Vernon Boulevard and the East River. This is the bike on which I rediscovered that wind-though-my-hair feeling, that freedom that comes from using your own human energy to propel yourself forward, and the feeling of coasting—which might just be the most delicious reward in the world.

What I have been missing, up until now, is a helmet. Rest easy, Mom, I bought one.

On the back it says “I love my brain.” I should add “and my bike.”