Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lessons from a Univega

Some statistic asserts that most accidents happen within 1.4 miles of home. I doubt the statisticians meant to include bicyclists in that stat, but I fit it. Two summers ago, roughly two weeks after purchasing my 199os Univega road bike, I hit the road on a perfectly hot afternoon and started cycling to Golden Gardens beach wearing shorts and a swimsuit top. My mission: bike to the beach and run into the water nice and sweaty.

I made it three blocks. Granted, I was not biking responsibly, per se, clutching my bike lock in my left hand (while trying to also access the left front brake) and front tire brakes in my right. Not a good idea. All it took was swerving unsteadily to avoid a car pulling out of a side street and the quick reflexes of my right hand to throw me off the bike onto the pavement.

The driver rolled down her window and called out to me from her car, "Sorry 'bout that. You ok?" I stood up and brushed the gravel off my legs, twisting my arm to look at my elbow that was oozing blood and my hand that had donated a sizable swath of skin to the road. Amazingly, all the rest of my exposed skin, including my stomach, had escaped road burn.

"Uh, I guess," was my dazed reply. She waved, rolled up her window, and drove away.

So it wasn't because of that incident that my little Uni sat in exiled storage for the past two years, it just kind of worked out that way. Still, it's entirely possible that a little repressed trauma led to my long procrastination in actually wheeling Uni with her two flabby, lifeless tires to the nearest bike shop this week. Now with firm, full tires beneath me, I hopped aboard Uni and went for a mid-afternoon ride in the sun break yesterday.

They say you don't ever forget how to ride a bike, which is true. And yet, I had forgotten the delightful rush of self-powered transportation. The freedom. The feeling of being so close to the ground. The vulnerability of being atop approximately eight pounds of aluminum and skinny minny tires, knowing that if I needed to brake quickly I was toast.

But Uni and I did fine. Flew (cautiously) down 24th to Market St, turned right and rode past the Locks, cruising on the bike path to Golden Gardens, then turned to climb up the mile long hill to the top. Uni's gears and frame creaked in solidarity with my creaky knees, though together, forming a strong team that's been around the block a few times. And I appreciate this quality of my not-so-new road bike, for she reminds me of my mortality. Of wising up as I get older (no longer riding against traffic, in the dark, without a helmet); of realizing I'm not indestructible; of hitting the roads regardless, in acceptance of the risks posed, and responsibly enjoying the freedom of riding.

Who knew I could learn so much about life from a Univega?

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