Learning to ride my bicycle again -- and not in a metaphorical way
Much like Pee Wee in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, I wondered: Would I ever ride my bike again?
Nothing has been the same since the accident. Okay, that's not true -- I've just always wanted to start a piece that way. But really, after a car accident in February 2012 that followed a disappointing faux-tryst with Demetri Martin put me out of commission, my world -- which revolved around a fifteen-hour a week manic workout obsession -- fell apart. No more yoga, no more boxing, no more riding my bicycle.
I don't know how it is for other addicts, but while I've enjoyed exercise most of my life, the desire went into overdrive when I quit drinking. I did hot yoga to fucking live, man. I own an almost complete line of Nike shirts that say weird shit like "Every Damn Day" and "Girls Score More" that I wear to the gym every day (items of clothing that definitely make my boyfriend question ouer relationship on a daily basis.) I love working out.
After a shoulder injury kicked me out of my fitness orbit, I suffered a profound disconnection with my bicycle. But fifteen months later, we're back together -- and I'm trying to figure out how to be the commuting cyclist I once was, without being overwhelmed by the idea that it has been so damn long since I rode thirty miles in a day.
Sometimes, it isn't even about doing something so much as it is about preparing to do something. My bike had been sitting in the garage for the last year and a half, and it needed a tune-up.
Luckily, my life works a lot like the educational tool/video game Oregon Trail, so I didn't have to pay money to get my bike worked on -- I was able to go the goods-for-services exchange route instead. I found a guy who worked for weed, which was great because weed is way easier to come by than cash when you're a writer.
Since he was a stoner guy, it only took three weeks and a lot of weed before my bike was ready! But was I? It isn't that I forgot how to physically ride a bike -- I hopped on my beautiful baby ready to ride her like she was stolen (which she could have been, considering that she was a "gift" from my semi-retired-from0hoodlum shit hoodlumist brother.)
I couldn't wait. I wanted to ride. Except I was totally scared to actually go for a ride.
Why? Well, first of all, riding in the street with cars is scary. Sitting on my bike at the curb in front of my house, I watched cars drive down my residential street going fifty miles an hour, only speeding up when children, stray dogs and families with hands full of groceries were present.
Then I thought about how my car had been hit twice this year -- all while it sat parked on this very street. Oh, and I remembered how three of my roommates' side mirrors were ripped from their cars, just from the daily traffic drivebys. Then there were those little incidents where two of their cars were completely totaled while on our block. I went from scared of riding in the street to terrified.
But I had been here before. When I first became a commuter cyclist a few summers ago, I was only successful at riding with the flow of traffic because I had a guide. My friend and fellow Westword contributor Brit Chester unknowingly took on teaching me how to ride in the street, like a grown-up.
Riding with him, I had no choice but to be fearless; I bombed through traffic, sat at (most) lights at major intersections and waited my turn like I was supposed to, and I rode in harmony with cars along Broadway like a champ. I learned to ride defensively and safely, bike lights, helmet, bike-to-car etiquette and all.
However, my guide was gone now -- packed up and camped out somewhere on the East Coast. I had to figure out how to go it alone, without any emotional training wheels to tell me it was going to be okay if I rode my bicycle in traffic. I'm not a risk-taker, an adventurer or a badass in any sense of the overused word (unless you count my badass attitude). I have no desire to do things that may cause pain, inflict injury to my body or cause me to be in any sort of danger. But I had to buck up and just do it.
So if you're afraid to ride in the street and that's what is also keeping you from having an awesome, car-free summer, get over it. Quit psyching yourself out and get out there and just do it. Take advantage of the wonderful bike trails all over the city (if you can stand the other cyclists you are required to share the pavement with) or do what I did when I first began to ride -- practice on neighborhood streets.
The more bikes on the road, the less angry people in cars. And the less angry I'll be when I buy a new gel seat, because my inner ass can't possibly take the medieval torture device that came with my bicycle.
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