I’ve been rolling around town feeling like the Cruiser Queen - because I’ve got myself a new ride. She’s a 1960’s Schwinn Corvette - all heavy, curved steel and chrome and red paint - and I’m calling her Ruby. Because…well…all this time smithin’ has filled my head with gemstones and other shiny things. And she sure is shiny.
This is a pretty big deal for me. Seven years ago, just weeks after I changed my major from mechanical engineering to metalsmithing (and just days after the summer break had started), I got hit by a car while riding my bike…and peddling hasn’t really been the same for me since.
I’d been exploring familiar streets with Emily, the two of us chatting and enjoying the warm weather. While crossing a street, with a walk signal in front of me and red signaling “stop!” overhead, a distracted driver ran the light. He hit the brakes and so did I - so the car only made contact with my front wheel - but I went down. I walked away with a few scrapes and a broken wrist and counted myself very lucky.
The next eleven weeks were spent in a cast - and when I did get back on my bike to commute to school in the fall, I found a heavy ball of fear in my stomach. It was something I powered through, sure I’d get over it, but…no luck. Before long I started walking to class. It took longer, but I felt safer - so my bike sat gathering dust while I wore out the bottoms of my shoes.
When I moved to California, I did so with a fair amount of certainty that I’d never bike again. And I was ok with that. Relieved, honestly.
But, as I’m learning, when I give myself space, I also give myself new perspective. And the ability to heal.
So when the thought that I’d like to get back to biking popped into my head this spring, I wasn’t exactly surprised.
Mostly it’s that I’d like to drive less. I get pretty good milage in the truck, but it’s a big vehicle - if I’m just going a few miles, I’d rather not use the gas. But then there’re also the memories of wind in my hair and the freedom felt while coasting fast and floating down the road. I sat with these thoughts for a couple of months and, when they didn’t go away, decided to make the leap.
I knew I wanted something solid - aka, no twitchy road bikes - and something that would sit me fairly upright, with my weight in the seat instead of the handlebars (and my wrists). A little Craigslist hunting and just like that - I found my match.
She still had her original tires and cables - and we’re pretty sure the brake pads were also of the same vintage (stopping power was absolutely zero). So Eric broke out his bike stand, took over the living room, and went to work on a handful of little updates. In a lot of ways, it felt like we were back in high school. We spent so much time those first couple of years, talking and getting to know each other while he worked on bikes…it felt really joyful to find ourselves in that place again, if only for an afternoon.
And now, nightly, we’ve been going on rides in the cool twilight. There’s just something about the road slipping by beneath my tires and the burn in my legs (from muscles that remember, but aren’t yet strong). I’m not going to say that I don’t still get a little worried when I start rolling a little faster than I’d like or that I don’t feel wary as I pass through intersections, but overall it’s felt so peaceful. Last night, for the first time in seven years, I even felt myself thinking, “this is FUN!”
So there’s my moral of the story - time heals all. Less struggle, less force, more space. And for now, also, more biking.