Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bicycle Love

I grew up as an avid bike rider.  My childhood took place in the glory days where parents would let their children out the back door to play, and we wouldn't be seen or heard from for hours until we were called back in.  More often than not, my sisters and I were off somewhere tearing it up on our bikes.  We moved from a suburb of New York where our neighbors and we were a de facto bicycle gang, riding all over the neighborhood all day, to a resort in Oregon that featured an extensive network of bike paths.  Living at the resort was a revelation.  We no longer depended on our parents to take us anywhere!  We biked to friends houses, to town for ice cream, to spots to go wading on the Deschutes River... the whole town was ours for the taking.  And if that wasn't enough, our next move after Oregon was to Holland, the bicycle capitol of the known universe.  There we bought old cruiser bikes and rode far and wide through the old cobblestone streets.  I have a scar on my chin from one rowdy ride home from a girlfriend's house (hi Meghan!) that landed me on the pavement, and fond memories of the lot of us riding all over our neighborhood, perhaps one too many times past the home of a particularly adorable Dutch boy.

Then something happened.  High school, I believe it was.  Life got busy, and bikes weren't cool, and somehow the riding stopped.  I did get a mountain bike for my high school graduation, anticipating taking up mountain biking at college in Colorado, but it turns out I am a huge weinie, and "mountain biking" doesn't technically involve riding the brakes down the hill screaming "Help!!!"  My lovely purple Trek then proceeded to collect dust for some time.  I was petrified of riding in the cities I lived in in my twenties (San Francisco hills!  Boston drivers!), and intimidated by the steep hills in our towns in Vermont.  I kind of thought my biking days were over.  The adventurer and environmentalist in me was sad about this, but the weinie was comforted.

And then the little man came along.  The husband, not being a weinie, loves biking, and was eager to rig his bike with a seat for little J as soon as was age-appropriate.  We do live in a part of Boston which happens to feature miles and miles of contiguous bike paths.  In fact, you can ride from our house to the heart of downtown in about 20 minutes, and almost entirely on protected paths.  So, this spring, B got an iBert Safe-T seat for his bike and took to the road with J.  Immediately, both boys were smitten with their new pastime.
Adorable, I must say.
Little J LOVES riding with his daddy.  The new front-mounted child seats provide such an exciting and intimate experience for parent and child.  I spent the late-70s looking at my parents' sweaty backs on rides, whereas little J looks out to the road ahead with the wind in his face; far more exhilarating!  The boys also chat with each other throughout their rides, as their faces are more or less side by side.  It is wonderful, and I was eager to join, yet my inner weinie was still getting the best of me.  We witnessed a terrible bike accident when we first moved back here last fall, and it really traumatized me for city riding.  It took the husband's gentle coaxing, baby steps of some incredibly short first rides out, and spending an afternoon at the local bike shop for a tune up to really get me back out on the road.  And now...

I LOVE IT!  There really is something about riding a bike.  Not only do your mind and body somehow never forget how to do it, but riding down the street with the wind whipping past your ears creates a sense memory of carefree childhood that is like no other.  Riding down the bike paths, I get a glimpse back to the days where my sisters and I would stay out riding for hours without a care in the world.  It is amazing for the soul and, incidentally, not so bad for the tuchas either.  I've been running a lot and biking is providing the perfect cross-training break for my knees -- bonus!

Also, like so many other things (having a baby, or a dog, come to mind), it isn't until you take up something yourself that you start to notice it all around you.  Bike culture is everywhere, and incredibly intriguing.  Aside from the physical and environmental benefits of riding, there is some stunning bike style to admire.  I was flipping through Lucky Magazine this month, and in a feature about the designer Lela Rose there was a snapshot of her and her daughter on her custom bike.
Photo via Lucky Magazine
How amazing is this cruiser-pedicab hybrid?  I love the green basket and upholstered seats, and I really love the sheer joy on both of their faces.
Photo via Tribeca Citizen
Lela even arrived at this year's Tribeca Ball on this contraption (extra points for coordinating earrings with bike basket).  I love her for having the balls to ride to a formal event in heels, and for the conversation-starter such a maneuver represents (although, as an event planner, I pity the poor soul who had to find an impromptu space to store the beast -- unless she made arrangements ahead of time, in which case she is officially my top hero).  Turns out, everywhere you look there are beautiful images of people enjoying their cities on bicycles...
Photo via sdbikecommuter
Photo via Cup of Jo

I'm charmed, inspired, and grateful to be back on my bike!  If yours has been collecting dust for awhile, I urge you to take it for a spin.  It's amazing how good you'll feel both physically and mentally.
Mama sporting awesome Bern helmet, little J trying desperately to escape to expedite start of ride.
Have little ones and just considering getting back on the road?  Check out this great article from Babble on 23 Things to Know About Biking with Kids.


  1. I'm pretty sure that the bike paths in Oregon are what started me in my love of biking---three wonderful little girls, exquisite views, and not a car in sight. I listened to Peter Gabriel on my Walkman after I'd ride you all to school. I'm a chicken when it comes to riding on the city streets, but am looking forward to taking to all the paths when I get to Colorado. I'll pass on the mountain biking though!

  2. Biking takes me right back to Holland and being a kid. Soooo much fun.
    Have you ever been to this blog? - http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/
    Riding in Chicago with style. Perhaps you should start a Boston bike brigade...

  3. Riding is also fun and good for keeping balance for the over 60 crowd. Love it for fun and doing errands.