When I was too young to ride a bike, I would run to keep up with my brother and the neighborhood kids. They would peel off down the dirt roads of Wouri Township of the Iron Range, with me not too far behind, legs burning to stay with them. When I was old enough to start riding, it only took one try. My dad let go of the purple banana seat and off I went down the driveway on my Huffy with the pink rose decals. That was my first taste of freedom. My first love of speeds faster than my legs could carry me running. I was hooked.
Those feelings still stay with me to this day. The energy and power that I feel while biking is hard to compete against. I’ve been riding more lately, a lot more. A bout of plantar fasciitis from trail running has resurrected my love affair with my two-wheeler. I’m consumed by all things biking. Every road I see, every hill, every path, every empty parking lot whispers my name. I wanna ride it all. Last night while biking the Munger, I shot off across Grand Avenue to whip shitties in an empty parking lot—hopping curbs, doing figure-eights, flying across grassy lawns. I was having a blast. I biked a little further west and found one of the steepest hills in town. Let’s go! Up and up I went. Switch-backing it when my legs were burning. But, boy did I love the burn and the view was awesome at the top! The ride down was even better, feeling like a bird and a kid again.
I’ve been commuting to work more often on my bike, too. It’s easily the BEST part of my day, of my week. I’m growing more confident on the ride down each time. I love racing the cars down the hill and across the bridge down onto Railroad Street, tears streaking my face from the speed. And when I finally break out onto the lakewalk in the morning, it takes my breath away each and every time. I wanna keep riding and not go to work. “Just keep going,” I tell myself. The ride home is such a fun challenge, too. I’m seeing improvement there as well in my stamina and leg strength. Getting yelled or honked at is also a highlight of the ride. It makes me laugh most of the time. I throw my head back and just laugh at their twisted faces and gestures while the wind whips across my face. They’re suckers for being stuck in their vehicles and depriving themselves of such wind-whipped joy! If only they biked more often, maybe then they would realize the love that a bike ride instills in their veins. And, wouldn’t it be great if they still honked and yelled, but for recognizing that freedom instead of the latter! Some day…
In the meantime, I continue to ride. I’m looking into purchasing a new ride for myself. Something a little faster, a little more agile, a little more attitude. It’s only a matter of time!
The view from the morning commute yesterday. Glory, glory!
After a long weekend of binge eating and drinking, I headed out to the Munger Trail yesterday for a nice long, solo bike ride. It was one of those “just what the doctor ordered” kind of rides. I had been feeling in a lonely funk for part of the day. Not sure how to pin that kind of feeling down until I read this poem. There are stretches of the Munger that run so straight that the trail just disappears on the horizon. I didn’t see a soul out there in certain areas and I would stop and pick wild strawberries in the quietness of it all. It was a weird sensation to be sandwiched by that kind of remoteness.
The trail descends ever so slightly on the way back to Duluth—I rode it out to Carlton and back—and you can really let it rip on your bike. The air was warm and there was a nice breeze, so I just put the hammer down. After the bike ride, I felt refreshed and free. Such a great feeling to have. I left my loneliness panting behind me somewhere on the Munger. 27 miles of freedom for the soul.
A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.
—Naomi Shihab Nye
One of the best ways to feel an incredible sense of freedom is by bike. God help me I love it so. Doesn’t matter where I’m going, just as long as I feel the wind in my face and my legs spinning ’round. Yesterday, I did my first bike commute to and from work. A couple of weeks prior I swapped out my big, nubby tires on the mountain bike for some skinny slicks to help the ride go a little quicker. I had mapped out my route as well and was totally excited for the trip downhill to the office. I figured a half an hour would suffice for the ride there and left my house around 7:30am. It was a bit chilly in the a.m. (maybe mid-30s) and was glad that I had a pair of thin, stretchy gloves on, two layers up top and tights on the bottom. It was a brisk ride to say the least on the way down. My eyes watered on a couple of the steeper sections and I know I had the biggest grin on my face the whole way. I rolled into work at 8 on the dot feeling refreshed and ready to roll.
The ride home was a bit of a different story, but still super enjoyable. It was a thigh and ass burner to say the least. I made it up to Skyline before having to hop off and walk my bike two blocks to the base of Hutchinson where I then hopped back on and rode home the rest of the way. When I rolled up to the house and got off the bike, I felt like I had baby deer legs. They were a little shaky, but it was a good shaky and I felt strong. 45 minutes was my return time and I was happy about that. There’s nothing like biking uphill for a few miles to make you feel really good about yourself. I’m guessing it gets easier every time I do this, so I’m hoping to get in at least two rides per week to work on the bike.
Here’s a few biking things I’ve seen lately that I absolutely love. Get out and ride this weekend!
The ultimate banana holder. Available for purchase on Etsy.
The gentler and more animal-friendly side of taxidermy.
The bike signal shirt. A must have.
As part of my “Things I’d Like to Learn” in 2012, bicycle maintenance and restoration has finally come to fruition. I picked up this Canadian, copper beauty a few years back and it’s been collecting dust like a champ in my basement since then. I think I have a problem, because there are other bikes currently doing the same in my possession. I treat bikes like stray cats—I want to take them all in! This vintage CCM Grand Sports 5 Speed is in need of a few repairs and I’d like to restore the finish to it’s original luster at some point. But, first and foremost, I want it back in riding condition. So far, I’ve fixed one brake cable and did some light surface cleaning. The learning curve is kind of big on this, as I have little prior knowledge on the inner workings of bicycles. All I know is that I LOVE to ride them! I also have a jewel blue Ross bicycle with back pedal brakes that is just dying to be ridden! There’s nothing quite like a ride on a vintage cruiser to make you feel like a kid again.
I found the above image in a Google search today. This is what the bike should look like. What a beaut!