My son Caleb is 23 years old and inspires me pretty much every time I spend time with him, whether it's politically, socially, or health-wise (and I think that inspiration runs both ways, which is fun.) He is an avid "fixie" rider, meaning his bike is of the "fixed gear" sort, which means basically 2 things:
1. It has no "speeds" for shifting.
2. The wheels only move exactly as the pedals do. There is no such thing as coasting. Forward or backward or completely stopped on the street are your 3 choices on a fixie.
I pretty much think he's crazy for loving his fixie, but he and his fixie friends assure me that I just don't know what I'm missing. Truth: I'm not interested in exploring that territory. I am a frequent user of "coast" mode and I love using the gears to navigate hills.
But whenever I ride with him I note how his bike is basically just an extension of his body. Really nimble and agile. It reminds me of when I was a teen on my beloved excessively high-strung horses - just a total connection, one moving with the other seamlessly and without thought. What a great high.
It has been nearly 3 years now since I bought Lulu in her wonderful pinkness. When I first got her, I was beyond terrified and clumsy on her. It was proof to me that I am no longer the wild, fearless, skinny little thing I was at 16. Every push of the pedals felt like taking my life into my own hands. The streets felt like potential corridors of death. Heck, it took me basically a year of riding to get to the point where I could stand on the pedals while coasting.
This past few months, I have begun to feel that connectedness with the bike. The joy of pushing the envelope, whether it's whipping 30 MPH down Main Street hill or just doing little swervy navigation. I grin like I'm 5 when I stand WHILE pedaling - this is a whole other world. Yesterday I navigated several construction zones with their uneven surfaces and gravel and such. This used to make my hands clench and my stomach twist in knots. Now the challenge just makes me happy all over, even though I'm still pretty slow and awkward as I rise to it.
I'm not 23 like my son. I won't be pulling his insane stunts anytime soon. But I do like growing into that feeling, bit by bit, that the bike is an extension of my body.
Wonder what that'll look like a year from now.