Thursday, June 23, 2011

Paying It Forward

Let me take you back about 3 years. I had just graduated college, where I had a cheap Schwinn I got at Target to ride to class, which was stolen from under my porch. I had just arrived in California where my then-boyfriend was an avid cyclist. I immediately thought "Hey, that looks like fun!"

I got a bike. It was too big. I fell off it, repeatedly. I got a different bike from Craigslist. It was a piece of crap. Then I got Grey Bike, my first-ever non-crappy bike that was actually the correct size. I started riding, hesitantly, often on the sidewalk. I remember my first "long" ride, 15 miles, where I pretty much had to crawl up the staircase afterwords. I remember being terrified of cars, huge, noisy things that got way too close for my comfort. I was confused about how I fit into the traffic picture, because no one in driver's education tells you about bikes and where they go. But I was having way too much fun to let that stop me. I rode to the grocery store, I started riding to work. I figured out how to bring my bike on CalTrain and widened the potential range I could go by several times.

With practice, I got less afraid. Then I met Dina. Dina was me, 6 months previous. She had a crappy mountain bike, but was intrigued and romanced by the idea of the wind in her hair. We started riding together, short distances, me teaching her what I had learned in my short tenure as a street cyclist. We became more skilled, together. Recently, she participated in the AIDS Lifecycle, a ride that takes you from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

I met other people, mostly women, who had a bike but didn't know where to begin. My mom. My friends. Women I was pedaling past. People I met at work. And every one of them, we started slow and short, keeping it simple and safe while their confidence in themselves, their bike, and their skills grew. Every one of them starts hesitant, afraid, but having too much fun to just quit.

The relationship I was in when I discovered riding bikes is long gone. But I can never, ever be unhappy it happened because it brought me to one of my greatest sources of joy. It's an obsession, a passion. I want others to know how it feels to laugh for no reason while you fly downhill on your trusty steed, whether that steed be a beach cruiser or a carbon fiber roadbike.

Ostensibly, this blog is mostly about street cycling, mostly in the city of Austin. But I think what drives people to blog about something is the depths of emotion they achieve while engaged in their activity of choice. I've laughed on a bike and cried on a bike. I've felt helpless, and I've felt totally invincible. I've felt like an ox dragging a cart up a hill, and I've felt like a falcon in flight.

So every time I meet someone who wants to try, I can't help but pay it forward. Teach them how to navigate, stick with them while they learn. It's worth it the first time you see "The Grin". Pay it forward, folks. We were all learning once.

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