Five Years on Two Wheels
Growing up, I lived on my bike in the summer. I clearly remember when my training wheels were removed, and I rode on my own two-wheeler for the first time. I was five years old, and in that moment, I knew I had arrived. The world would be at my fingertips, the town my playground. Throughout my childhood, my friends and I would fly around town with the wind in our hair. Our bikes were extensions of ourselves, they brought us freedom, joy and adventure. We didn’t need bike locks, we didn’t wear helmets (crazy, I know, but they weren’t a thing in the 80s), and we didn’t have supervision. When I think of summer and childhood, I think of bikes.
As we got older, my friends and I stopped riding our bikes. It fell out of fashion, I suppose. When I was 17, on class trip, I flipped my handle bars when off-roading, bruising and bloodying my body, and cracking my helmet open (much preferred to my skull!). I learned to fear riding, and it was another ten years before I got on a bike again. Three years later, I bought my first bike as an adult. This singular purchase changed my life more than any other gift I’ve given myself.
This spring marks five years on two wheels, and the experiences I’ve had as a city cyclist have helped me grow and change in ways I never imagined. In the beginning, there was fear, and I was cautious. I only took trails that were safely away from the road. The city of Toronto is a scary place to ride a bike, it’s not for the faint of heart. And there is reason to fear. In five years, I’ve had three accidents. I’ve caught my tire in the streetcar tracks, I’ve been hit by a car; every time, I’ve gathered up my courage, and gotten back on the bike. Being a city cyclist doesn’t mean you act without fear, it means that you face fear, every day, and you don’t let it stop you. It is an incredibly empowering feeling.
Becoming a city cyclist opened up so many possibilities for me. It allowed me to become a triathlete, it helped me make friends, and it gave me a baseline of activity that never feels like work. At the times in my life when I’m in a slump and don’t feel like going to the gym or pool, I’m still on my bike five days a week, in all four seasons. Winter can be a little dubious, I don’t ride when there is snow or ice in the bike lanes, but the last few winters have been so dry, with the right gear (helmet, balaclava, bike mitts, and ski goggles), there is nothing more badass!
So, here’s to my bicycle, five years in, my trusted steed, my faithful companion (yes, I think of her as my friend). Here’s to fun, and joy and adventure, and coming full circle. Once again, I am a cyclist, with wind in my hair, joy in my heart, and a great many adventures to pursue.
Thanks to my lovely friend DeNeige for the banner and final image! Note: I do not ride without a helmet. The last pic was taken on a path without cars.