Friday, February 13, 2009

Like a fish needs a bicycle

In truth, my relationship with bicycles has been akin to the general plot of When Harry Met Sally (and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the endings are parallel). Our first few encounters have been comical at best, most recently with me wobbling down the hallway of my friend Ben's apartment building to test out the seat height and get an initial sense of the gears on the bike that he has so graciously agreed to lend me to train on while I shop around for the bike I will be riding on my trip. (I'm not entirely sure bike riding is allowed in apartment building hallways, but there are less cars there and, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. No, I was sober. No, really, it was four in the afternoon.)

So the riding of the bike, yes. I've been putting this off, it's true, and I recognize that I'm running out of excuses. I mean, I have a bike. I have a helmet (see, mom, I remembered). I put some air in the tires so I can (in theory) take it out for a spin. I have a lock (for keeping it safe when I have to keep it somewhere besides the sun porch, though he looks so very content leaning casually against the wall, handlebars rakishly tilted to one side). I even started taking a course on bike maintenance and repair (so now, with two classes under my belt, I know what a derailer is and how to adjust it, how to clean a bike chain, and I think next class we learn how to change a tire). Now the riding of it.... (For those of you wondering, yes, I have been taking the bus to my bike repair class. Oh, the irony!)

I'm not quite sure where the anxiety comes from -- perhaps the history of crashing into (mostly stationary) things. It's not like I'm totally uncoordinated in general. I dance. I play sports. I can rub my tummy and tap my head at the same time. I have gotten past the embarrassment of admitting that I am not a good cyclist (okay, not entirely, but I'm getting there) and now I am face to face with the next hurdle: fear. I mean, I could crash and really hurt myself. (I know you're thinking the same thing, dad.) I never really rode a bike as a kid. There is some inherent fearlessness that kids have when they learn to ride a bicycle (or to ski, for that matter -- I'm not so good at that, either, but that's a story for another day) that we seem to lose when we grow up. It's not just bikes, though, it's taking risks in general. As we grow older, many of us find it more difficult to learn a new language ("what if I say the wrong thing?"), to open ourselves up emotionally to another person ("what if he doesn't love me back?"), to walk away from what we know and turn our lives in a totally different direction ("what if I fail?"). And yet each of these is worth the risk. (Well, maybe not skiing.)

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day (or, depending on your perspective, Singles Awareness Day) and it's time to make a move. It's time to get to know my bicycle, my steady partner in this upcoming journey. As with any healthy relationship, it's about communication, trust, and compromise. We've got a long road ahead. With any luck, the two of us will end up riding off into the sunset (rather than into the tree, like last time).

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