That sounds sad, I know, but I loved my bike to life, regularly patting the handlebars as I would a horse, whispering to it as I stabled it in the garage. My bike was a friend to me, and I to it. We were constant companions.
But then the helmet law came in and there was significant uptick in thefts besides. Locks and helmets became required. And in my teens, I became self-conscious. The mountain bike my dad had purchased for me from Canadian Tire just a few years before (black with funky multi-coloured spatter paint) seemed embarrassingly juvenile. Kids at my school seemed to have fancier bikes. And U-locks. And they ALL wore helmets. They were serious about cycling. (At least, that's how my narcissistic teenage brain processed it. I felt like I didn't fit in.)
I tried to transition, riding a few times with boys from my class, but I couldn't keep up. They all seemed to want to race around the city at high speeds, on main roads. I was used to tooling around on the sidewalk in residential areas. And they regularly traversed big hills and long flights of stairs, lifting their bikes to their shoulders and running up the steps. I tried this with my gazillion-pound mountain bike exactly once and nearly died from overexertion. And that was when I was 15 and fit. I came to hate Casa Loma's Baldwin Steps.
But lately, I've been thinking about all the things I once loved and lost. Singing in choir, for example. Making art. Riding a bike. I want to recapture those things. But my teenage experience with cycling was so hideous. That's not the past I want to return to. I want to go back further, to when riding was pure pleasure and my bike was my friend. (Is that even possible?)
I figured the first step would be to get the right kind of bike. That 90s era mountain bike was a bust, so I thought back further, to the bike I had before that -- the one I liked to pretend was a horse. It was a Blue Angel, with a white banana seat and a pink chain guard. Boys in my neighbourhood mocked it, but I thought it was beautiful.
It had pedal-brakes and a low profile. It was perfect for doubling. On the day he bought it, my dad fixed up with a yellow, racing-strip Troxel banana seat, which was, in my opinion, the coolest seat on any bike in the neighbourhood, if not in the world, if not in the universe.
These were the types of bikes I needed to remember.
It is standing, right now, in my living room, awaiting an oil and polish. And soon, I will ride it. Wearing a helmet, and toting a U-lock, of course, because not everything can be as it once was. But last night, before I went to sleep, I gave the handlebars a comforting pat.
I think we're going to be friends.