If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably already heard that I bought a bike. No big deal in the grand scheme of things, but for me, a fairly major step. My last bike was purchased around 1991 and I haven't ridden regularly since I was 13, but once upon a time, my bike was an extremely important part of my life. It seemed to represent everything I craved: independence, freedom, loyalty.

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.
Ontario's helmet law was passed in 1995, and while it wasn't the primary factor in my bike abandonment, it certainly contributed. When I was a kid, biking was easier. No accoutrement required. Stupid, certainly, but I never wore a helmet. I didn't even own a helmet. Sometimes, I didn't even wear shoes. (Don't worry -- I owned plenty of those.) I didn't carry a lock, opting instead to drop my wheels in a heap on the sidewalk outside any establishment I decided to enter.

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.
My bike went into the garage and stayed there, gathering dust, for the next ten years. The tires went flat and the chain turned rusty. Eventually, I think my parents threw it away. Barring the very occasional (completely utilitarian) ride on a borrowed cycle, I haven't been on a bike since.

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.
And even before that, before my friend the Blue Angel, I had a had another bike I loved -- a BMX purchased from a garage sale in Florida in 1985. The bike I learned to ride on. My first without training wheels.

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.
So, I shopped. And last week, I bought. My "new" bike is a CCM Imperial Mark IV. Red with chrome details, a double kickstand, and a big ol' yellowish/brown/sparkly banana seat.

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.


06/01/2012 08:03

WTG Jen! The kids have been bugging me to get a bike and ride with them so very shortly I'll be joining you in the wheeled and helmeted gang! I don't have any such ambitious goals as finding a vintage banana seat from my childhood, but I did see a really nice upright 'Mom' bike with a large round padded seat recently. Thanks for posting, it's making me think it's time to pull the trigger and go!

06/01/2012 08:05

p.s. I know you can get faux mowhawks and such for motorcycle helmets. PLEASE PLEASE tell me that you will find faux pigtails and wear them with pride on your girlie bike!!!!

06/01/2012 10:57

Heidi -- I actually have a perfect (or potentially perfect) bike suggestion for you. Going to post it on your FB wall right now. It's mom-friendly. :)


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