Have you been 10-years-old, perched over a pair of 20-inche wheels, straight-legged and out of the saddle, your tire’s knobs whirring against the sidewalk? Have you launched yourself from the curb and pulled up sharply on the bars, your rear tire kissing the pavement and the bike kicking back like bucking stallion? Have you eyed the thick patch of fallen pine needles at the corner of the yard where the sidewalk meets the driveway, and grabbed all of the rear brake, sliding and bouncing, the bike perpendicular to your momentum, canted at forty-five degrees, your outside foot flexing and quivering against the skid?
Have you dropped your backpack just inside the door and headed straight to the shed to pullout your bike? Have you bounded away from home, just one gear at max cadence, to get to a friend’s house, or a spot in the woods? Have you felt that relief and the pure condition of youth that lets you pedal effortlessly, never thinking of your rising heart beat or the crashing wave of lactic acid?
Have you stacked cinder blocks beneath plywood and convinced friends to lay in front, sometimes lengthwise, to be jumped over? Have you ridden across miles of neighborhood with a shovel over your shoulder to that one strip of trees and dirt that separates yours from someone else’s, and have you spent hours piling up ramps and berming out turns, and have you spent whole summers sweating through the modest little patch you made and never thought of anything else?
I flash back to those days a lot. My riding is not as simple now as it was then, one bike, one gear, no thoughts of form or fitness, or safety for that matter. But I suppose not much is as simple at 47 as it was at 10.
10 was the gateway drug that led me spinning off in every direction, through the first mountain bike boom, becoming a roadie, building fixed-gear bikes, cruisers, beaters, watching trials videos and race feeds from Europe. There is something essential in that 10-year-old’s experience that I have looked for in every corner of my cycling mania. Sometimes now I even ask myself, “What about this would my 10-year-old self like?”
This week’s Group Ride asks, what was your gateway moment with the bike? And how much of that same hook do you feel when you ride bikes now?