I was blessed to grow up in the ’70s, when the ten speed and BMX ruled the neighborhood and there wasn’t so much television to distract you from going outside to rage up and down the streets like you owned them. The bike became a prop in my personal bildungsroman, a constant in the ups and downs of childhood and what came after.
One early scene involved a set of kid-made trails in the woods beyond a narrow creek at the edge of the neighborhood. Getting there required riding up and around the perimeter of the hood, to the one road that forded the creek, so the teens in the contingent built a bridge out of plywood for easy access. I was 7 at the time.
Opening day for the bridge featured kids of all ages streaming back and forth, now more thrilled by the plywood access than by the trails themselves. Myself, I was terrified. The bridge seemed high and impossibly narrow. I didn’t think I could hold a straight enough line to make it across. This is, obviously, foreshadowing.
The kids who built the bridge wanted, no needed, me to cross the bridge, and I have to believe, in retrospect, that they also wanted me to fall into the creek, which I did, soaking myself to the bone, and emerging, spluttering into the spring sunshine feeling like I’d just been born into a world far more cruel and unusual than I’d imagined.
Slowly I slopped my way home, sure my parents would kill me for…I’m not entirely sure what. When my knocking on the backdoor finally brought them to my rescue, I burst into tears and they burst into laughter. It was the worst thing that had ever happened to me on a bike.
Then of course there were crashes and road rash, brief, violent interactions with cars, unpleasant discourse with unpleasant drivers. Each of them felt bad at the time, but probably made me a better rider and a better person. Has anything truly bad happened to me on the bike? Maybe. Maybe not.
This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the worst thing that’s happened to you on a bike? I have been lucky with crashes. Though I’ve hit the ground plenty, the hospital was never. strictly speaking, needed. Though I’ve been hit by cars, the blows were mainly glancing. I understand that’s not everyone’s story.