At My Own Speed

I no longer ride as fast as I used to. It’s not that I can’t; I simply choose not to.

As far back as I can remember, whether it was on my third-hand lake bike at age nine, finely-tuned road bike at 19, or sturdy mountain bike at 29 (and every version, model, or style of bike in between), the lure of a bicycle has always been speed.

To get anywhere, I chose to ride as fast as I could. I was seduced by speed, a habit that continued as my youthful legs pushed a single-speed cruiser, or the muscular teenage frame took a 10-speed to its limits.

Accelerating was always exhilarating.

Of course there were many (many) accidents along the way. Physical injury should have been a warning, and should have held me back, but it wasn’t my way. Skinned knees, sprained wrists, full-leg road rash, and broken bones could not stop me.

I kept pushing. I darted into traffic, challenged myself to pass cars and navigate through traffic without care or caution. I didn’t wear a helmet; I didn’t need to (I thought). Among the many feelings you have when you ride a bike is one of immortality. Eventually you learn that is not the case. It begins to sink in as you mature, or grow older.

I’m different now.

I started cycling again this summer, an activity I had put off for a few years. Yes, it does come right back to you. . . indeed, like riding a bike. I even had a few scrapes and bumps on my first few days back in the saddle (just like old times).

I ride differently now.

Now I check the-rear view mirror. Now, I study cross-streets before entering an intersection. Now I use hand signals. I act responsibly (or as responsibly as a somewhat irresponsible individual can be). I, now, wear a helmet; I now see the purpose.

I ride slower (most of the time). I watch, I look around. I notice more. It’s no longer a case of getting from here to there, but enjoying the ride along the way.

My bike is now a little more comfortable; the tires are wider and there is a little more padding to the seat. I have (and appreciate) fenders, and a basket. I use a bell to warn fellow cyclists I may pass, or I ring my bell to signal injustices along my route (Hey, cabbie, get the hell off the bike lane!).

I gear up, and down, more frequently now in a more efficient use of energy and movement. I’m also a better judge of terrain and traffic. I anticipate bumps in the road, and adjust my style when I get too close to other cyclists, pedestrians, or cars. Rolling stops are pretty much a thing of the past.

I’m not overly cautious, but I am mindful of where I want to go. I’m learning to plan a safer way of getting there. The ride is no longer considered a separate act of transportation, but rather a part of my journey.

I still enjoy the speed, and the cool breeze of speed, but it is not speedy like it was before. I tend to move at my own speed. I can’t be rushed, or I don’t often rush.

Life is, many times, like riding a bike.

© 2018 j.g. lewis

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