Because Bikes are Fun

June 20, 2018

Because Bikes are Fun

I went to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Cool town. Spread out. Lots of trees. Great for walking - and biking. I didn't discover biking in Ann Arbor until my last year when my girlfriend's housemate (and future CityBench founder) Zeb Esselstyn loaned me his old mountain bike. I was reborn. The roads and paths I'd walked for years became avenues for fun. Stairs and ramps transformed into playgrounds. Cool evenings became opportunities to coast and laugh and explore. I had rediscovered the joy of bicycling, forgotten some time in middle school.

Fast forward a year and I'm back living in Vermont where I grew up. By day I'm working for a paper recycling company, and in the afternoons I'm exploring farm roads and fields on a GT Karakoram. I loved that bike. I patched 100 flats on that bike (a skill that came in handy later). I road-tripped across the United States with that bike, riding trails and back roads from Tennessee to Utah to California to British Columbia and Montana and finally to Oregon.

Portland, Oregon, in the 1990s was a cyclists paradise. It was still sleepy, but had already started making the changes to traffic flow that would make it (too) famously livable. My car died and I didn't replace it. I biked to grad school, biked to work, biked to the top of the West Hills to tutor kids, biked home in the dark with city lights spread out below me. I biked in the sun, in the rain, in traffic, and on the miles of cool arboreal roads in Forest Park. Bike commuting is a unique pleasure. You have a mission, and you have options. Your senses are activated, your heart and lungs are working, you feel the weather on your face. In a car you need a country road or track to enjoy the ride. On a bike, every ride, with time, becomes a memorized series of moves that is more like flying than driving.

In my 40s I got back into mountain biking with a vengeance, riding our local trails in Post Canyon and insane downhill in Whistler, BC, wth my son. I dropped off ledges and ramps I wouldn't have dreamed of dropping in my 20s. I raced friends pell mell downhill on tight forest trails. It was a blast. And then one day I just decided to stop. I think I knew I was too old for it, which really means I was too old to recover from hitting a tree and breaking a collar bone or worse. That was two years ago, and I'm admitting here in writing that I haven't biked since. I've been busy parenting and working and walking and hiking, but I feel the call. Hood River, where I live now, is another biker's paradise, and there's an electric bike explosion happening. That might be just what I need to get back in the saddle.