It was early evening in summer in Memphis. Cotton stuck to skin, mosquitos like stars in the sky. I swung my leg over the saddle of the cruiser, held the grips in my hands and pushed off.

The bike belonged to a friend who was leaving town. He picked it up for $50, excited to explore his new home.

I rolled up the street half a dozen blocks, coasting down the only hill. Air passed through the hair on my arms and legs, blowing back my long hair and making each follicle stand as if it grew from the back of my neck.

When I locked the coaster brake and skidded to halt in front of him, my grin was too wide to fake.

A year would pass before I’d climb on a friend’s touring bike and spin around his neighborhood. I was ignorant of the gears, the brakes, all the things that make the machine itself a marvel. I moved like wind and the landscape blurred, receding in my periphery.

That was enough.

I no longer recall whether I said this aloud or not, but when I stopped and the world dulled again, I asked, “Why did I ever stop doing this?”

During those few moments I pedaled, I was free of my past, unworried by my future. The now flowed in such perfect pleasure I felt my body glow with joy.

On the eve of spring break I bought my first bike-shop quality bike and took off into the night.

My glow lit the way. It still does.

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  1. khal spencer says

    Similar story. I had abandoned bicycles on leaving home for college. Eventually took a couple old three speeds from my father in law’s house just to putz around. Then the summer of my first full year in grad school a close friend dropped off his ten speed St. Tropez (anyone else remember them?) as he was leaving for the summer and didn’t want to take it in the car all the way back to Caltech. So I had a real ten speed. Found it was a hoot to ride to the university, eleven miles up the road on the north shore of Long Island. Then started riding for riding’s sake.

    When he returned, I promptly went out and bought a bike shop bike, a Motobecane. That was 1979. Still got the wind in my hair, albeit under a helmet…

    1. khal spencer says

      Whoops. Actually, on reflection, was my second full year of grad school. First year was just a matter of surviving physical chemistry, thermodynamics of solids, and quantum mechanics. No riding that year. Just exhaustion and beer. Which led me to say “gee, I better start working on my diet and exercise or this is gonna kill me…”

  2. DaveinME says

    I experienced a similar aha moment when I started riding. I knew a mechanic who lent me his Austro Daimler road bike and after a short ride I knew this would be my sport going forward and it has been ever since that moment. After that ride, I saved up my money and bought my first real road bike from Diane Jenks, a Bridgestone RB-1.

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