Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Bike Of One's Own

I've been wanting to buy a bike for years. This weekend, I finally got one.

The last bike I owned had been purchased by my parents and ridden by the teenage version of me. I don't remember picking it out. I think it was actually a hand-me-down from my sister.

And even though I called it "my" bike, it was never really mine. As a kid, nothing ever was. My parents made that very clear.

A couple of years ago in New York, I really wanted a bicycle, but living in a small studio apartment with no storage space (the same reason I never got a cat), I couldn't figure out where I'd keep it. I then had it in my head that I would get a folding bike that I could put under the bed, carry on the subway, or throw in my purse, but was deterred by the expense and the sense - partially influenced by my fellow opinionated New Yorkers - that it wasn't really a real bike.

Last year when I rented a bike at the Ace in Palm Springs, I got hooked, and I started looking for every opportunity to rent or borrow a bike to ride.

I couldn't help but smile while I was on a bike. As a kid, it was my only mode of transportation, my only escape from my parents' house, my only taste of freedom. On a bike in New York, I was liberated from the underground tunnels and from the straphanging at the joint of a public bus weaving through the streets like a Chinese dragon.

So when I realized I was going to be moving to LA, I said, "I have to get a bike."

Upon my arrival in LA though, there was too much to do: move into and furnish my apartment, buy (lease) my first car, start a new job, build a new life...I had no time to go find a bike. I was kind of hoping one would fall into my lap. One never did.

Besides, for the first three months I was here, I was really dependent on my car, commuting 20 miles daily on an unbikeable route (at least for a novice like me). In the months that followed, I spent my weekends driving for hours to explore the reaches of California, my new home state.

But walking to and from work several times a week, I started to realize that, as freeing as my pedestrian lifestyle was, I still had to drive when I'm in a rush or the distance is a bit too far. At an average pace of 3 mph, walking just takes so long. As free as I've been, I could be freer.

I could once again be liberated by a bike.

Of course, a bicycle is actually a major purchase. It's not cheap, and it's a pile of aluminum and alloy and chain and rubber and spokes and wires that all seem like a big jumble to me. After freeing myself of many of my worldly possessions before moving to LA, I'm not inclined to collect many more and once again become dependent on material goods.

But it's a means to an end, a vehicle to liberation. It takes me out of my apartment, out of my car, outside.

I just have to make sure and lock it. And figure out how the damn thing works.

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.