Wednesday, April 24, 2013

let's talk about bikes.

You guys, it's been a brutal winter. It's the end of April, but we've spent the last few weeks getting blasted by snow and ice. But spring's just GOT to be nearby... so let's talk about it like it's already here. Spring means a number of totally awesome things to me: banishing tights from my wardrobe, being free of static electricity and shocking everything I touch, and finally being able to go outside and see some green. But today, we’re talking about another very important spring thing: riding my bike.
I realize that I could ride my bike all winter if I really wanted, but let’s face it, I’m not that dedicated. It would be super cold, and I’d probably slip on the ice and crack my head open. I can barely stay upright on ice with my own two feet; imagine me trying to stay vertical on a bike. Not happening.

So my bike hibernates for the winter, but both my bike and I start to get antsy once Daylight Savings hits. Surprisingly enough, Sioux Falls has some pretty decent bike trails, so I have someplace to go. And even better: I have somebody to go with me. James is a bicycle fanatic: he was one of those guys who used to do tricks on those little tiny bikes. Nowadays, he has a couple of road bikes that he rides for miles and miles and MILES. James will never say no to a bike ride, but if you even casually mention it, you’d better be ready to follow through with that ride: rain or shine. You know how some dogs get really really excited when you say “walk”? That’s what happens to James when you say “bike ride,” further enforcing my theory that James has the personality of a Labrador. (Which, believe it or not, is a compliment: he’s friendly to everyone, he’s happy to see me when I get home, and he’s always smiling. If James had a tail, it would always be wagging.)
See how happy he is?
Anyway, bikes. It all began with the shiny red tricycle I got for what I’d like to say was my fourth birthday. My deep and abiding love for the color red was already in high gear, so this red trike was clearly the best thing ever. I rode it everywhere… or, everywhere that a girl of four in rural South Dakota can ride a trike. 
So... around the yard.
That tricycle was a true champion: it survived whatever hell I put it through, and it lasted through my sister and brother, as well. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that little trike is in my parents’ shed, ready for its next enthusiastic rider.

You probably would’ve noticed a trend here, but I’m going save you the time and just tell you: every single bike I’ve owned has been a birthday present. My second bike was a gift for my sixth (I think?) birthday, and it was a six year old’s dream: I’m mildly sure that the name of the model was something like “Dream Sparkles.” It was hot pink and turquoise with many MANY sparkles, streamers on handles, and a basket on the front.
If you can look past the stunning pumpkins, you'll
see an equally stunning bicycle.
It came with training wheels, and it may or may not have been an embarrassingly long time before I manned up and let my dad take those training wheels off.

Once Dad got the training wheels off and I realized I wasn’t going to fall over and die, my bike and I were best friends. I put my stuffed animals and Barbies in the basket and drove them all around the farm. I loved bike rides after it rained: my Barbies would have to scoot over to make room for all the salamanders I found. We would go camping every now and again when I was a kid, and we hauled my neon bike along with us. I biked my little heart out, all through the big loop that was the campground. There was a GIANT (“giant” in six-year-old terms, anyway) hill near the dock, and that (obviously) was my favorite part. It was the next best thing to a roller coaster (or, what I assumed roller coasters were like, as I didn’t have much roller coaster experience at the time): it was free, there were no lines, and there was a whole lot more danger of wiping out, which made the ride down the hill all the more exciting.

When I turned ten, I received what appeared to be the most badass bike a ten-year-old could possibly imagine: it was an actual adult bike (true story: I was fully grown by the age of eight), so I felt impossibly mature. My bike was metallic pink and purple, and it had TEN WHOLE SPEEDS. And HAND BRAKES. And a WATER BOTTLE HOLDER.
Mine is the bike on the left. I was in ten-year-old heaven.
To top it all off, my friend Sarah had the same bike, just with different patterns on the hand grips. We rode our matching bikes all around my gravelly yard (until hers got tangled in a barbed wire fence, but what do you do).

Yes, I loved my bike… but, unfortunately, I hit an “I hate being outside” phase. I stopped wearing any kind of clothing that would reveal my legs, and I turned down rides on the boat in favor of remaining in the air conditioning and having the house to myself. I don’t know what my problem was, but I lost too much lake/bike time to my dumbass teenage ways.

I embraced shorts and the outdoors again in my late teens, but I didn’t really start riding my bike again until I was a junior in college. By this time, James (bike enthusiast, remember?) and I were dating, and he begged me to bring my bike from home. I did just that and promptly realized that bikes in college are genius. 
GENIUS, I tell you.
I was living off-campus and quickly found out that biking to school was much better than walking. My roommate Sara and I took our bikes to explore the mysterious west side of Morris – and endeavor that would’ve been a lot less fun in a car.
Though there were some casualties.
By this time, my metallic bike was more than ten years old, and it looked VERY 90s in the harsh light of 2007. I wanted a new bike, but I was too cheap/poor to buy one. I casually mentioned to James how a new bike would be nice, and he took this on as a personal mission. James is the champion of a lot of things: champion of shitty cars, champion of difficult parallel parking, champion of living on rice alone for months on end… and champion of finding nice bikes for little to no money. Before I knew it, James had procured a gold vintage Huffy bike from a friend’s garage: the bike had been there when they had rented the house, and they were happy to get it out of there.

All my new bike needed was a new seat and a new set of tires, and it was road ready.
My metallic bike from the fourth grade had served me well, but now I had a kickass new-to-me bike that I could ride while feeling like a real college student. Besides, the hipsters at Morris all had expensive faux-vintage bikes, and here I was with the real thing. Feeling superior to hipsters is a favorite past-time of mine.

When I graduated from college, my gold bike took shelter in my parents’ shed. I wasn’t going to haul it to Denver and New Orleans (especially in New Orleans, where I lived in a shed and had barely enough room for me, let alone a bike), but I knew it would be waiting for me when I came back.

I moved to Minneapolis in January 2010: NOT bike weather. Even when spring came, I was still a little hesitant to bring my bike to Minneapolis. Yes, Minneapolis is Bike City USA, but it’s also terrifying. Not all of Minneapolis has bike lanes, and you definitely can’t ride on the sidewalk. Take uptown Minneapolis, for example. The streets are narrow, and there are cars parked on both sides. If you’re on your bike, you must ride in that narrow space between the parked cars and the moving cars, and it looks like the worst thing ever. I am nowhere near brave enough for that. Plus, I have poor balance, so that’s another strike against me.

The Twin Cities area has some beautiful parks and bike trails, so I brought my bike from Arlington, and we (my bike and I) played it safe and avoided the city streets. James – who is much braver and has excellent balance – threw caution to the wind and rode all over the place. It was glorious, and we felt like card-carrying Minneapolins. (or Minneapolites? what do you call people who live in Minneapolis?)

James moved to Ellsworth in fall 2010 to start his teaching job, and my bike-riding companion was gone. I remained in Minneapolis for another year, but James did stay with me over the summer and happily rode his bike the whole time. When I moved to Sioux Falls, my bike came along, and James and I proceeded to explore my new neighborhood (which really blows compared to my Minneapolis neighborhood, but oh well). While it does have some bike trails, Sioux Falls isn’t near as bike-friendly as Minneapolis. You’d be loath to find a bike lane, and riding along in Sioux Falls traffic is a death wish (just DRIVING in Sioux Falls is a death wish!).

In Sioux Falls, most of the recreational bike riders stick to the bike trails, so you’ll never see them on the streets. As a general rule, the people you see riding their bikes on the streets of Sioux Falls are the ones whose licenses have been taken away for too many DUIs. So, yeah… nothing like Minneapolis.

I loved my gold bike, but I had been dying for a bright red bike since forever. James, always looking for a project (and double points if said project involves bikes) offered to paint my bike red as part of my birthday present last year.

James did a FANTASTIC job; he stripped off the old paint (here’s hoping he doesn’t die of lead paint inhalation) and repainted my bike bright candy apple red. My friends, it is glorious. It’s an ongoing project: it’s hard to paint a bike in a small-ish apartment, so James has major plans for my bike once the weather warms up again. He’s going to add white pinstriping and all sorts of other white detailing that he’s really excited about. And whitewall tires. James is using Pee Wee Herman’s bike as inspiration, and I cannot wait for the finished product.
What a beauty.
So now that being outside no long causes my nostrils to freeze shut, I’m itching to get out on my bike – it’s been languishing in the apartment for too long. So if you see me riding around Sioux Falls, a.) please don’t run me over, and b.) bring your bike along next time and join me!

No comments:

Post a Comment