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On Biking: a winter ode from a casual cyclist

Posted by Your Town  November 16, 2011 08:46 AM

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Biking is not my religion.

It's not my commute.

It's not my response to global warming. Not how I save money. Not my “get fit” strategy.

Biking is cool, but no one who sees me on a bike thinks hey, cool. They think hey, get back in the bike lane. Hey, lady, good thing you're wearing that helmet; you're not the most skilled cyclist I've ever seen.

I'm not--I know I'm not. But I'm on my bike, anyway, just like a lot of other not-the-most-skilled cyclists, and I'm out here because it's fun. I never regret a ride.

No, the mystery is why I don't ride more often.

Let's round up the usual discouragements at this time of year: Traffic, of course, but that's a problem year-round. Foul weather. Not having enough time to bike. There's nowhere good to ride around here, anyway.

But these are just excuses. We've got bike paths and bike lanes, and ten miles out of town, we have beautiful rolling hills. There are sweaters! There are gloves! Thirty minutes is enough time for a short ride. Lastly, there are satisfying places to ride in and around Boston if you know where to go.

Still, as the cold weather closes in, I have to talk myself onto my bike. My husband thinks I'm nuts, since he practically wakes up in the morning with both feet pedaling. His bike obsession is the bright twin to my own trepidation, and we both know it.

I realized just this week that anything with the word “bike” in it stops him in his tracks: bike tour, bike gear, bike ride for charity.

“I bet if you put the word 'bicycle' in front of any word in the English language,” I said, “in front of any noun or verb, that thing would sound instantly interesting to you, wouldn't it?”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Like, say, bicycle badminton. Bicycle bar-tending. Bicycle diplomacy, bicycle dentistry. Bike potatoes.”

“You're right,” he agreed. For fun, we thought up a few more: bike lint, bike barbecue, bicycle hospital, bike beard, bicycle lawn mower.

Later the same evening, I paused as I passed the open bathroom door. My husband was in there plunging our ever-uncooperative low-flow toilet.

“If only there were some way to combine biking and toilet plunging,” I said in a dreamy voice, as if I were reading his mind, “then maybe all this plunging wouldn't be so terrible.”

Making fun of someone who is plunging a toilet isn't so nice. Throwing your head back and laughing while plunging a toilet is also ill-advised. Happy to say that my husband and I have a long history of laughing together at whatever awfulness comes at us, and so that's what we did. We laughed.

Laughter, it's a kind of glue. It can preserve--even fortify--a relationship.

I think my relationship with my bike needs more laughter.

Winter is coming, so we won't see each other for several months. Then spring will arrive, and I'll need to sweet-talk myself back onto the bike for that first time, after which I'll be fine. I do understand the dread a little: Cars and trucks are a serious hazard. My balance isn't fantastic. My confidence isn't what it used to be, either. In other words, I'm not the most skilled cyclist.

But this winter, I'm going to work on it. For balance and confidence, I've signed up for a spin class. On better winter days, when the ice melts and the road clears of all but the salt and sand, maybe I'll get in a lap or two around the neighborhood And here's the laughter part, the glue: Several times this winter, I plan to tromp down to the basement and shake hands, um, handlebars, with my bike. Just to, you know, keep our love alive. Maybe we won't feel so awkward with each other next April or May, or whenever the bicycling season returns.

Susan Meyers is a Brookline writer. Her memoir about sight, blindness, and her relationship with her brother, titled Check This Box If You Are Blind, was published last June by Climbing Ivy Press.

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