Now, in my 50s, I have two bikes — a Specialized Secteur for the road, and a hard-core Trek Fuel 70 for the fire roads and logging trails of Kennebec County. Me.
When my sons were in elementary school, there were weeks in summer when they’d jump on their bikes in the morning and disappear down our dirt road with a crew of other boys from the neighborhood. “Bike patrol,” they called themselves. They’d head off to the lake, or to one another’s houses, or — who knows? — to secret locations that I, as one of their mothers, will never know.
I have several friends who partake in something called “spinning,” which is the health-club version of cycling, involving a group of women on stationary bikes who pedal fast, then slow, then fast, as the instructor blasts the kind of music you usually hear in stores that are trying to get 16-year-olds to buy pants, and yells things like, “Feel the burn!”
I prefer exercising at least two miles away from any other human being. For me, biking is a solitary activity. In the Kennebec Highlands, on my mountain bike, I pedal past Kidder Pond, up to the blueberry barrens high atop Vienna Mountain. From there, I watch bald eagles and ospreys, and other birds, whose poop, owing to their diet of berries, stains the gray rocks purple. Sometimes I’ve run into deer and porcupines, and on one memorable occasion, a moose. Another time, I lay with my back against a tree, watching a beaver build a dam in Boody Pond.
Stephen King writes of a solitary childhood encounter with a deer in his story : “My heart went up into my throat so high that I think I could have put my hand in my mouth and touched it.” Later, the narrator decides not to tell his friends about what he has seen, to keep it for himself. “The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.”
These are the gifts that I will most miss when, some day in the not-so-distant future, I have to give up biking alone. At 56, I’m really too old to be hopping over rocks and fallen trees, an hour or two from help, should anything terrible happen to me, which, odds are, it will. Recently, I encountered a bunch of young men who were climbing a mountain trail that I was riding down; one of them looked at me, mud-spattered, sweat-covered, and said, “Whoa! Hard-core!” It wasn’t clear whether he was saying this out of admiration, or concern.
A couple of years after that bike ride with my Uncle Clarke, he and my father had some kind of falling out, and I didn’t see him again. I don’t think about him very often, except on summer mornings in August, when I’m climbing onto my bike.
That morning in Rehoboth Beach, I saw the first sunrise I can remember. My uncle nodded at me, and I nodded back, and we got on our bikes. The air smelled like salt, cotton candy and tar. When we got back to the house, my mother was making pancakes.
she asked. “How’d it go?”
My uncle looked at me with what might have been love. “We had a good ride,” he said.Continue reading the main story
An Op-Ed essay on Monday described bald eagles and ospreys incorrectly. They eat fish, and their poop is white; they do not eat berries and excrete purple feces. (Other birds, like American robins, Eurasian starlings and cedar waxwings, do.)
As a kid I was jealous of my brother, my cousin and all my friends (who knew how to ride a bicycle). I didn’t know how to ride a bike until I was thirteen or fourteen I think. My mom was too scared to allow me to ride a bicycle. I’d lie to mom and go trying to ride a bike instead of playing. I can’t remember anyone helping me how to ride. I somehow learnt by borrowing bicycles on my own.
My dad gifted me a bicycle when I passed SSLC exam. I still remember going with him to the bicycle shop, picking up a bike and riding it back home. I was happy that I got a bicycle more than I was happy that I cleared the exam. It was a brown Hercules MTB for around 1700 rupees, no gears, just the basic bicycle.
It became my primary mode of transportation during pre-university college, early morning tuitions, and countless small trips around the town. It was my darling. I modified it by adding 4 or 5 gears, cut down the handle length, threw away the mud guards and rear carrier, changed the tires (I can’t believe I added a short diameter front wheel for a while - bad decision!), and the last but most famous modification was by wrapping black solution tape around spokes to make it look like 3 plastic spokes per wheel. That look was very cool and it was copied by many kids within a few days. I was so proud!
I never wanted to sell it, but once I started working and moved out of Bangalore it started rusting. I kept it for another 3 years or so before mom convinced me to sell it. I decided I’d rather have someone ride it than let it rust. One fine day it was sold. I still miss my first bicycle - a gift from my dad. I wish I had at least one picture of it to post here.