blissful nostalgic reminds me of a happy childhood … perhaps most fond is the memory of riding the streets in the east-end of my hometown, cobourg, with my sisters, we as the neighbourhood calvary, my sturdy deed, a bike; my mode of transportation for saturday morning paper routes, a bike; vehicle of choice for those young playful summer romances, a bike.
yes, we all remember how carefree our first bicycle made us feel. the pride of shedding our training wheels, the pain of our first head-over-handle-bar wipeout. we remember racing home for dinner and jetting right back out to capture the last of the daylight before the sun-kissed us goodnight. we remember the natural element of just riding, pedaling without thinking … taking in the serene beauty of a tree-lined street along the way.
so, with all its wonderfulness, when did i stop riding? somewhere between rollerskates, rollerblades, skateboards and the allure of getting my license at the age 16, which didn’t last long. after a couple of nerve-wrecking car accidents i discovered i did not feel safe, neither with the entitlement nor the status that came with having an automobile to putter around in between my many adventures. retreating, i became an active pedestrian, walking everywhere in any weather, my two feet going in any direction. curious abound i was always commuting between cafes, libraries, concrete buildings, parks, galleries, shops and laneways, yet despite all of this bustle i refrained from a getting a bike.
because i was losing myself while wandering, seeing the world on foot. this route, well, it felt … safe. until three years ago i got into tri-sports and i took on cycling as active exercise. racing the waterfront and hillside was escapism indeed, yet still, it – nor i – wasn’t entirely suited. i had yet to feel committed, naturally connected.
fast forward a couple of years to present day: thriving in melbourne (a recently proclaimed cycling city by the union cycliste internationale) i finally got over any fear of posed-pretending and set out to reclaim another part of my young spirit that had become lost since the day my family moved away from the old maple tree decorated henry street. it was time to find my happy.
devouring the bike culture in this fair city, it was easy (although selective) to seek out a local mechanic who recycles and restores vintage bikes. vintage to me is 1980s, after all, that is when we first fell in love, the bike and i. walking to the back of one of my favourite markets i found him – the mottainai cycles mechanic. ‘mottainai’ loosely means ‘not to waste’ in japanese. immediately connected to the trademan’s bicycle philosophy i walk to the shed and then i saw HER – a faded metallic blue bike with a tinge of rust and a proud, high seat. i don’t know anything about her other than what the mechanic tells me, “she’s a beaut, probably not ridden much, i reckon … ready for some attention.”
there you have it: awkwardly beautiful, slightly neglected and ready to be loved … the bike and i, a natural connection of sorts.
we’ve only been acquainted for a couple of days now; she’s a little wobbly and i’m a littlehesitant. its been 20 years since i felt triumphant in my dad taking off of my training wheels. and even now – all grown up – i am still learning how to ride. through life that is.
but at least now i’m doing it proper … reunited with my treadlie.