I get so many ideas when I’m riding. But it’s not the movement of my legs that powers thought. It’s the rush of the wind, the changing scenery, the conversation, the sight of others who are also riding that makes my mind race in a flurry. In a frenzy. I can’t keep track. Once I stop, even to pause for a turning car, a light that needs to change, a pedestrian crossing the street, I forget. My mind goes blank. I’m back on the ground, two solid feet on the ground, and my world has reverted back. Reverted back to the slowness, the plodding of feet on concrete. I miss the spinning of wheels, the whirring and clicking of shifting gears, powered by my own power. When I ride, I don’t even notice that my legs move on their own, an autonomic response. They push on without me thinking about them at all. They know what to do. They always have.
The strength in my legs provides the essence I need to ride a bicycle. My bicycle. I want to fix it up more, make it coordinated and modern and mine. I love that I can do that. Bicycles are customizable down to the very last spoke and bolt. You can choose to buy an expensive or cheap or new or used version of every last thing, and it’s affordable. It’s easy. You can even create a machine that is no longer composed of original parts, but somehow it’s still the same bike. It’s yours.
We personify our bikes. When they feel neglected, we speak for them. Their hearts are our own. We know their pain, because we too never like to be left splayed open in pieces or forced to walk down a hill. We know we are capable of rolling at high speeds, approaching flight.
Cycling is not a man’s world, but it still looks like it is. Watch the bike polo players in the park at night: men. Go into any bike store and look at the mechanics: men. But it’s not because there is something masculine about the world of creating bicycles. I’ll get lost in talk of cranks and gears, expensive and fancy parts. I honestly don’t really care. Because I know that I will return to my bicycle, hop on and ride with the rest of them, and we will all once again be equal. I control everything about how I ride, and no man does when I do. The culture that surrounds the bicycle once you’ve taken your feet off the pedals to plod around on concrete doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you have two working wheels and a passion for autonomy. And that’s why I love the bicycle.
Catherine Blake Smith, Seattle