This I Believe

Catarina - Seattle, Washington
Entered on June 10, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in bicycling. Six years ago my best friend dragged me on a four week bike trip. I had never even ridden 10 miles. The bike shop scoffed at my old bike, friends were skeptical and I became resolute. Until that trip I had never climbed a mountain powered by my own strength and determination, by my own sweat and tears. Now I’ve climbed more than I can name.

The trip’s misery is blurred by feelings of accomplishment and pride, by the people I met who taught and encouraged me, by the release of self-consciousness. Afterwards, I returned to normal life, still not quite in love with biking. I had places to go, people to see, accomplishments to achieve. I could always find a way to justify driving.

My newfound confidence lingered and despite my own fears, I signed up for a bicycle trip from San Francisco to D.C. I made it to D.C. exhilarated, thrilled, desperate to just ride.

But again I returned to normal life. Working in a high school, staff knew me as the girl who bikes in every day. I remained youthful, because I rode I was seen as a girl, even though it was this very aspect of my identity that made me a woman. I drove less. I became increasingly saddened and disheartened by world affairs and I wanted to do my part to combat the wrong in our society and world. But work and school and life continued to consume me and I gained weight, became lazier, struggled to find the time to bike and the courage to brave New England winters.

I sold my car, moved west and purchased a used bicycle. I explored a new city on my two wheels. I climbed its hills, sailed down its descents. I became a better rider, more skilled, more capable. I met people who ride bikes too. I stopped being “that girl” who rides a bike. I stopped apologizing for arriving a little late, a little sweaty.

I battle feelings of laziness, the desire to get there faster and easier by car. Sometimes those feelings win out. But I am more in tune with my body, my mind, my spirit and I realize how much happier I am arriving by bike. I try to not let the wet and cold discourage me knowing that I’m sick less often, I’m not groggy from idling in traffic, I’m not sitting angry and boxed in. I am free on my bicycle. Riding can be dangerous but I feel no safer or healthier in a car.

Life is no longer about the destination; it’s about enjoying every second of the journey. I believe in wind in my hair, a flush in my cheeks, a shortness of breath, sweating, and childlike freedom. I believe in independence, femininity, exhilaration. I believe in contemplating to my pedal stroke, reevaluating life through the spokes in my wheels; examining the world differently to the rhythm of my drive train. I believe in biking.