I believe in my bicycle.
At the seasoned age of fifty-one, I became a cyclist. Like most Americans, I had ridden a bike as a child, and during college I rode a bike out of necessity as I had no car. For a while I owned a mountain bike and rode it occasionally, but I never made a real commitment to the sport. Bicycling had become something I did for transportation and exercise, but never just for fun.
For many years I hovered on the edges of the bicycling community here in southwest New Mexico. I served as a marshal during the mountain bike race; I helped drive a support vehicle during our monumental road race, The Tour of the Gila; I served barbeque to hungry racers, and I gave them a free place to stay. But I couldn’t call myself a cyclist, though I longed to be part of the group. I was too lazy, and the thought of sweating myself into shape was too discouraging.
All that changed last June. Pudgy and middle-aged, I pulled out my old, heavy mountain bike, bought some padded cycling shorts and a bright red jersey and helmet, and began riding up and down the hilly road in front of my house. I was exhausted after a short ride, but I was determined to stick with it. However, I hesitated to buy a new bike because I knew I wanted to make a true commitment before spending a lot of money.
Before long I found myself getting up at 5:00 on summer mornings to ride before the heat set in, and I began to have bicycling DREAMS. My husband, who has been riding a bike for years, convinced me that I had, indeed, made the commitment. So I bought a new bike at my local bike shop. She’s a beauty. Lightweight yet strong, shiny black with fuchsia details—I named her Aretha.
Now every morning I can, I pedal Aretha through the mountains near my home. Most of our ride is slow and steady, so quiet I hear the motion of the chain and my breathing. But I also hear the breeze in the trees, the awakening birds, and the gurgling creek. Four months into this sport, I’m stronger, faster, leaner, and more confident, and I can finally call myself a cyclist. I’m no racer, but now I know why they race. Because after my climb, I get to turn around and dash DOWN the hill, tires hissing, eyes watering, wind whistling in my ears, jazzed to be alive, fifty-one and feeling like a ten-year-old kid.
So you may see me on the road with other cyclists, but mostly I ride alone and enjoy the solitary peace. You see, my morning ride is one, long prayer of thanks.
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