Wednesday, April 6, 2011


About six years ago, as part of my Memphis hazing, the red Schwinn 10-speed road bike I received on my fourteenth Christmas was stolen out of my own backyard. I hope whoever pulled that stunt, somehow avoiding detection from both motion-sensor lights and a 200-lb. dog, ruptured a disk lugging that steel behemoth over the fence.

Thanks to that act of nefariousness, I spent the last half-decade or so bikeless, and unhappily so. Which is sort of ironic, considering that the stolen bike still had the little nubs on the tires.

My desire for a new bike began immediately after the theft, but my ability to attain one was not so quick. I put bikes on my wishlist around every major holiday, but no giant boxes ever showed up in the mail. I’d save up a little scratch and plan to put it toward new wheels, but some other higher priority would come up, like daycare registration or a 50%-off-sale-prices sale at Ann Taylor Loft. I eventually had the perfect jauntily casual wardrobe for cruising around town, but nothing to actually cruise on.

Part of the hold-up, of course, was my predilection toward exhaustively thorough pre-purchase research (read: obsessive dithering). I wasn’t going to buy anything without checking reviews, comparing features, and graphing price fluctuations. I also made a longer-than-necessary mental stop at the Electra website because, golly, those bikes are pretty. But once I realized that I was never going to avoid long enough to get my bike fund to that level, I moved on to more realistic goals.

As I prepared my taxes this year, bracing myself for the payment I hoped would be slightly less than the giant sum owed the year before, I was shocked and thrilled to discover I was actually getting a modest refund. The first thing that crossed my mind when I saw those happy green numbers on Turbo Tax was, “I can get a bike!”

Having the money, however, didn’t make it that much easier for me to spend it on something so frivolous. Half my refund went right to bills, and the rest slipped away toward new clothes for the family, field trips, school pictures, and other wants and needs that were higher priorities than becoming a little LeMond.

But then, the sun came out. March arrived. A few bursts of lovely weather highlighted the unrelenting proximity of the Greater Memphis Greenline. The new Woodland Discovery Playground beckoned from a few flat miles away. Not having a bike not only seemed inconvenient, but downright ridiculous. I narrowed my top two choices down to one, did a Target test-ride, and eagerly awaited a freelance payment. And then, just to confirm that I was making the right choice, something amazing happened.

The bike I wanted went on sale!

(Cue angels singing, clouds parting, and cute little handlebar bells ringing)

I’ll spare you the Homerian epic of acquiring the last semi-functioning model in town (other than to thank Kristy for helping out when I was on the verge of meltdown) and skip right to this past Saturday, when I took the first ride on my new green-and-white Schwinn hybrid. I was a little afraid that I’d built my enjoyment of bike-riding up over the years and would be disappointed once I actually got in the saddle, but just the opposite was true. The first time I got to a downhill stretch and felt the wind rush by, I was hooked.

That little inaugural test ride turned into nine miles of Greenline and park trails and eating RJA's dust. Not every bit was easy, but it sure was a lot of fun. I felt connected to the city in a whole new way. I felt greater freedom in my own little part of it.

I felt fourteen again.

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