Having a bike meant freedom as a kid growing up in a small town. I could go to the library on my own or head to the tiny neighborhood grocery for penny candy and baseball cards. I could ride over to my cousins to play baseball in the field, play Hardball on his C64, or pull out Strat-O-Matic Baseball for the afternoon. My first bike was a black Schwinn Stingray with the huge banana seat and high handlebars. That bike and I survived learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels, many wipeouts with skinned knees, and crashes off ramps that knocked the wind out of me. Such a classic bicycle now, I wish I still had it.
Later, I received a 1984 Olympics-themed 10 speed as a present. I was in awe of this “adult” bicycle and quickly forgot about that amazing Stingray that I had loved riding so much. This bike helped me get places faster and to new places like summer band practices at the high school, working at Hardees, Boy Scout events across town like the Truck Pull and Mud Bog Races, and to the library still as I gotta get my books! This bike began my enjoyment of longer rides with my step-dad on the roads around our town. This bike even made it to college with me, but didn’t see much riding as the campus was small enough to walk. So my love of riding started to fade.
At the end of college, I once again sought out a more modern bicycle to take with me to graduate school. I wanted a bike that could manage curb hopping, rough sidewalks, and be comfortable riding from my apartment to classes. Driving the Purdue campus was not simple and parking was expensive, so a bike was the best option. I purchased a Raleigh M30 mountain bike and retired my previous bicycle. This mountain bike and I rode all over the Purdue campus, West Lafayette, and Lafayette. I also was lucky and never had my seat or front tire stolen, which was a major issue on the campus while I was there. It even made a trip around Mississinewa Lake on the trails.
After graduate school, the Raleigh helped me commute to my first job in Frankfort and to wander around our new small town. Once we moved to Upland for a new job, our twin daughters were born, and Angie’s Multiple Sclerosis began to progress, my bike saw less and less road time. I tried a quadcycle for a short time to get back into riding but it was too difficult for Angie and I to ride together. My bicycle began to gather dust, only coming out occasionally when that fond memory of riding would return. Then it would go back to languishing in the garage.
More recently, my back injury/back surgery occurred and the pandemic hit. Life had new challenges and stresses, I needed an outlet and a way to stay healthy. I had this deep desire to be outside and enjoying nature, so I took to walking a lot, but that can only get you so far. That deep memory of the freedom of cycling returned to me. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stated it so well…
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.
I tried riding my mountain bike, but I could feel the strain on my lower back when riding the heavier bike. I talked with my doctor and friends who enjoyed cycling, and they all recommended I consider an E-bike to protect my back but still provide me the exercise and enjoyment of being on the road again. This Spring, I sold my ever-faithful Raleigh to a friend and ordered an Electra Townie Go! 7D Step-Thru from Kirk’s Bike Shop in Muncie, IN. I cannot put into words the intense joy that I have felt riding this bike to work and around Upland this Spring. I honestly am giggling as I ride like a kid again, the joy and freedom of wandering the neighborhood and feeling the wind in my face have been euphoric. Currently I ride it mostly for commuting and short errands. I am slowly building back up the muscles and stamina for cycling and looking forward to future longer rides in the country and on the area bike trails.
Have you ever returned to an old hobby or interest to find a renewed passion? Perhaps you enjoyed cycling as a kid and have considered returning to cycling?
ADDENDUM: Before I could post this blog I had my first flat tire on my new bike. It was a very sad moment, but I still really like my bicycle. Now to get that repaired so I can get back to riding!