Riding a bike is one of the most wonderful things I can think of doing. Yes, I love my wife and kids and enjoy them, so do not make me into a monster that cares more about his bikes than his family(my wife may think differently). Riding again regularly has become my serious drug of choice. Birmingham is a hilly city and I see hills all the time that I want to climb, but I have to work up to that stage. This morning I took a stab at a hill that my boy Olney took me up the 1st time we rode once I got back into B’ham. After not riding for 7-8 months he tried to kill me, now about 7 months after my spine fusion I looked at that hill and beat it. Riding has always been a joy for me, but my city has decided that cars are more important.
Birmingham proper is a great biking area with the downtown area being mainly a big grid and lots of one way, multiple lane streets. It is once you get out of B’ham proper that it becomes a battle that I and many others are willing to fight. Getting back into cycling has taught me so much about myself and the type of person I have become. Peddling has given me a chance to cover many many miles and see many beautiful things that a car will never do justice. As you may know, I started seriously riding again in NYC and then never bought a car when I moved to Austin, TX, and commuted by bike for the next 2 years. This put me truly into the mindset of a biker. I had a condescending attitude for a while where I despised the Lycra crowd, but have since realized that bikers are a culture that many see but few truly understand our love of being the engine of our transport.
A much smaller subset of bikers are commuters, my wife never wanting to be in this club. In so many ways I hope to one day find a job in B’ham where I can commute by bike and let my wife have the only motorized vehicle we own. My dream is to get a job and hopefully a permanent job in which I can be within 10-12 bikeable miles of work. Getting up every morning and riding to work was a joy that is hard to describe if you have never done it. Knowing that a car is not an option gives me joy beyond joy. Even days in which it rained I put on my gear and enjoyed the water falling from the sky daring me to retreat to the comfort of cage with wheels. On those days I would put my head down and pedal harder and laugh as the water under my tires parted to let me pass. Arriving everyday wet from sweat or rain taught me that this life is fleeting and you should find ways to do what you enjoy. Without that, what are we doing? That is somewhat rhetorical, but also very answerable. When I get on my bike the world seems to ask, “What do you want to see today?” My response is almost always, “Everything!”
I have 3 bikes and they all bring me a different joy. I inherited a cruiser from my grandfather and that bike has big whitewall tires and is my lets go for a ride and enjoy the sun and fun bike. My 2nd bike is my Bianchi Volpe cyclocross bike. This bike was my 1st real bike once I started commuting in Austin. I went to Ozone Bikes and the guys there pointed me in the direction of bike that I now am happy that I own. The guys at the shop all rode bikes regularly and were not snobby about people coming in to learn about biking. I explained that I wanted a commuter, but wanted to ride almost exclusively on the roads and I was aquatinted with the bike that has been riding more than anything else I own and has made it through two, count them two, collisions with cars. It still rides like a dream and can get me from New York City to Seattle on a moments notice. It is not scared of anything I can throw at it and I feel that it will never back down from a challenge. Last, but not least is my fixed gear. On my daily commute in Austin, there was a bike at this plant that I passed. It had been there for about 3 days and I told myself if it was still there at the end of the week, I would drive on Friday and pick it up. Low and behold the bike gods kept people from going near it until I arrived. It was a Schwinn Traveler III, red, broken back tire, and the components were all busted up. I told my lovely wife that I wanted to strip it apart and use the frame for a fixed gear bike. She humored me and I did just that. I ripped every thing off the bike and painted it orange and wrapped the handle bars that I chopped and flipped to make bull horns in blue bar tape. I bought new a chain, gear ring, fixed gear ring, pedals, wheels and I was off. Austin’s Yellow Bike Project allowed me the use of tools and I put it together myself. To say this is my favorite bike is an understatement, it brings me a joy that I will only know and never be able to express in words. Here are some pics of it.
To put it in simple terms: riding a bike brings me joy. My back has sacrificed running, but has decided to spare my bike. This brings me sadness and happiness. Although running got me through some very dark times, biking has never brought about a bad time. No matter how bad a hill or ride beats me, I know that I can try again the next day and can have a better day. With almost every sport or activity, there are good days and bad days. With biking even the bad days make me want to pedal more and harder. Finding a partner in B’ham that wants to ride as much and even more than me has been a saving grace for me. Thanks Josh Schein, I am sorry to say that you are stuck with me! Although our city does not like riders there is another generation coming and we are not scared of the killing machines that weigh from 1/2 a ton and beyond. We will take back this city and we will not have remorse in our mission. Birmingham is on the cusp of moving forward and we plan on making that move using two wheels and pedaling all the way.