O Bike (or, Ode To Me Bike)

I love to ride my bigh-see-cull! I love to ride my bike! Bicycle races are coming my way... or not, all apologies to the rock group Queen. But s'not important, either! Perhaps unsurprisingly, on the morning after Lance Armstrong's 7th Tour de France victory, I'm thinkin' bikes. And oh, how I love my bike!

What a machine! Yea, whereas I readily scoff at the screaming television, the roaring automobile, the putt-rumbling lawnmower and most every other whining, complaining motored device, I have nothing but praise for my bike. It's perfect: fast, quiet, efficient, useful. And, most importantly, I'M the machine that makes this machine work: just me, my muscle and my will. It's a yell of independence.

Ah, to wax nostalgic! Whither those training wheels, banana seats... or my first wheelie and no-hands? What about jumping over dirt ramps, laying skids, and passing the bus on the way to school? Placing cards in the wheels, ringing that bell on the handlebar, and popping on a light to open the night? Yes, I was going new places, in an ever-expanding universe to explore. What it was, what it IS.

Indeed, there's still that happy, steady whir found in the whirl of speed, a blurred terrain speeding by below. And even if I'm fighting a headwind with gritting, chewing teeth today, I'm nevertheless building strength. I'll be flying with the tailwind and a plastered grin tomorrow anyway. Mm-hmm: There's always that rush of downhill equal to the triumph of uphill, with synchronized coasting at any speed. In between I'll hop the curb... or drop the stair. It's all good!

Then... there're those spokes! What can possibly be said in enough praise of those spindly, false weaklings who - en groupe - prove themselves so mighty? Their geometric, interlacing pattern is so simply beautiful when still - but an enchanting mesmerization of motion as soon as pedals take to turning. There's a strength to be found in their flexibility, a yearning in their reach... yet a whimsy in their style. Science! No, art!

Meanwhile, I'm going places - covering distances with which feet can't compete, and returning home in a flash. Making beelines from here to there, I as easily forge loops to nowhere in the process. This is freedom, and I'm never more than a second away from stopping those panting wheels to suddenly take in my surroundings. Abike, I'm a part of the environment - never a transient to it. It's no coincidence that the bike is for the individualist. A bicycle built for two - are you kidding me?

Skipping by snarled traffic, a parking spot always beckons from multiple sides. Similarly I'm always rolling onto that very next ferry after arriving at the dock; Us saddled few are also the first to cross the just-fallen, reopening bridge. Yep, just zippin' through on the beeline in fine time - only cursorily nodding to the clockwork of traffic lights while mingling and mangling ad hoc through the gridlock of circulation. The rules of traffic are chosen a la carte, as the situation logically dictates. Is the cyclist a pedestrian or a motorized vehicle? Both, neither: The prevailing wind is the law of common sense.

So... No motor! All heart! That's where I draw my Luddite line. The glorious bike leaves all parts exposed to inspection: Rube Goldberg, do you smile at this? Levers, pulleys, cables, wheels: A technology still within grasp, a comprehensible magic before the eyes. Yes, I see it! I get it! I can fix this! I can make this better!

Thus it all is when I see my bike at rest. I take in the gear that surrounds it: A helmet, a jersey, water bottle, shoes, gloves. Then, right away, I know what I must do. I grab it all and kick open the door. It's time to get on my bike and ride!

(2005, 2011)

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