Jen on Wheels

I was thinking recently about the evolution of my “wheels.” I thought I’d share. If any of you ever thought I was a real athlete, this will set you straight.

First, there was the purple scooter. I ruled the streets on that thing, having no interest in learning to ride a bike.

Then, when I was eight or nine maybe, I finally learned to ride a bike using my best friend’s little brother’s first bike (yes, he was younger than I and already done with the training bike). It was an impossibly heavy thing with training wheels, if I remember right. Also too small for me. My Grampy painted the bike for me – bright red. I guess it had been blue, and that wasn’t right for a girl’s bike, or something. Bitchin’.

I think there was also an attempt here or there at roller blades, quickly abandoned.

Then came the CALIENTE. The pink 10-speed that I received at the age of 11, I think. I rode it tentatively, afraid of falling. Not so sure I ever knew how to shift gears. I rode around the neighborhood with my friends on that little beauty. The farthest I got was the Wawa on the other side of the neighborhood.

When I got more comfortable on the bike, I got a little cocky. There were some kids from church over, and we went screaming around the cul-de-sac on the other side of the park behind my childhood home, and I took flight when I hit a patch of gravel. I landed hands first, of course. My left wrist was twisted in an “odd” way when I got up, and that was my first broken bone.

Bye-bye, Caliente. She was barely touched again after that. I was afraid to ride. And not for years did I touch a bike except for the occasional rental mountain bike on vacations. (Of course I rode horses in the interim, also just as dangerous, but outside the scope of this post because that’s hooves, not wheels.)

Then, when I was 21, I signed up for the AIDSRide, a 350-mile, 4-day charity ride from Raleigh to DC. I didn’t have a bike. I started my training using my sister-in-law’s ancient mountain bike. Within weeks of starting to train I crashed and broke my left hand. A “boxer’s fracture,” they called it.

I had to keep training, so I’d sit on the stationery bike for hours at the gym, cast aloft. That’s the part of my training I call “going nowhere, fast.”

After I got that cast off, I kept training on the mountain bike. But one particular AIDSRide training ride made me realize I needed a road bike desperately. I rode from DC to Annapolis and back on the mountain bike. 80 miles. ALONE… not because no one would ride with me, but because everyone else was on a road bike and just couldn’t go as slow as I was going. I got a really horrid sunburn and had nightmares all night of the sound of my tires and chain chugging along for hours.

So, I got Andie! She was my graduation gift from my parents (thanks!). She is named after the Andes mint. And I felt like a machine when I made the switch. Since then I’ve crashed, of course, but with injuries not involving broken bones. And I LOVE RIDING. I also bought myself a chainless driveshaft bike for commuting in the city, but then I moved to the ‘burbs and sold it.

This post is a bit of an ode to Andie, who is slowly dying. We’re doing our best to keep her together with rubber bands and twist ties (figuratively) because I just can’t afford the bike I really want. My option is to replace all her components (a far cry from a quick red spraypaint job!), which I might do, because the frame’s still good. The bike has gone on a lot of really amazing rides with me in and around DC, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even Tahoe. I believe I’ve logged close to 7,000 miles on her.

If I continue, this post will quickly devolve into bike geekiness. How did I become such a bike geek? I think it was my AIDSRide friends who helped me train that got me hooked. Thanks, guys! This post is for you, too.



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