This is my bicycle. I dearly love it. It’s an old bugger; a Trek 850 I bought in 1995 for about US$400. I’ve put thousands of miles on it—miles of riding sandy trails on Cape Hatteras, miles of city streets in Norfolk, VA and all over Manhattan, miles of hilly country roads in rural Pennsylvania, miles of suburban lanes and bike paths in central Ohio, miles of roads and converted railroad lines in Iowa—and the old bike is still as solid as ever. Except for replacing the knobby tires for road tires, nothing on the bike has been changed or upgraded. The sumbitch is nearly indestructible. Sixteen years on a four hundred dollar investment—that’s twenty-five dollars a year. A bargain.
But obviously, it’s not about the money. You know what it is about? I’ll tell you. Here’s a true thing: a bicycle is a self-propelled, two-wheeled Fountain of Youth. You get on a bike and you immediately feel like you’re twelve years old.
Oh sure, bicycles are also very practical and efficient and utilitarian. They’re not only a common means of transportation in much of the world, they’re also used to convey goods and products. They don’t pollute, they’re good for your health, they’re cost-efficient and easy to maintain and blah blah blah. But fuck all that—mostly they’re fun.
There’s an instant joy in getting on a bicycle and pushing off—an instant feeling of liberation. I’m sure if I had to rely exclusively on a bike for year-round transportation I’d feel differently. But I don’t.
Later today I’ll jam an old L.L. Bean knapsack into the bike bag and ride down to the market to buy enough groceries for the next few days. I’ll probably buy something wildly unhealthy (I’m thinking I need a chili cheese dog for supper tonight) that will completely undo any fitness benefit I gain from riding the bike. But that’s okay; I’ll still feel like I’m twelve years old during the ride.