We hadn’t made it to the first stop sign before my mom made me do something not fun.
“Stop! Go back and put your helmet on.”
Fine. I went back into the garage, got my helmet –– which was just a normal bike helmet, and not even one of the cool skater helmets –– and put it on.
Now blissfully free from interruptions, my family and I continued on our bike ride, and got about twice as far before I was interrupted by a protruding tree branch. I flipped completely over my handlebars and landed squarely on my now-helmeted head.
For that I say, “Thanks, Mom.” Fast forward 10 years and, because I am ungrateful swine, I never wear my helmet –– for which I say, “Sorry, Mom! (And dad).”
Since coming to college, biking has turned from something I did occasionally on weekends with my family or as part of clandestine midnight outings into how I get anywhere and everywhere. And the recklessness has not been tempered; the wipeouts have only become more frequent.
Some of them are attributable purely to my own stupidity. One night, when I got hungry at 2 a.m., as one tends to get, I made the logical choice of going to Jimmy John’s: a relatively healthy, very appetizing and very open restaurant! Being 2 a.m., the roads were completely clear, making it a perfect time to figure out just how fast I could get my bike to turn. Slaloming between potholes, feeling perfectly confident, I quickly found out –– and in a swift, sweeping motion was on the pavement with little birds flying in circles around my head. Luckily, the roads were completely clear.
Other times are less pure stupidity and more stupid obstinacy. It was the first day of the winter semester last year, but I’d be damned if I let the weather force me to waste 17 minutes of my valuable time walking to class instead of biking. The road conditions weren't ideal for my thin, traction-less tires, but they were good enough. Biking cut the 17-minute stretch between my house and the MLB to five, so needless to say, I was feeling rather good about myself as I rolled up to my 10 a.m. Spanish class.
Just one more curb to go.
The curb ramp, however, had just a little too much snow packed on it, and my self-satisfaction turned into shame, disgust and annoyance at the dozens of students who had decided to walk to their 10 a.m. classes at the MLB and were now concerned if I, now on the ground instead of on my bike, was OK.
“Haha, I’m fine. I'm fine.”
Stop looking at me!
And then –– and then, there are the rare times which are a combination of stupidity, obstinacy and neglect. After subjecting my bike to years of highly regular use, it has begun to deteriorate; tape peels off, screws come loose, that sort of thing, nothing that can’t be fixed at a bicycle repair shop. In September, though, the seat began wobbling, which is never something you want, and sometimes the wobbling got quite vicious. I found a reliable, albeit temporary, solution in just twisting the screw underneath the seat tight, either with my hands or with an Allen wrench. It would only take a few hours or days and the seat would start wobbling again. A temporary solution was more than good enough for me, though.
One night, I was coming home from a long and unproductive three hours at the library, the studious student that I am. The seat was barely wobbling, and so I felt it was safe to ride with no hands (a talent I hadn't developed until coming to college) as I was approaching my house.
Just one more curb to go.
This curb ramped up at a particularly steep angle. I had always used some caution when biking over it in the past, and would stand up on the pedals, butt hovering above the seat, both hands on the handlebars. Maybe this time, though, I should do it sitting down, no hands. To prove wrong all who had doubted me.
Though you've probably guessed by now, what happened next was actually a little more exciting than a standard wipeout. The bearings holding the seat in place, as I found out a couple of weeks later at the bike repair shop, had rusted out quite a bit. And so, when I took that curb all seat and no hands, I put a lot of pressure on those poor little bearings. Eschewing any regard for my well-being, the seat detached itself from the rest of the bike and flew backward, taking me with it. Already having gone several weeks failing to repair the seat, I went a couple more completely missing one, forced to ride standing up, both hands on the handlebars at all times. A fitting punishment.
And, because symmetry is life’s idea of humor, this year Mother Nature made it so all the New Year’s snow had melted and refrozen over every sidewalk on campus for the winter semester’s first Monday. One year had passed since my most shameful fall. The flashbacks I got from going up curbs had subsided almost completely. Mother Nature thought she could cow me into submission. It was time to let old things die.
At least that time I wasn't in front of the MLB. I got up and back on my bike before anyone was within talking distance.
All of this is to say, I guess, that I will never learn my lesson! I will keep biking to class every day, and I will not go any slower, haters. And I won’t wipe out ever again.
Maybe it’s okay that I don’t wear a helmet, since I'm so hardheaded about biking already. And maybe this isn’t the case, but part of what biking is to me is my imagination that every other biker is just as hardheaded. I do feel superior to you, in case you were wondering, walkers. My bike goes 10 times faster than you, and is greener and more mobile than a car or moped.
I could be compensating. Again, maybe it’s just my flawed perception, but bikers –– especially those who bike through the winter –– are kind of a class of social outcasts. Like walking is just normal, and biking is “extra.” Let me know if you know what I'm talking about, reader.
All of that, whether it's going on in my head or not, just adds to the camaraderie I feel with other bikers –– especially those who bike through the winter. And so I hope my children, when I have them, want me to teach them to ride a bike, and that biking again becomes something I do occasionally on weekends with my family. Don't worry –– I’ll make them wear helmets.