Peoples, On Bikes
So I’m writing tonight because I’m moved. I’m absolutely moved and always surprised by the friends I’ve met this year biking. They aren’t like average friends, because for the first time in my life, I am meeting people who are like me. I am no longer the odd person tryng to fit in to the group of people, rather I am the person like every other person I know who rides on two wheels, an odd woman out among odd people out. It feels like I’ve finally come home.
Tonight was no exception. I’ve ridden my bike hard all summer, and at the end of all that, here’s what I had to show for it: Giant legs, good health and a banged up bike. A few weeks ago we had our end of competition party. Look it up, National Bike Competition. It runs from May through September. This summer, from May through September I rode approximately 2800 miles. My bike was tired, my breaks were warn, I needed some help. At the competition party I got tickets and bid on a free tune-up. Over the past weekend and ending in tonight, I’ve gotten a free tune-up from a real bicycle mechanic who does house calls. This is a step in the right direction, since I used to just leave my broken bikes out by the tree in front of my house for someone else who wanted to take care of them. Anyway, his name is Dread Fiyah, of Dread’s Mobile Bike Repair. And I’m almost certain he’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. And I’ve met some cool people riding bikes so far this year. He obviously has dreads, comes from Trenton, NJ and has two jobs, one as a bike mechanic and one as an architect, which I just found out about this evening. Here’s the important thing, he’s a terrifically gentle, old soul. He’s the kind of person you would want your son to grow into, if you had one and had any sense. He’s full of kindness and light and life. He has what I like to call, “the divine spark.” Anyway, some religions call it that. Watching him work on bikes is like watching art happen, because of how he loves exactly the moment that he’s in. He loves the bicycle, no matter how badly it’s broken. He loves each piece of the bicycle, and bringing a bike back to how it should feel to ride. He explained to me that he’d love to make this work he does with bikes turn into full time so that he can give up architecture, that is what he said. It seemed like he meant it. We talked for a long time on my porch after he finished my bike (even though originally I wanted to hide out inside the house like the recluse I can sometimes be), about kids and life and responsibilities, and here is what I learned. Even though I sometimes want to I should never try to escape good conversation. I re-learned what I’ve always known, that we are all, in essence, very similar in our human-ness. We think we’re different, and that is what divides people from one another. I learned that the good thing about riding bikes is that it takes us out of ourselves and puts us in the space of the planet, and then we have to connect with the other people on the planet.
I watched him finish up work on my bike and then we sat and had beer and talked to each other. This is what keeps happening on my rides. People eventually stop and have to try having conversation. I’ve had conversation with people who have one broken-down bike they ride everywhere and I’ve had conversation with people who have seven bikes in their closet plus the one they’re riding. I’ve talked to people who have a different kit for each bike they ride and those who ride in cut-offs or whatever the weather allows, just like me. And tonight I had a conversation with Dread that covered the bases, where we were from, children, relationships, interests and of course the ever important how we came to be riding bikes at this moment in time.
Dread has tattoos, long dreadlocks, and today was dressed as sophisticated as I’ve ever seen him, and he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met while biking this year. But he’s not the only awesome person by any means, because just a few weeks ago, I picked up a trailer (for hauling items) from a friend who does the group ride on Tuesdays. After he hooked up my trailer (including putting on all attachments), he checked my breaks and tightened my back tire. Then he followed me part way home and asked that I text him when I made it all the way back home. But there’s more. The leader of that group dropped off a very stylish helmet she ordered for my daughter to make sure she would bike safely. When I started the bicycle ride at my school, she and another one of our riders made stickers for me. She introduced me to the big children’s bike advocates in Charlotte (Trips for Kids, and Safe Routes to School leaders).
In all this there has been such an amazing amount of connectivity. So much of the divine spark. I’m convinced that it is because these people I ride with, by riding, by moving and by choosing to live in community, they are choosing to be fully alive. It’s a choice we are making every morning to hitch up our gear to our bicycles and ride to get there. I explained to Dread tonight my personal feeling of freedom in riding, and how doing much of anything growing up was out of the question, but I could ride. And riding gave me a sense of freedom that I still have today. I still feel as free on a bike as I did when I was fifteen, when I first started. So tonight I had to write, because as I was telling that story of how I started riding bikes to Dread, he was nodding, and I knew that on the most basic level, he understood exactly what I meant.