I didn't really learn to ride a bike until I was around thirteen. There was an awful experience when I was little involving my seat coming off of my beloved training-wheel-adorned-sparkly-streamered-training-bike that left me a bit too freaked out to try riding again until I was ten or so. Then, with utter determination, I climbed on a bike, sans training wheels, and proceeded to crash into my neighbor's garage and bounce off into his car. He was none too pleased.
Somewhere along the way I figured it out, and started riding one of those super high quality K-Mark mountain bikes to school on nice days. This was a huge accomplishment for me - biking two miles EACH WAY made me feel super cool.
The first time I rode a road bike was when I was nineteen. And I was hooked. Suddenly, I understood why people went out and did this for fun - road bikes were nimble, and fast, and not at all like slowly biking through molasses. I fell in love, and the rest is history.
Or, almost. Part of the reason I never biked much as a kid was that my parents were never really into it all that much. They had bikes, like most people, and rode them once or twice a year to the park and back, every time saying that they would ride more often.
That is, until I decided one fateful school break to take my bike home with me and convince my parents to try to start riding more. The grocery store is about a mile from their house, they work from home, they live in a very bike friendly town - perfect, right?
I can now happily say that when I go home, I will always have my father as a riding buddy. There are two sides to this coin though, the first being that in all senses, I am my father's daughter.
My father was suddenly transformed into a full blown bike nut, going out and riding fifteen or so miles on a daily basis, getting all the gear he could, and getting really into the sport.
This past weekend, I went home and took a bike with me that I plan to leave there so that I will always have a bike at home in the future, which is something my dad made sure to guilt me into over the course of a few months and a few too many trips home where, for whatever reason, I didn't bring a bike.
No sooner would I walk into the house and say hi to everyone that he'd be there, dressed in full bike gear, ready to go.
"No bike?" He'd ask, the disappointment thick in his voice.
"Er, no, I, uh, work, and uh..."
"Well I guess I'll just go ride alone."
So I threw together a bike from mostly spare parts, a lovely, fun little fixed gear to leave at my parents' house, so that I'd always have something there to ride.
This brings me to the cyclometer. I had shown my dad how to use Strava with his iPhone, since he wanted to know distance, and speed, etc. In turn, this would lead to phone calls.
"This thing is telling me I went fifteen miles...I know it's more than that. It's wrong. The satellites aren't working."
"Dad, the biking app is not trying to cheat you out of distance."
"Well, it's wrong."
So for his birthday, I installed a nice, wireless Cat Eye computer onto the ancient mountain bike that he refuses to get rid of because "it's just as good as any other bike," and we set off on a ride, me having to reassure him I had set the computer up right and it was tracking distance properly. I think he believed me.
This was the first ride on this new fixed gear, and while I've ridden fixed before, since the bike was new I wanted to make sure nothing was supremely wrong with it on this first ride, and work on some fixed techniques a bit. I explained this to my dad.
"So basically you want to do an easy ride?"
"Not easy, just nothing too crazy. I want to make sure I built this bike right."
"Fine. We'll do an easy ride if that's what you want."
We started off. I learned a long time ago to let my dad lead, because he will do anything in his power to pass me anyway.
"Is this speed fast enough for you? We're doing fifteen but I can do eighteen. This is slow for me."
"This is fine, dad."
"Let me know when you get tired. We can stop if you want."
"I think I'll be okay."
"There are some big hills...can you do hills? They're tough."
Occasionally I'd work on stopping or regulating my speed down a hill. My father would use this opportunity to leave me in the dust, and then I'd catch up to find him casually waiting for me.
On the last leg of the ride when we were out of the realm of stop signs, pedestrians, and traffic, I decided to see what the bike could really do. Simply put, even at the ratio I'm running, it can fly like nothing else, and I might have left my father in the dust.
He caught up to me, and remarked that I was able to go quite fast. I told him about track bikes, and how they're built for speed like that, but how they're also fun to ride and good for your pedal stroke.
"Yeah, well, mine has gears."
Gotta love him though.
In all fairness, my father turns seventy on Wednesday, and is diligent about going out and riding on an almost daily basis. Plus, he has a good pedal stroke and knows how to keep cadence. Despite his orneriness, I hardly know of anyone more badass than him.
And, he did admit my bike was pretty.