If you grew up in the 70s like me, the bicycle was our salvation – it was our transportation, our freedom, and how we expressed ourselves. Weekends and summer days, our mothers would expel us from our homes, and we would ascend as a coordinated assault, on our bikes through our neighborhood.
There was always an essential sense of danger with biking – scraped elbows and knees. A block from our house was an abandoned lot that nature had reclaimed, perfect for us kids to prove ourselves as daredevils, to perfect our jumps and our speed.
It was these memories that flooded my mind just before my 50th birthday when a friend asked, would I be interested in doing a little cycling with a group he was involved with raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society? The moment and/or the memories told me to say yes, even though I had no idea what LLS was or how to raise money for them. I was focused on how to find a bike.
So on a borrowed bike, and a borrowed belief that I was good at cycling, I showed up at my first group ride in sneakers and not much else in experience. Over the course of the next 6 months my footwear improved, my bike improved (received my own (red) bike from family and friends on my 50th birthday that summer) my cycling improved and my sense of myself improved. I thought I was just going to get into physical shape, but the people I meet (cancer survivors) and the experiences we shared started to fill me with a renewed sense of self and purpose. I now belonged to a community.
Fast forward 10 years and I’m still cycling, still raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, still building friendships and skills, and still on the red bike I received on my 50th birthday.
My red bike has taken me so many miles with so many people who have become my dear friends that it has become an important part of my own story. Over the 10 years with LLS, I went from being a participant, to a mentor and then a coach on this bike. With my friends, I have done many 100 mile rides, rides in the rain, rides in the snow, rides in the spring where the wind was always blowing in our faces, rides in heat that left me wondering why I was on a bike, rides for apple fritters and coffee, rides to go fast, rides to clear my head, rides to celebrate birthdays, and rides to just remember all the other rides.
Like in my childhood, cycling for me is about the freedom to move, freedom to explore and the freedom to experience myself. It keeps me grounded and joyful.
Now in my 60th year, I’m taking all these memories, friends and miles of experience and getting ready for the next ten years with a new bike.
Let the adventures continue!