I didn’t expect to love riding my bike around the city streets. I didn’t expect to feel like a kid again (ever, forget while pedaling through NYC). I didn’t expect to draw parallels between what I loved about running and what I have come to appreciate about biking.
But I do. All of these things, I do.
I am not a fast cyclists. I am not a pretty cyclist. I am not fearless, or graceful. I still use my left foot to give me a push or two when I get going from a complete stop. Pretty much every other cyclist on the road passes me. Every now and then I get to pass a really old guy on a rickety bike, or some dry cleaning delivery guy pedaling a wagon full of button shirts up a hill on First Avenue, but then I just feel like a heel.
After work today I pedaled from my office at Fulton & Broadway to meet my man for dinner at 55th & 6th. I went up the West Side Greenway in my black pencil skirt, wedge sandals, and belted blouse. This is not normally how I dress while on my bike, but I couldn’t very well turn up at a fancy French restaurant in technical fabrics. After two glasses of rose and the best damn profiteroles I’ve ever eaten, I put on my shorts and t-shirt and headed home across my bridge. Yesterday I got my bike tuned up. so she’s silent and smooth again. In the dark, with just my blinky lights, I feel like a submarine slipping through the water, silent and stealthy.
Here is where the biking intersects with the running: the freedom. When I’m on my bike, I feel like I could pedal anywhere. I feel strong, and powerful, and intrepid. I can pedal to Coney Island! I can pedal to the Bronx! I can pedal to the beach! I can change course in the middle of my trip home and go somewhere else! This is how I felt when I was a runner. Sure, normally I ran in a big circle, but I knew that in case of whimsy or emergency, I could run to brunch at Park Slope if I missed my friend, or home from work if the subway was derailed. My body could do it, my spirit could do it. When I’m on my bike, nearly any destination seems possible.
On Sundays, I ride from Queens to Manhattan and spend the day popping around the city running errands, meeting appointments, and exploring. Admittedly, I enjoy the scenery and placid roads when I ride through Vermont, Pennsylvania, or the Jersey Shore, but roaming the city streets on my wheels, with all of my senses in high alert, is just so satisfying. New York City is mine! I live here so ardently that I must personally propel myself from place to place.
Another thing happened tonight on my ride home that made me want to write on this blog again. As I was pedaling over my bridge, I encountered an old feeling. Over the rails to my left, the East River stretched around Roosevelt and Randalls Islands. The water was shiny and variegated, like a bolt of black satin that had been gathered up and left in a heap. The city lights glinted off the tips of the waves. Traffic groaned past me on the north side of the bridge. These details are so familiar in all of their various ways that my heart swells with joy at their mutability. I was filled with a profound sense of well-being. Through sun and fog, dawn and dusk, on foot or on bike, making this crossing under my own power is a reminder of all that is good in my life.