Riding again

From the age of about 7 to about the age of 22, I rode a bicycle everyday. Between the ages of 14 to 20 I would ride it two or three hours each day, in small flat areas, and always twirling, twirling, twirling.
Fast forward to age 21 – after the first couple years of college, I had to lighten up on my riding. I was doing alright in school, but not excelling in my coursework. I liked riding a great deal and it was my life for so long that it was hard to give it up. I can still remember riding in my street and being idolized by the neighborhood kids. I can remember riding whenever life got stressful, to keep a bike upright and spinning required absolute concentration, and when I was concentrating on riding, I couldn't think about anything else. It was a popular study break.
I missed it at first, but still dreamt about new tricks, I kept in touch with my friends that chose bikes over college, and I continued reading bike magazines and watching videos. After a few months though, things began looking up. Spending a couple more hours studying each day meant I started enjoying all my classes, and getting the highest or second highest grade in every course.
There were a few dark moments in college; once while delivering pizzas on a friday night (a shit job I've never wish upon my enemies), a pack of guys rode past and my thoughts immediately went back to being 16 in southern california. I'd ride with 3 or 4 close buddies every weekend night, sometimes in downtown LA (no cops or security to bust you), sometimes at the local college campus, or sometimes in the industrial parks near home. When I got home that night from work, I told my then-girlfriend about it, and she likened my saddened state to being a domesticated dog, and catching a glimpse of your old wolf pack buddies running past.
I rode occasionally throughout college, maybe a couple hours here and there, enough to re-learn everything I'd forgotten until then. When I first met my wife, she would stare at my back in fascination, due to some weird musculature bike riding caused. When I moved away to attend grad school, I remember leaving my bike in my parents' garage. It was the last nail in the coffin, and since then I've ridden only once or twice.
Over the past year though, the x-games inspired marketing machines have put bike riding back in my life. Every time I crank up tivo, there's a few episodes of Bluetorch TV waiting to be watched. On the day of my wedding, there was a bike contest less than 100 feet from my apartment. And when I parked my car today on Hayes, I was just a few feet from the "Frisco Freestyle Bike Shop."
Kay mentioned a few months ago that she popped in the shop, and noticed it was filled with bikes like my old one. I've been wanting to visit it for a while, but it always seems to be closed when I get home from work. A couple months ago, I started doing research. I found the bike I wanted, and began saving up for it. Five hundred bucks was beyond the "what the hell?" level of impulse spending, and I had to wait. Leaving a job and looking for a new one didn't help matters either.
I entered the shop and looked around. They carried the brand I wanted, but unfortunately, only the top of the line models (~$700 each). I asked if they could order the exact one I wanted, and the owner said yes. I bought a video, and on the way out, he said "hey you want to test ride it?" I said no, thanks, and walked out… maybe ten feet. I turned around, he took it out of the racks, and the next thing I know I'm riding a freestyle bike for the first time in four or five years. It didn't feel as sketchy as I thought it would, and I even tried a few tricks. Megaspins? Check. Steamroller? Check. Hang five? Check.
Oh god it felt good to be riding again.
I put the bike back in the racks, thanked the owner, and walked home. The whole way back I ran calculations in my head. We've got that trip to Australia coming up, but with our big tax return, my current savings and upcoming paycheck I could easily cover it without any problem. Of course I could cover it. Isn't this what being adult is all about? I can buy anything I want, can't I? Of course I can! Next month we won't go out to eat much. I'll keep eating breakfast and lunch at work. No frivolous purchases for the next few months, I promise. Sound good Kay? Great!
I watched the video I bought, looked down at my watch, and put my shoes back on. "Where are you going?" Kay asked. "I'm going out to buy that bike I've always wanted." "Cool." she said.
As I walked back to the shop, a "full circle" thought ran through my head. When I was fifteen years old, I won first place in a flatland competition held in Southern California. The person that came second behind me was named Day Smith, and today, thirteen years later I was buying his pro model from Hoffman Bikes.
(note: the cover image above is a shot of me, when I was sixteen or so, practicing at a contest in the Rose Bowl parking lot)