When We Are Older

I recently had a heated discussion with a five and an eight-year-old about riding bikes. They have bikes, neither choose to ride. They opt for scooters like modern kids in cities do. I assured them bikes would take them to much more interesting places, but they cannot comprehend needing anything more interesting than pavement that is slightly bumpier than their driveway. I am confident that the five-year-old will one day discover the freedom of a bicycle ride.

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My first bike was a Schwinn from the 1950s. I don’t remember exactly when grandpa got it out of the attic and let me ride it, or when it went from being blue to red and back to blue. It’s a clunky beast with a shiny chrome fender and heavy frame. It is one of the few things I rescued from my parent’s house and parked her in my office as if to keep a best friend nearby. Little Blue’s rainbow of straws clicks in her spokes, and when I roll her around I recall being little and wishing I could be older to ride my bike farther.

For all the joy riding a bike delivered before marriage, we have never owned bikes or ridden together. Once we started climbing, kayaking, backpacking, skiing, and doing all those other adventurous things, people insisted we needed bicycles. Our response was always “we are saving the wheeled activities for when we are older.” Biking held little enchantment over us living in a flat state. Even once we moved to Colorado, there were too many other things we could do to amuse ourselves. Biking still felt like something to remain shelved for later.

Then we went to Iowa for a family reunion. It could be that we looked at the assembled family and realized we had accidentally all grown “old” in the decade that passed since the last event. I have a more adventurous theory. It was the beginning of July and hot. Our brains were starting to seize with thoughts of the upcoming ski season. We needed to do something for amusement in the cornfields and hillsides of prairie flowers, or we would waste the time watching ski movies. We checked out a couple of the resort’s bikes and took off for the grass trails.

I had ridden many state park trails cut through Midwest meadows back in my days of exploring on wheels. The exhilaration of zooming along was familiar, but I found myself thinking the work, the motion, the mental effort all felt a lot like skiing. When we stopped for a break, Stephen said the same thing. How had we missed that mountain, well at least trail, biking was the summer counterpart to our winter passion? We zipped around the trails several times that weekend and left Iowa with an implementation plan for adding bikes to our toy box. Apparently, we are older now, or at least wiser to the benefits of riding trails.

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I admit I had concerns that riding in Iowa was one thing, but Colorado is home and I wondered how bikes moved on a steep dirt trail or over slickrock. We rented bikes and spent two days trying out various trails. Contrary to my fears, which are usually off-base, it was more fun than any of the rides in Iowa. Sure, I hiked the bike a fair share of the time, but it all averaged out at trail’s end to fist-bumping shared happiness. Now we are bike owners–plotting weekends on trails, merging biking and fishing, biking and climbing, biking and overlanding. For a bit, we have almost forgotten about skiing.

There is much to learn, but I love that riding our local trails delivers the joy of those childhood bike rides mixed with the accomplishment of a good ski run. I giggle or recycle recitation of my ski mantras to push through a challenge. If getting older is necessary for riding bikes, then I’m happy to have arrived at my ripe old age of forty-six, because it is letting me feel a touch of sixteen again.

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