Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Noblest Invention

A friend at work gave me a book entitled The Noblest Invention. This illustrated history of the bicycle is very well done.

The forward by Lance Armstrong reminded me of the first bike (red, white and blue banana seat) my parents bought for me.

It reminded me of the freedom that a Free Spirit ten speed from Sears gave me to ride anywhere in Elkhart County to bail hay all day and return that night. It reminded me of friends that I used to ride with when I was a boy.

It reminded me of my habit to repack bearings regularly so I could ride every Sunday without too much resistance or crank noise.

It reminded me that I was on my bike when I knew that Jackie was God's gift to me long before she accepted that dreaded fact.

It reminded me of the first high end road bike, Schwinn Le Tour, that I purchased used from a guy that needed $50 and didn't need the bike that his parents bought for him for closer to $500. Later when I took that bike to Purdue, it was too high end and all I had left was a cut cable lock hanging on a bike rack at married student housing. I remember staring at the empty rack, wishing that I hadn't sold my Free Spirit for $25 a few years back.

It reminded me of my first vehicle that required insurance and a license, which happened to be a Honda CM400. A simple iteration that allowed me to go to farther places faster.

It reminded me of my second motorcycle, a Night Hawk that I rode two hours every weekend from Purdue to wherever Jackie was in whatever whether was between us. After we were married, I rode it to work and remember a day when Jackie had to wear a snowmobile suit behind me when her car wouldn't start one winter day in Lafayette.

It reminded me of a tall skinny friend on a big orange rode bike that rode everyday when I first moved to Lexington and how I struggled to keep up with him one day while we traveled 134 miles to Bloomington. I foolishly dropped out of the pack two hours into the ride, and had to skip pitstops to catch up or else I would not have made it. After catching them, I never left the pack again.

It reminded me of a friend that invited me to mountain bike for the first time in Albequeque and how cactus thorns release air pressure that makes carrying a bike easier than riding it.

It reminded me of the cost of freedom and independence and how dangerous that can be if not handled responsibly.

I will never be known as a bike racer, let alone the greatest cyclist to ever walk the earth like Lance, but I do agree that a bike has got to be near the top of the invention list. However, like all things created, obsessions can be destructive and erase all the freedom that was originally experienced.

I'm glad that the friends that I rode with last Saturday understand how a bike can be used for real freedom.

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