Freedom and Voice on the Saddle of a Bike

My bike

I have no business being on this bike, says the little voice in my head. But it isn’t my voice. No, this is the voice of dissenting parents, doctors, and a controlling spouse telling me I’m too weak, too sick, too small, too busy and I’m just wasting my time in wishing I could ride a bike. Bikes are for kids. Bikes are for athletes. Bikes are for strong men with money. Bikes will just sit in the garage, gathering dust and cobwebs. Bikes are too dangerous for you. 

The whirr of wheels and shifting of gears drowns out their voices, and I revel in new thought. Bikes are for freedom. Bikes are for adventure. Bikes are for fitness. Bikes are for fun. And yeah, for me. 

Long since retired, I wonder what that doctor would think. The doctor who told me I would be in a wheelchair with crippling arthritis by the time I reached the age of 35. I am in far better shape than the 17 year old girl he told to enjoy life while she still could. There are no arthritic joints or painful bones to hold me back now. 

Unhappy with my choices, my family has long since turn off communication with me, years after telling me I was too small and weak to do anything other than stay at home and play the piano. Write poetry, they said. Make music. But stay indoors and give up on the bike. Most of the memories of family times together have slipped away, but not their collective voice that echoes in my head. 

We don’t need to dwell on the ex-spouse, telling me to take care of the kids, go to work, and serve his meat and potatoes. Those days are past, and his voice, once larger than my own, is now just a faint, off-key member of the chorus. And like a random old tune on the radio, I turn it down to focus on the more pressing matters. 

I should never have listened in the first place, I suppose. And that is my own fault. My own ignorance that made it take me twenty some years to find that freedom I needed on my bicycle. And I’m not turning back now. 

Susan B. Anthony dubbed the bike, a freedom machine! She said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Susan B. Anthony was right, of course. The bicycle is a symbol of freedom. For women, for people in developing countries, for folks who ride to work, for people who ride for sheer pleasure. For many, riding for fitness. The bicycle is a sense of freedom for me, a breaking loose of all the constraints put upon me by others. The bicycle is the home where I am free to find myself, be myself, and become a better version of myself. My bike is the beginning of a fresh life, where I am as strong as I want to become, as fit and fast as I can dream, and ready to tackle the next challenge. I hope you, too, will find freedom and voice on the saddle of a bike, with your feet to the pedals and the wind rushing by your ears. 

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