I began biking in earnest about 14 years ago, at age 18. I was living on my own for the first time in downtown Denver. I needed to get to work, and I was tired of the bus. On a visit to my parents house one weekend, I saw my childhood bike hanging abandoned in the garage (1980 candy red Ross with 20″ wheels, ridden for many years by all three kids in my family). I immediately claimed it, filled up the tires, and was off, pedaling my tiny bike all around Denver. Even on a ridiculously small bike, I made better time than on the bus. Soon enough, that bike had a front basket and streamers, and one of the guys at work helped me learn how to keep it oiled. I took it apart and put it back together again more times than I could count. From that first bike, you can get a feel for the kind of biker I would become. I love a bike that will turn heads; I use my bikes to get around every day, and I’m not so worried about going fast.
A couple weeks ago I commented to Angela that I’m not sure I’ve ever found my bike community. Don’t get me wrong, I have more community than I know what to do with (fabulous neighbors, a hopping local park, religious community, family close by, and good friends), but I’ve never felt like I really clicked with any identifiable group of bikers. Though, to be fair, I haven’t necessarily tried too hard either. But what would I do? Go on one of those long ride events? Those seem like they’re for people who want to go fast. I’ve always noticed the Bikes not Bombs events, but we’ve never gotten to those. They’re in Jamaica Plain, which might as well be another country. I admit, I’ve never really tried to connect to the “bike community” beyond talking to all comers about our bike, writing here, and being really friendly to the folks I meet on the road. I’ve just kept up my own utilitarian commute/cargo/kid bike lifestyle on my (now our) own, but I’ve always felt like “my bikers” must be somewhere out there.
Shortly after that conversation, Angela and I came up to Harvard square on our bikes and noticed a car broken down in a busy intersection and traffic backing up. Other drivers were honking left and right but the car was stranded and there was really nothing the driver could do. It would have been really easy for us to slip right through the intersection and get on with our ride, and at first I thought there was no way we could help anyway. But then I saw a guy hop off his bike and pop out to the intersection to push the car. I immediately dropped my bike on the sidewalk and ran out to help. It was no trouble for us to push the car through the busy square and onto a side street. As we returned to our bikes, I greeted my fellow biker, and it turns out I’ve met him before, in the Honk Fest parade a couple years ago, as he was riding along on his Xtracycle. Hi John! We caught back up, compared notes on our bikes, and told him about the kidical mass ride next week. That whole interaction just made my day.
Then, about a week later, Angela and I were riding along the Boston side of the Charles, out towards Newton (not our usual stomping grounds), and I look up to see a woman in the coolest bike helmet ever tootling along on a folding bike with a giant basket. ”Huh” I thought “That looks kind of like MamaVee” and what do you know! It WAS MamaVee! We had a nice little chat and went along our way. I’ve always admired what MamaVee is doing so much and how nice to actually see her in person!
Then yesterday, all four of us went out for the a local ride organized by Broadway Bikes as part of the CitySmart campaign in our neighborhood (we’re organizing Kidical Mass next weekend as part of CitySmart as well), and found a delightful bunch of locals of all ages. The leader did a great job (check out Dan’s other beginning rides through Broadway Bikes!), and it was so nice to pedal along with a relaxed local bunch of folks. We talked kid gear, and it turned out Dan has a baby on the way, is joining us momentarily in the ranks of the Carfree With Kids. He also co-organizes the local Boston Tweed Ride. We missed it in May, but we’ll be shooting to make the next one on Labor Day (though costumes for the kids seems a bit daunting — adorable, but daunting).
Somewhere in these couple weeks we also ran into the Katz-Christy family at the neighborhood pool and talked about all things busing and family biking (I love getting the view from them for a few years down the road).
So now I’m thinking, maybe we have found our bike community. Maybe we find “our kind of bikers” one at a time as we reach out on the road and in the parks. And of course we find you online, both on this blog and elsewhere. Thanks for that! As for all of you out there, have you found your bike community?