My Own Pedal Love by Emily K. Olson

In 2007 I assembled a Peugeot road bike from spare parts at the local bicycle co-op. I rode it three times.

I could give you excuses; tell you that the toe cages made me fumble and uncomfortable, or that my seat was too high and difficult to adjust, or I could say that the touchy stem-mounted shifter made it hard for me to shift and maneuver my bike at the same time. All of these things are true, but the main reason I only rode the bike three times is that I was afraid of the people I shared the road with. I was not comfortable enough on the bike to risk my life on the road with cars… And it took me a long time to admit that.

Over the years, I moved a couple of times and always hauled along my dusty Peugeot with its deflated tires and tape slowly deteriorating from the handlebars. I always said I would fix it up, but years passed and it sat in the corner collecting dust.

Then in December 2014, I met a handsome transportation-nerd and bike-lover who stole my heart. Among dates of puppet shows and transit tours, he told me that his secret mission was to get me back on my bike. He was convinced I would love it if I just gave it another shot. “But… the toe cages… the tires are deflated… the shifting…” I said. “So get another bike! One you are more comfortable on,” he told me.

Months later, I gave-in by way of a rusty hand-me-down from a friend’s backyard, and in the last three months I have rode that bike more than I ever thought I would; along the LA River and Ballona Creek, along Sunset to Echo Park and even on a group ride to Burbank. To my complete surprise, I love it! And it has given me an active thing to do with my boyfriend, making our dates healthier and giving me insight into something that he is passionate about.

I still have problems riding in traffic, particularly because my hand-me-down bike is damaged from sitting in the elements for several years, and though I have attempted to fix it multiple times, it seems to never quite shift properly and the lowest gears are off-limits. A new bike would allow me to focus on the road, hopefully making me more comfortable with riding in traffic and opening up a whole new world of transportation to me.

My old Peugeot is still on my balcony, and I still have hopes that maybe some day the toe cages and the stem shifter will not seem so daunting to me, but as for now I look forward to riding on a bike that is easier for me to use and will allow me to find some comfort on the streets. And it doesn’t hurt that I have found a handsome companion to ride by my side either.

Emily Olsen was the third place winner in our spring 2015 "Why I Need a New Bike Contest." For her talented efforts she took home an IZIP Ebike backpack full of bike related goodies.

Love at First Bike by Josie Smith

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My story on how I met Travis is pretty simple; I went to his bike shop (Decorah Bicycles) and bought a used bike.

Of course this doesn’t mean that we instantly hit it off, had the most amazing conversation, went on a date, and then ended up where we are at. Nope. It actually was a little more complicated than that. Failing marriage heading to divorce, yearning for independence, and tired of telling myself I couldn’t do something as simple as riding a bike to work. That homely looking, heavy framed Fuji gave me a new lease on life and the therapy I so needed.

Eventually I started talking to Travis on Facebook, a simple message asking him his opinion between two bikes. I had a need for speed and my bike was falling short. Eventually bike talk morphed into us talking about our likes, dislikes, wishes, dreams, and desires. We would generally send one message a day, but it was filled with more conversation and connection than I had had in years.

One day I was heading out on my usual ride and thought I heard my chain rattling. Being new to riding a bicycle I worried I would have a larger mechanical issue. I was so close to the bike shop, but too nervous to be seen in my simple sports bra and gym short outfit. I texted Travis on my phone, asking him what I should do; he replied he would be right there. I frantically scoured the area to see if there were any bushes or branches that I could hide behind. He showed up almost instantly, like a bicycle knight in a black polo shirt, to save the day. Turns out, with grip shifts you can’t always rely on the arrow pointing at the number, and it was really nothing.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked, I thought about it for probably no more than half a second, “Sure!”

Travis would be a once weekly partner on my trail rides, and eventually we talked about going on our first non-paved trail ride. I remember being so nervous for that afternoon, more antsy with anticipation over the idea of riding somewhere new. Travis was considerate over my newness to riding a bicycle and kept the pace easy for me to follow. I remember every bump and jostle that the road threw at me, and once we got to our destination, the feeling of awe. 

We went to Malanaphy Springs, a beautiful little spot in Decorah I’d never seen before. We walked the trail and sat on a rock by the springs, I remember looking at his side profile while he talked. I’ll admit, I was smitten, but I was afraid to admit it at that moment.

That night on our way home, he tried to coach me up a hill that kept thwarting me and my attempts to conquer it. Halfway up the hill I lost control of my bike and ran my front tire into his. He grabbed my arm to prevent me from falling further. I remember in my head I said “there is no chance now!”  And we finished the night with fun conversation. When we parted ways, the awkward "what should we do?" feelings involving a parting hug came up. We skipped the hug and that was okay, my heart was full and fluttering.

A week later we had planned on going for another ride, but a stomach bug got in my way. So instead of going for a ride I sat at his shop and we talked. Eventually I felt like it was a “do or die” moment and I confessed my feelings to Travis, and I found out that running my bike into his didn’t ruin anything at all.

Travis has played a very pivotal part in my bike riding, not just owning the shop that provided my first bike and subsequent other bikes to follow. Our relationship cultivated so much more than just feelings of love. His support and encouragement has helped fuel my confidence and passion about bike riding and what a bike can do for a person. Not only did I find someone I can call my best friend, but someone I can ride bikes with. Together we are working on increasing awareness and positivity about riding bikes and encouraging people to try it firsthand.

About Josie Smith

Josie lives in Decorah Iowa and hosts the "Life on Two Wheels" blog which focused on the trials, tribulations, successes and lessons learned on bikes. She's the cat mom to three wonderful (and mischievous kitties) and loves riding her bike(s). Josie works at the Oneota Community Food Co-op and also writes for the Imagine Northeast Iowa blog.