How to Ride a Bike in the Post Nuclear Age. A memoir (reposting from earlier date)
First, you need the right bike. But don’t go now to a bike store. This reason will be covered in a later chapter. Go first to that yellow book of memories, find the pages with the bikes, all the bikes you have ever ridden. Find the 10 year old told “march out to the porch to see your birthday present Mister”. See your bike there, a Sting Ray, blue with the silver sparkle banana seat, Harley handle bars and 3 speed shifter mounted on the cross bar. Walk around this bike wide-eyed. Admire your parents for knowing exactly the right bike to buy for you. Sit on this bike, wait patiently while your mother takes black and white photos of you with her Brownie camera. Feel the complete satisfaction of this moment. Remember riding faster than wind to your best friend’s house, then the two of you gathering with all your friends in the street. Feel generous as each friend takes a turn riding your new bike. Feel camaraderie as all of you ride bikes the whole rest of the day. Be amazed at how your bike glimmers in the sun, waiting, as you play fort in the abandoned field – its dark blue paint iridesceing to black like a raven, its chrome fenders shining like justice. Feel gratitude in this.
Tear this page out. Take it with you while you look for a bike. Go to Good-will. Go to the newspaper. Go to Craigs list. Consult your friends. The qualities your bike needs are these: only the gears you need, no more than eight, three is better, one is best. One, you ask? Say instead, “I will feel accomplishment moving myself foward with my own power”. Say it out loud. Say that now. Also look for a bike with wider tires and a comfortable seat. These will slow you down; let you notice what is around you. Important things like prairie dog chirps, racing rabbits, and shiney coins. Truly the streets are paved with gold, but you have to be going slow enough to see, see the wealth left along the roadway of haste.
When you have found your bike, and if it needs a little work, look for a one owner bike shop. Take your bike there. If he says, “this is an old bike. You’ll be better off buying a new one”, say thank you and leave. Immediately. If she says, “hey, I had a bike like this. We can fix this up nicely”, give this person your bike. Give them your trust. Feel gratitude in this. While there, if your bike did not come with these, buy them now: a basket for the front or back, you’ll need these to carry home your groceries and your treasures; a bell, one that goes “drrrring”, one that does not scare people; a light, the kind that mounts on the front tire with its own generator. People will see these things and recognize you as an earth lover. They will smile at you. Feel gratitude in this.
Things you will not need are these: a helmet, special shoes, or gloves without the fingertips. Do not purchase any products with the word “spandex” on them. This will be covered in a later chapter. It is best to wear as few clothes as feel comfortable. Wear cotton shorts and flip-flops. Wear a hat. Wear an orange ball cap with 1937 Ducks Unlimited stitched on the front. Wear a turquoise necklace. Wear your own tan skin. Feel immense joy you have been given skin. Special note: if it is raining, take off the shorts and ride in just your underwear, women too. Feel the water collect in your eyebrows, run down your strong tan arms, cool your toes. Feel superior to all those locked in their cars honking at you.
The first place you should officially ride your bike is to the farmer’s market. Walk your bike around. Stop at each stall. Notice how at the vegetable stand the sellers make eye contact with you. They will feel a kinship with you, count you as one of them. They will offer you their best produce. Buy as much as you can. If you are riding your bike on a bike trail or pedestrian path, go slowly. Hear the music. Hear poetry. Write a poem. Use bird song and sunshine and grass rustle as similes and metaphors. If you are a man, ride without your shirt. It helps if you are older with graying chest hair a slightly paunchy belly, and have a hippie necklace, but some women, women you will want to meet, will smile at you. They will feel your joy, how you are gentle to yourself and so with them. Feel gratitude in this.
Finally, in all your travels look for good bumberstickers to put on your baskets. Look for the one that says, “Let our people travel light and free on their bicycles”, by Ed Abbey. Get this one. People in cars will read your bumbersticker while stopped at traffic signals. They will feel your freedom, your commitment to being joyous. They will consider imitating you. Feel gratitude in this.