For years, that steel frame hung in the shed. I never wanted to ride it. I couldn’t un­der­stand why some­one would want a bike with a curly han­dle­bar and plain red paint...

Bicycling (South Africa) - - ASK -

...(I went through a long pink-and-sparkly phase). But when I was about 14, and my knees started to bump the han­dle­bar on my pur­ple tie- dye moun­tain bike, you told me it was time to ride some­thing else. I waited in the drive­way as you rolled that retro Nishiki road bike out of the shed. Once you dusted off the cob­webs, I saw that it was beau­ti­ful – red and shiny, and just about my size.

You put on some flat ped­als so I could ride it in my Batas. Squint­ing at my short legs, you wrenched open the creaky seat clamp and low­ered the sad­dle. I got on. I wig­gled and wob­bled and rode around in a cir­cle – and im­me­di­ately hated it. It felt so weird to be lean­ing that far for­ward, perched on such a scrawny seat. I hopped off and you tweaked a few more things I didn’t even know could move on a bike. I fi­nally felt comfy enough to ride it to get ice cream. It was my bike now. I rode to the beach, to swim­ming prac­tice, to my job wash­ing dishes. I couldn’t drive yet, so that bike was free­dom (even more so, once I could drive but then got grounded from the car for two months). You tried to ex­plain the down-tube shift­ing to me, but I think I rode it in the same gear that whole sum­mer.

You had bought this bike for Mom back in the ’80s. After she died, when I was two, many of her things were given away. Thank you for sav­ing her bike for me.

The day you wheeled it out of the shed was the start of a lot of fun, but now I re­alise it was more of a con­tin­u­a­tion – that bike al­ready had ad­ven­tures un­der its tyres by the time I started adding my own. By rid­ing it, I de­vel­oped strong legs and a love of be­ing out­side, like the woman I’d ached to know grow­ing up.

I’ve since grad­u­ated to faster and lighter bikes, but I smile when I see Mom’s bike hang­ing in the garage. Thanks for low­er­ing that sad­dle, and giv­ing me this piece of her. RI­LEY MISSEL is an ed­i­to­rial as­sis­tant at Bicycling.

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