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...
...(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.