Last week I bought a new bike. I hadn't had a bike for the past few years and hadn't missed the activity too much until recently. A couple of my friends from work got bikes this past year and a guy I've been dating has one, and they all seemed really happy to be riding, and it started to inspire me to think about getting one too.But what kind of bike should I get? New or used? A mountain bike? A cruiser? 10-Speed? Three-speed? No-speed? Foot brakes? Hand brakes? Lots of options.
So last week I got a bug up my butt to buy a bike. A new bike. Decision number one. Tempe Bicycles was advertising a sale so I decided to go there (decision number two). I had a mountain bike last time around - a Trek - which I loved! I bought it when I was living in Chicago, and when you are riding on Chicago roads you might as well be riding on mountain terrain...not because it's hilly, by any means, but because the streets are definitely craggy enough to simulate mountain trails. Hence: thicker, stronger tires are a good thing.So there I was at Tempe Bicycles looking at all kinds of bikes - mountain bikes, racing bikes, cool-looking-I-don't-know-what kind of bikes, and cruisers. There were so many styles and so many colors and all of the bikes were so crammed together. But I had had a cruiser in mind when I first thought of getting a new bike (my girlfriends at work both have cruisers and I thought them super cute) and I think that idea was sticking with me. So I bee-lined right to the cruisers with all their different colors and styles.
Foot brakes or hand brakes? Three-speeds or no-speeds became my next criteria. I decided on foot brakes (I am not sure why, excatly, because I haven't had a foot-brake bike since I was in elementary school) and a three-speed (it seemed like a good idea with any kind of hill or graded road). Decisions numbers three and four were made.
Onto style and color...So many options! But it wasn't really hard, because once I saw it, I knew the exact bike I wanted: Robin's egg blue body (with a heart design on the bars), lime green inside the tires, and white fenders with a branch/leaf motif with Red Robins perched on it. A total girl bike! The fifth decision made.
Of course, I had to test ride the bike to see if it fit comfortably and rode well, which it did on both counts. And then, well - I had to accessorize! Wicker basket, helmet (which I loathe wearing, but know I'll have to when I take a long ride and have to ride in traffic), Kryptonite lock (and had the bike shop people put an extra safety chain on the seat to ward off potential bike seat thieves).
I love this bike! Just looking at it makes me happy. Riding it makes me happier. I've not had the chance to take it for a long ride yet, but I've taken some good short ones almost every day since I got it and it's such fun. It feels good to let the breeze blow on my face and through my hair. I love the feel of having to hunker down and pedal whenever there's a grade in the road or a small hill in the park, and then there's the joy of just coasting as the road dips or when I descend the hilly path.
I've had the opportunity to explore streets that I have never driven down or walked down before. I rode through areas of Papago Park where I hadn't yet been. And it dawned on me that having this bike has given me a new freedom and more options. It has provided me with a new mode of transportation, another activity to partake in, and has given me an alternative form of exercise. It has also offered me a new way to see places I haven't experienced and to make choices about where I want to go, what I want to do. Shall I turn down this road or that one? Do I want to cruise slowly or ride fast?
I'm sure that in reading all of this, and that in noting the title and reading the opening quote, you are getting that this post isn't really just about my new bike. The bike is super cool and I'm happy to talk it up but what I really wanted to take a closer look at was decisions: choices and options, and to remind myself that I have them, readily, at my disposal. I can make a choice and make another choice and, still again, make another choice. I am not stuck. And, though I know this, I forget this, because I get stuck on seeing things one way. My path seems to narrow and I lose my peripheral vision, and before I know it I forget I have "turning" capabilities.
Thank goodness for friends, for books, for meditation - for the willingness to realize that I have made my vision very small and can re-open to space - to bring me back to reality. To the reality that I have choices about what actions I am going to take and what kind of responses I want to make.
A friend of mine reminded me the other day that "ignorance is bliss," and that that's why being smart and being creative can sometimes feel very overwhelming and difficult. And I remember my professor Richard Brown explaining that "Fantasy is nice, but reality is so much richer." Most people remain ignorant, it's easier. And most all of us, at one time or another, turn to fantasy as an escape (and sometimes, we all have to take a breather and dream). So the question is do I want to live in a fantasy world of what I think I want or live in the real world and work with what I'm given? Do I want to play this game of life passively and play the victim or do I want to meet life on life's terms and make decisions about what I do with what I get? Do I want to be ignorant or do I want to be awake? While it can be challenging, even painful, and though it requires a lot more courage, I'm choosing reality. It may mean pedaling uphill at times, but I can adjust my three-speed accordingly.
By the way, my new bike came with a really cool bell (see above photo). So, look out world: you (and I) never know what street I might turn down Make way! Ring, ring!!