Ah, biking. I remember the first time I got on a tandem bike with Troy, and how delicious and amazing it was to go faster than walking. It was scary to trust Troy with my balance and with steering the whole boat, but after that first time I was hooked. We passed cars in traffic, and I just felt whole, as if something long lost was given back to me.
I used to bike a lot when I was a kid, even doing tours as a teenager with my sister and brother. Somewhere along the line, biking became about transportation of the body and less so of the spirit. This evening recreated my earliest joy of biking, when the simple combination of body and speed made magic.
I don’t like upright tandems anymore. I’ve discovered that my knee doesn’t enjoy the motion. My left side is slightly weaker as a result of stroke, so whenever I fall, that’s the knee I injure. It grumbles, creaks, and grinds, and when really annoyed, it hurts. I have instead discovered the tandem recumbent trike. CRIS has a lot of options when it comes to bikes, from my preferred model to upright tandems, and even a tandem upright trike. I’m still hoping that I may someday be able to pilot, but the truth is that my vision makes it unlikely. It doesn’t matter that much, so long as my pilot is willing to indulge my taste for going fast (at least occasionally).
Let me explain a little bit about our tandem recumbent trikes and why I love them so much. First of all, the seat is rather like a lawn chair. This means it doesn’t hurt, and I’m not really a fan of traditional bike seats, because they do hurt me, at least after a little while. Being seated that way means that I get a wonderful view of the scenery around me, and less view of my pilot’s back. The tandem recumbent isn’t just on two wheels, so it’s extremely stable, which lets me feel free to look around and smile and generally enjoy being the center of attention. I also find the pedaling much more efficient. I find it easier to pedal, and it doesn’t put excessive pressure on my cranky knee. On most bikes the stoker (the person in back) is free to pedal or coast, so there’s leeway for individual abilities. There is no pressure on the wrists, shoulders, or neck. Finally, a recumbent bike is not reliant on momentum to stay upright. If we hit a difficult hill we can just gear down and grind our way up.
Tonight I went for a ride up beside the Parkinson Rec. Center and across the overpass, ending up at Gyro beach and finally home. It was the perfect time for a ride; pleasantly shady with enough bright sun to still be warm, and the sky was gorgeous blue. When we stopped at the beach, the other participant went down to the lake to dabble his toes in the water. The evening breeze swept off Lake Okanagan to shake dapples of golden light from the trees. It was perfect. It seems ridiculous to try to describe it, because it was just so sublime.
At CRIS we do short rides and long, gentle or challenging, always depending upon the wants and abilities of our participants. I like to go fast, but there’s just as much room in the CRIS schedule for a gentle exploration of the Abbott corridor and lakefront boardwalk. The current schedule has three cycling trips on Mondays, including the evening cycle I enjoyed so much.
I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote after I biked 20k in support of the Independent Living Program in Vernon.
It's always such a risk
to put a blind girl on a bike.
But there I was,
with a pilot in front,
and we strode the hills like giants,
or perhaps like very persistent ants
trekking indomitable tiny paths
across the skin of the world.
The sky, oh the sky,
perfect as poetry could ask,
with wisps of silver strewn about,
casual as artfully tossed pillows.
Green unfolded in field and on bough,
and cherry blossoms quivered in our passing.
Quail clamoured and giggled from shadows,
while robins sang sweeter welcome.
The blind girl did not see the ground,
but only the resplendent, the wicked, delights
of spring unfolding before her.
She flew, you know,
she's flying still,
the risk being well worth
-Mary Statham, 2012