When I signed up for Thirty Days of Biking, I thought, “why not?” I bike every day anyway, so this didn’t seem like an extra commitment.
What I hadn’t thought about was my trip to Western Pennsylvania over Easter weekend to spend time with extended family. Upon arrival, I assumed that this long weekend would derail my goal.
My uncle immediately volunteered to lend me his 1980’s Schwinn hybrid for the weekend and returned with it and my cousin’s single-speed, coaster brake, pink slumber party themed bicycle. At 12, she’s grown several inches in the last few years, and her interests have shifted from toys to Taylor Swift. The bike no longer fit her, but I had better luck after quickly adjusting the seat height on my uncle’s bike.
We pedaled over to the nearby college campus, which was empty during spring break. I pedaled as slowly as I ever have so she could keep up, and I noticed all the flowers that were blooming.
I love biking for transportation, and I love going fast. I also truly appreciate the opportunities to slow down and experience a different side of bicycling. When I replace my usual “got to get there” mentality with one of biking for the pure fun of it, when I actually have a companion and a conversation, I always wish I did so more often.
Without being too sappy, biking with my younger cousin was probably the best thing we could’ve done together that weekend. It was one thing the two of us had in common, despite the age gap. She impressed me with her desire to keep going, even though pedaling her bike required a lot of effort.
We discussed what her next bike might look like, though at roughly 4′ 10″ she may have a tough time finding something in between children’s models and adult sizes. She talked about wanting something with gears so she could climb the hills and how the sparkly streamers tickled her arms and annoyed her. We also talked about things that have nothing to do with bikes.
I want to think that I was a good role model, that she thinks of me as a cool older cousin, that seeing me ride made her think harder about biking as something that’s not just for children and her dad, who of course she thinks is goofy and out-of-touch (she’s in middle school, after all). Maybe I’m putting too much importance on three rides. I wish I had taken a photo of those two bikes, and not just for this blog.
The great thing about challenges like 30 Days of Biking is not the times when they fit into our already established routines. It is the moments when we’re debating whether to bike or not, or looking for opportunities to ride in unfamiliar situations, that have the opportunity to shift habits. I wouldn’t have even asked about biking while visiting my family if not for this challenge. I’m so glad I did.