biking with carrots

When you’re eight years old and gazing upon your bike — the handlebar streamers, the prism-bright reflectors, the rusty kickstand — there’s a swelling in your chest. A mix of pride and anticipation. Because when you’re a kid, bikes mean freedom. Taking off the training wheels and wobbling down the driveway freedom. Pedaling through July on the way to the pool freedom. Speeding across the moon with an alien in your bike basket freedom.

(Yet another pop culture reference my students probably wouldn’t understand.)

Certainly there are adults who still feel this way about their bicycles. There’s Lance Armstrong and his army of yellow-rubber-bracelet-wearing groupies. And there are bike messengers who weave their reckless paths between moving vehicles in New York City. I see those bike commuters arrive on campus, bags strapped to their high-end street bikes with bungee cords and one pant leg rolled to the knee. Oh! And the granola commercials! Lots of biking adults in granola commercials.

I was definitely a kid who, in those foolhardy days before children were religiously strapped into helmets, would coast down our driveway and disappear for a few hours in the summertime. But as a grown-up, I haven’t really been a cyclist. I have friends who brave a bike ride to campus amid the Texas Edition Jalapeno-Sauced Ford F-850 trucks on Houston’s roads, but I prefer the air-conditioned pod of my Saturn. Bikes require balance and athletic prowess and the ability to look natural while hunched over handlebars. I possess none of these qualities.

BUT! I am now a spinner! My lovely friend Kattie — she of the chic haircut and awesome dissertation topic — has introduced me to the free spin classes at Rice’s rec center. I certainly never would have tried said spin classes without the assistance of a spin veteran like Kattie. I am an Awkward Exerciser, which is why I usually jealously defend my Alone Exercising Time. Who wants company when barely making it around Rice’s outer loop — panting to the finish line in what Danny calls the “survivor shuffle”? But the presence of a nonjudgmental friend on the bike next to me made the class… Well, not painless, per se. But fun!

Of course, a bike in a spinning class does not offer the same sense of freedom as my aqua and purple ten-speed did in my middle school days. No wind in my hair, except when the exercise-room fan oscillates in my direction. No coasting down the hills. And lots of sweating and cadence checks. But, perhaps, a similar sense of accomplishment. Perhaps I will excel at this spinning business! Perhaps I will become a Master Spinner with those fancy lock-you-in shoes!

In the meantime, I’m considering bringing an alien that resembles a chocolate-covered raisin to class. Because I think those serious spinners need a touch of whimsy in their day.

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