I’ve tried to write this post for a while now, but I’ve had a lot of trouble expressing how important this is to me. How do you capture, distill and share the emotions of getting back to something you love when you thought it was done forever? Well, let’s start with a classic. Keep it simple stupid (yes stupid would be me).
I rode. It’s that simple. I rode.
I had two short rides on a hand bike in the past 6 years of my life in a wheelchair. Those were just tests, teases, attempts to get past my self-doubt and build on my wish to get back in the saddle. They were far too brief, I barely got any speed, my arms didn’t ache, my heart wasn’t pounding, but damn those rides got me smiling and brought back something I’d lost.
On Saturday, July 8, 2017, I finally did a true ride. On MY bike It wasn’t long, it wasn’t offroad…but to me it was epic. Ok, maybe not as epic as a blind night ride through unknown terrain with 100 other riders in Massachusetts, but still…let me work back up to that level. This time my arms were burning, my shoulders were aching, my heart was pounding and I could barely gasp a coherent thought, but dammit. I rode. It’s a feeling I want more. My goal is to end up looking like Popeye on my upper body, and Olive Oyl on my lower (look it up youngins). That’s going to take a lot of effort and logistics…but dammit. I’ve got my bike.
Many of you know that I did a fund-raiser before our trip down to Lasher Sports in Las Vegas to buy the bike back in April. The best way I can express how much I appreciate everyone who donated, shared and pushed me toward this is by showing you my smile in a picture of me on that bike. I admit, even as Shannon and I were sitting in their showroom, having just tested out one bike, I was having my doubts. I still wasn’t sure I could do it. Could I really get back into biking. This was a big commitment, not just in cost, but in figuring out how to make it work, transporting it, time, energy…all things that aren’t as easy to find as they used to be. Shannon gave me that push I needed…she knew how much this meant to me, even as I had my last mental hill to climb. So with her and all of you who helped…we did it.
Now actually getting it here from Vegas? Well now that was a story that I can’t get into all the details of (not online anyway). It was two months before we were finally able to get it over the border and finally resting on our back porch. A bunch of bike parts, just waiting to be built into something I could actually use. That happened on July 8th. With my brother-in-law, Will, providing most of the muscle and mechanical expertise (let’s be honest, I made a good workbench really), we were surprised just how easily it came together. I had anticipated that we’d need a bike shop to at least help us with the gears and brakes once we had connected the front fork to the main frame and got the wheels on. Full credit to the guys at Lasher who were able to ship the bike in such a way that the bundle of parts came together so well.
That day, we rode. It hurt. I was terrible. I was barely able to get the bike up the first real hill I hit. I needed help getting back into my wheelchair after only a 6km run… but damn I loved every bit of it. Since then I’ve done more real training runs. Laps of a hydro field near my house for some off-road work, more laps of High Park in Toronto with its one kilometre long loop. And one epically stupid but absolutely amazing 32 kilometre ride along the Martin Goodman trail in Toronto, from the Humber Bay to the Leslie Street Spit and back. That ride, only my fourth on the bike, put me in whole new realms of suffering for a week after it (you don’t know how many muscles there are between your shoulder blades until you’ve done one like that when you are NOT ready).
Let’s be honest. It was dumb, BUT it was awesome. That was a stretch I hadn’t done since 2009. 8 years. I got to ride it again. I got to strain up the hill on Lakeshore by the Legion Hall, I got to fight around pedestrians who haven’t got a clue through Queen’s Quay. I got to find a rhythm and a stroke and the right gears when we hit a flat stretch. I got to hit almost 30 kph using just my arms. I was sweaty, I got the black chain rub on my knees that is mark of honour among riders. I had a guy working on a new condo development shout at me from his giant earth mover how awesome the bike was. I had a nun on a bike (who passed us TWICE) tell me I was doing awesome. I had kids stopping dead in their tracks, with one yelling at his dad that he wanted a bike like that.
And me yelling back, “No, you don’t!”
The bike is gorgeous to me. I hope you all can see the work of art and engineering it is. There is going to be a lot of work ahead. Will and others are helping to figure out a way to mount a backpack. We’re figuring out how I can transport it in or on my car (it fits… sorta… with bungee cords and no passengers possible but… it needs work). We’re figuring out I can get into the bike and then get my chair back in the car from the bike on my own. We’re figuring out exercises for my shoulders to keep them healthy. We’re figuring where to store it for the winter.
I don’t care. Right now, I’m writing this on a crazy warm mid-September afternoon and once I post this, I am going for a ride. I’m not off-road yet. Somehow that will happen before winter. Soon. Today, I’m going to push how far I can go with it, we’ll see where the road takes me for now. My arms will burn, my back will scream… and I’ll find time to do it again. And again.
Thank you all for the help. I’m going to be sharing more as time goes…I made that promise when I ran my gofundme campaign. So… thanks for getting this geek back on wheels. Three of them this time!