Jamie Francisco (Guest blogger)
The first time I crashed my bicycle, I was descending downhill during a group ride. It was so much fun, I sped past more experienced cyclists with bravado until a spectacular fall. I tumbled over my handlebars and landed in the middle of a busy street. Then I scrambled to the side of the road to avoid getting run over.
The bike I rode that day was a sea green Miyata, a beauty of a road bike that in the 1980s was considered top of the line. Vintage bike collectors admire them, partly because they are no longer made. The Japanese company that produced them originally manufactured guns. In 1890, the Miyata Gun Company used the same technique they used to create the barrel of a gun to build the tube of a modern bicycle.
After I fell, as I was assessing my minor wounds, my riding companion answered my phone and accepted a call from the man who ultimately became my husband. I had torn my jacket along the shoulder and had scraped my arm. She told him what happened. Once he learned I was not seriously injured, he said, “That’s good. She needs to know that it’s OK to fall.”
I loved that bike. I logged hundreds of miles riding it, training for my first metric century. I added clip in pedals, a honey brown leather Brooks saddle and matching bar tape, making it my own. I smiled when I received compliments, especially from other bicycle aficionados who noticed its white fork, a unique feature.
When I moved to Sacramento, I added white wire Wald baskets to each side, where I stashed my purse, my lock and my lunch, joining the other bike commuters along the grid en route to work.
Once my marriage ended, I decided that my Miyata might need a friend. I sold my Victorian engagement ring back to the estate jeweler where we had found it. I held onto the proceeds awhile, debating whether to take a bicycle vacation to Tuscany or to buy a new bike. The ring was beautiful but modest. It would have taken a long time to save to get to Italy.
Ultimately, I made my choice. I found a beautiful black Trek road bike with a design etched in gold and matching gold tape on the handlebars. I added a hot pink leather Brooks saddle. Thirty years had passed between when my Miyata was built and the emergence of this new bike. While I loved the solidness of my vintage bike, I was pleasantly surprised by the lightness and ease of each ride on the new modern bike.
I was in San Francisco for the weekend when I received a disturbing text from a neighbor.
“Did you leave your garage unlocked?”
Then he texted some photos.
My bikes were gone.
My mother, who had advised I buy the new bike with my engagement ring, had the funniest reaction.
“Well, that really wasn’t meant to be.”
I mourned the loss of my bikes. The bike thieves had cased my apartment complex in East Sacramento. Two days later, they stole the bikes of my neighbors. I scanned Craigslist, hoping to catch the thieves. I posted pictures on a neighborhood list-serve, telling everyone, “I am bereft.”
During my grief, I remembered my first memory of my new-to-me vintage bike. I bought it from a bike hobbyist, a middle-aged father with a mini-van, who enjoyed going to yard sales to buy old bikes, then fixed them and sold them. My ex, envious because he rode an old hybrid, asked to try it out. He jumped a curb and popped a tire, nearly destroying the fork in the process.
Having only owned the new bike for a month or two, I had barely ridden it. Because I knew how I paid for it, I thought of my failed marriage during each ride. Later I learned that Brooks had discontinued the model of that new hot pink saddle. Riders found it too hard to break in.
Maybe a clean break was what I needed.
It took awhile, but a few months later, I got back in the saddle.
This May, during Bike to Work month, I ride the American River Trail to work on a new Trek I found on discount to replace the one I lost, a 2012 closeout with a pearlescent white frame and black and blood red flowers wrapped around the tube. I am in love again, with a man who owns a sleek Marin road bike with a matte black finish that he has nicknamed “Zin.”
My adventures in life and bicycling have taught me that it is OK to fall. I have also learned, more importantly, to take the time I need to recover. Then, when I am ready, get up back again.
Photo Credit: Splitshire
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