Summer is here, well spring, but in Minnesota we just seem to say summer because really it’s either winter or it’s not in which case it’s summer. Anyway, it’s here and in typical form it’s a mad dash to pack in as much fun as possible while sitting back and soaking it all in. Dash, soak, dash, soak. I dig it.
Two years ago I voluntarily gave someone I had never met dibs on my body and my life. They did mostly great with it, but through no fault of either one of us I became pretty much a walking sack of tendinitis. I had to trade my dreams of being a hot biking/jogging/hiking/yogi pregnant woman for, well, constant pain. Looking back I can’t believe I still got around as much as I did, waddle hiking and something resembling yoga with half of the props in the studio. The one thing I just could not manage was biking.
I have a bad case of impostor syndrome when it comes to biking. It’s always been a huge part of my life, but you’d never hear me call myself an avid biker. That’s a high bar in this city, but I’m admitting now that I pass and I always have passed. Being able to bike wherever I wanted or needed to go gave me independence and the ability to take care of myself from a very young age. I could get food for myself, my sister, and our pets when my mom had to work late or our dad’s kitchen was sparse (knowing I loved to do so, they’d leave money). I could get myself to cheerleading practice in the morning five miles from home, driver’s ed on the other side of town, back for cross country practice in the afternoon, a stop at a friend’s house, then home for dinner. In college it was the only way to really get away and be unreachable, since there was never cell service on the trails and I felt safer than I did just jogging. When my car died as soon as I got my own place in Minnesota, I could still get to work, proving I could take care of myself. When my husband, Tyler, and I decided to go down to one car I was able to get to work, go back to college, and bring home the Christmas tree. I have four very different (awesome) bikes. I am a biker damn it. It’s part of my identity.
That’s what really made these last two years of not biking difficult. The first year it was just too painful. Hormones caused tendons in my hips and groin to stretch and the weight of my growing belly put even more pressure on them. Just walking hurt and a bike seat was unbearable. The second year I was tethered to my daughter. By the time my postpartum back pain was under control with physical therapy she had stopped taking a bottle. That meant before and after every nap, which was around five times a day for a good while, she needed her food supplier near. By the time that was down to two naps a day it was the dead of a very cold and snowy winter and I was in no shape to get out there winter biking. That’s something you ramp up for, not jump into.
On top of not being able to bike, we’re still a one car family which hurts my independent spirit. Luckily, Tyler works from home a couple days a week and there’s weekends of course, but if he’s at work or busy himself my transportation options suck. I can load myself up like a camel, strap the well over 99th percentile for weight baby to me and hoof it or try to catch a bus. To make it to one story time it takes an hour of preparation and an hour and a half of walking and busing for thirty minutes of story time. I could take a Lyft and lug her car seat and stroller around everywhere we go, but frankly screw that. No option exactly feels like freedom to do what we want.
Note: I acknowledge that these are privileged complaints since I can just stay home if I feel too put out. I’m not looking for pity or even sympathy, I’m just trying to show where my mind was at and what the following event means to me.
There was hope though. The child bike seat. Like a baby carrier, but faster and scarier. My research led me there versus a bike trailer due to us riding on city streets with lots of parked cars and ways for a trailer to be unseen. Being renters without a garage, I’d have to lug a trailer and bike up and down basement steps every time. I also really liked the idea of being able to communicate with my daughter as we rode, so seat it was. My main bike was tall, sleek, and fast, not good for throwing a bunch of extra weight on. Luckily I had added a lower, heavier, and beefier bike to my posse for winter riding right before I got pregnant. It would be much better suited and also make me feel better for having invested in it and never really riding it more than a few times.
We picked up a still new in the box bike seat from Craigslist after months of research and lots of back and forth. I went with a Thule RideAlong (contact your local bike shop, or spend three months finding one used). Then everyday after that for a month either a. we still needed a helmet for the baby b. we were busy or c. it rained or snowed. Having that seat sit downstairs unattached to anything was worse than not having it. After installing it and getting the helmet we had another week of more busyness and more rain. Until today.
Today, I just went for it. The original plan was to ride as a family just to make sure we did okay, but Tyler went to work, it wasn’t raining, and story time at the library started in an hour. I packed us up, miraculously found the bike lock in a weird place (Tyler), and luckily the novelty of the bike distracted the baby from the helmet she wasn’t crazy about in the shop. She gave me a smile, a nod, and a “Bah!” when I asked if she was ready.
It was hard. It was colder out than I realized. Apparently standing up for hills is not a thing with an extra 40 lb between baby and seat on the back. I made a wrong turn. We were twenty-two minutes late for a thirty minute story time that is actually on Friday, and today is Tuesday. We passed a baby duck who had lost its mom and I had no way of helping it since my SIM card is on the fritz and my copilot would probably hug it to death if I had her hold it. It was scary.
We loved it. I got lots of positive grunts every time I asked her how she was doing. She said, “Woooo!” for the first time ever. She pointed out dogs, flowers, balls, the lake, and that lost duckling. She had a blast at the library where she played with kids, used a water fountain for the first time, and tried to sit in a tiny chair. On the way back the sun came out. We stopped to pick a dandelion puff-ball that she held and watched in the wind as we rode. I made another wrong turn (you’d think I would know my way around my neighborhood, but you underestimate my crappy sense of direction). At the end what I thought was her headbanging my backpack was her falling asleep.
It felt amazing. It felt like independence. It is so dramatic, but I don’t care, it felt like freedom. I feel like a biker with absolutely no impostor feelings attached. This is going to be an incredible summer.