This scrap comes from a writing exercise of the same name in Room to Write by Bonnie Goldberg. It asks you to write about a machine in your life & insists that you open with the sentence “Consider the _____”.
Consider the bike. What a tricky term, because I could be talking about a motorcycle, a dirt bike, or some other motorized contraption with leather seats, an ignition, a control panel & a sound system that somehow falls under the label “bike”.
No, consider a bike, like the one you may have had as a kid. A seat, two pedals, breaks, maybe a bell. Sounds simple, but even here there are differences, clues. The first bike I owned had only one speed, a fixed gear bike. The others I’ve owned since have “internal hub gearing”, allowing you to change speeds. Owning a bike where you could change speeds was a step up in maturity, like going going from a tricycle to a “real bike”.
Did you know you can gender a bike? A boy’s or men’s bike has a frame with two straight bars, while a girl’s or women’s bike has an upper bar that dips. The guy at the bike shop told me that it was made so to keep women’s skirts from rising to an unseemly level. Personally, I think it’s for the same reason “proper” ladies were made to ride sidesaddle. Society did not want to consider anything between a woman’s legs outisde of the bedroom. All inadvertant allusions to the sexual act must be squashed!
Something I never considered until recently is that a bike could be enjoyed outside of childhood. For some reason, around the time I was in high school, bikes became an ancient toy to ride for fun, to get you to a friend’s house down the street, whatever. It wasn’t until I got a bike rack put on my car that I realized bikes were a faster form of exploration. A way to get you to places a car couldn’t go & in a quicker way than walking. Riding on the battlefield on a bike gives you time to see what’s around, to see through trees & into people’s backyards where deer are eating. Or to appreciate the falling of twilight in a forest where you can’t see the sky.
A bike is also an investment that needs to be cared for as much as a car. You spend a couple hundred on a bike, you want to get the most out of it. When I told my sister I was taking my bike in for a tune-up, she not only laughed, she pulled out her sarcasm as an added measure & congratulated me for throwing away my money. She thinks I’m foolish for spending so much money on a machine you can get anywhere, for buying something that you can pick up cheap off the rack at Wal-Mart or Target. But, I guess what I’ve realized is that, for me, a bike is a small means of happiness. Riding one is freeing, is nostalgic, is an exhilarting action of movement. So, why not spend some money on something that makes me happy? I could take this same attitude if what made me happy was shopping, or Italian cars, or hunting, but no, it’s just a bike. Is the money spent on the upkeep & accessories for a bike any more ridiculous than buying a Wii Sports pack with all it’s specialized controllers?