I Want To Ride My Bicycle

1 Oct

I want to ride my biiiike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

Two weeks ago, I began to ride a bicycle. It was a long road up to that point – I’d been talking about getting one for what seemed like forever, but the time to finally go for it came only recently.

I started teaching a new course on music notation down at Academy of Art University on New Montgomery. The class sounded fun, I needed extra money, and it fit in my schedule – but only barely. My wednesday rehearsal at Urban gets out at 11:30 (in the Haight) and my AAU Sibelius class starts at noon (down at Third and Market). It was a doable commute, but only if I rode a bike. My cousin Mark, to his eternal cycle-loving credit, turned out to have three bikes, one of them a sweet mountain bike that he let me borrow. Overnight I went from a regular dude with two legs and a bus pass to a bona-fide San Francisco cyclist.

I haven’t written a “Things I am loving today” post for a while – I guess I ran out of household things to which I could convincingly write loving odes? But my dear god, I am loving riding my bicycle around town! LOVING. IT. Why haven’t I been doing this for years?

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my
bicycle bicycle bicycle

The first time I rode it was early on a Tuesday morning, heading to Urban from my Inner Sunset place up the 9th Avenue hill. It was… bracing. My first action, of course, required me to cruise straight down the  hill, riding the brake the whole way. Huge, terrifying vehicles shoofed by on my left, while on my right every parked-car door felt primed to explode open, clotheslining me straight into the emergency room.

The wind! There was so much wind. I hadn’t felt the wind like this in a long time – I was probably doing 115 miles per hour down the hill (note: estimate) and let me tell you, San Francisco’s cool morning air takes on an entirely different character when it’s whipping into your face and hands at 320 mph (note: I have also also estimated the wind’s uphill speed and combined them).

But I made it; I survived. The next day I biked from Haight to my AAU class on New Montgomery and I made it in fifteen minutes. Woah. Fifteen minutes for what would’ve taken MUNI thirty at best and a car anywhere from twenty to thirty, depending on parking. It was a piece of cake, fast as hell, but more than anything else… it felt exhilarating, better than anything I’d done in ages.

After that, I was hooked. I’ve been riding everywhere – I can get to school in twelve minutes, I’ve mastered The Wiggle, I can get my bike onto the front of the 6 Parnassus without a hitch, I’ve even gotten my own groovy Nutcase Helmet that both keeps my brain safe(ish) and looks pretty kickin’. Mark has been awesome enough to let me continue to use his bike until I get my own hybrid or road bike, to which he assures me the transition from his mountain bike will feel like going from a pickup truck to a sports car. I can’t wait.

Although I check SFBike.org daily and have hugely benefited from their online maps, I also find that every time I ride, I fall in behind other riders and learn new things. I’ve learned how people use the curb to put their foot up and push past cars on Market street, that there is a killer route up market to the Castro Safeway that shunts you around back and comes out by Duboce Park. I’ve figured out how to signal with my left hand, which let me tell you was not as easy as I maybe would’ve thought it would be. I’ve learned that no matter how unsafe I feel rocketing down the road, there is always some guy around the corner who has elected to replace his helmet with an iPod that makes me feel like the picture of sensibility.

Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah

But more than anything, I’ve learned that I love biking. Shit, people, I love it to tiny pieces. I’ll even make a pledge: as long as he lives and works in this city, Kirk Hamilton will get there on two wheels.

When we were driving to and from a Urban School recent backpacking trip to Yosemite, I got to spend a lot of time talking with Sarah and Scott, the two (very cool) outdoor-program educators who organized the trip. They’re both bikers, and they were both excited to hear that I was about to start riding.

“You’ll love it,” said Sarah. “It’s the best of everything – it’s fast, you’re outside, you’re getting exercise, and it feels amazing!” And man, was she right. It’s hard to describe the things I notice, the feelings that accompany biking. I feel so free and so light, it’s almost existential. The Enjoyable Lightness of Biking. I move everywhere of my own volition, consuming only what power I put out, using my body to travel great distances in a short amount of time. I sweat more, I work more, I breathe more, my heat beats more times per day.

I am The Benign Mover. As fast as a car, but people walking around don’t react to me the same way as they do a vehicle – there isn’t a sense of “Okay, that guy is currently capable of killing me with his vehicle.” When I pull up to a stoplight on a bike, people waiting to cross strike up conversations, they make eye contact. I’m not of their world, but also not a threat to it. When traffic jams and pedestrians must wait, I thread in between.

On your marks get set go!
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race

There is a moment that I hesitate to even attempt to describe, a feeling that I could never hope to put into words. It’s that first five seconds after I climb to the seat and start to pedal; the ground seems to fall away as the light clicking of the derailer blends with the wind in my ears…

I catch my balance, center my frame, and I’m flying.

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6 Responses to “I Want To Ride My Bicycle”

  1. Anne October 1, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Awesome.

  2. Jamie October 2, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    And I was wondering which bus I was going to get up to Japantown today to meet my family (and then head over to the Bluegrass Festival) I think, this post just answered my question.

  3. Jamie October 3, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    Update. Road the wiggle for the first time yesterday. w00t!

    • Kirk October 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

      Dude, well done! I remember my first time on the wiggle like it was just a couple weeks ago. Wait a sec… 😉

      The best is that feeling I get when I’m biking a new route and I fall in behind someone else. I trust them so implicitly, and fall right in and watch how it’s done. Such cool impromptu apprenticeships…

  4. Jamie October 3, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    Yup, I took your advice and followed this one girl, I thanked her for being my guide once we got to Market Street. She was cute about it.

    • Kirk October 4, 2010 at 11:09 am #

      Dude, that is AWESOME! One day, someone will follow/ thank you, and the cycle will continue.

      (See what I did there? With the cycle? Oh, yeah.)

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