The tenant that lived upstairs had a beautiful, shiny black Cannondale. I always wanted to ride it; it weighed almost nothing. Instead I had to ride my mom’s old Schwinn Continental; it weighed about 100 pounds. On my 16th birthday, I got a proper mountain bike, and the summer after freshman year of college, I went to work at the bike shop.
About 15 years later, I’d find myself on the curb at Lehigh Valley International Airport. I threw my duffel bag in the back of the pickup, on top of a large cardboard box that contained my bike, which had been shipped out a few days earlier. The jazz poured out as I opened the door to the truck. Over the winter, I’d been asked to join a club of like-minded fellows, and we’d been invited to a race in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This would mark the first trip I’d ever taken with the sole purpose to ride my bike. For four days, we hung out at the bike shop and café, just off the Emmaus Triangle. I took a lap at the track. We ate and we drank. We rode the road, many times, with many different people. And in the race, we almost came in last place, but that was okay with us.
A few months later, I’m having a beer at the Dane County Regional Airport, waiting for my co-worker and boss. I have the same duffel bag, more jazz pouring from a different open truck door, but no bike. This time I’d only get out for a couple short rides, on demo bikes around the Trek factory in Waterloo, which makes me miss both mountain biking and the rural roads from my earlier days on a road bike. This trip is for business; all these years around bikes have begun to pay off. Despite my wife jokingly calling me “a suit,” it feels good to be back in my home state, to see those guys who first hired me so many years ago, who are now some of my oldest friends, having made a career out of something I love so much.
Bicycles are wonderful things, but they are just things, after all. They are so important to me because of these people and these days. It's because of those, that I try to never take for granted what bicycles can make possible.