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Thursday, November 6, 2014

What's a Bike Friday?

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, 
I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
H. G. Wells

So, what’s a Bike Friday anyway?  In sum, these are hand-crafted, custom-made bicycles that fold.  I read a review once on folding bicycles and the writer essentially said, “There are bikes that fold and there are folding bikes.  Bike Friday is a well-made bicycle that happens to fold.”  I am paraphrasing, of course, but he captured the essence of the bikes.  These are brilliantly devised bicycles that will cost you a pretty penny, but will be worth every pretty penny you spend. 

So, how did I come to own a Bike Friday?  I returned from Afghanistan in January of 2013 with an injured back.  My L4 vertebrae had slipped over L5 when I stepped out of an MRAP in my body armor and made a hard landing- you know those- when the ground is much closer or much farther than your brain anticipates and you hit hard. So the vertebrae slipped, the disc herniated, and I was in intense pain for the duration of my time in Afghanistan (and much longer thereafter). 
The State Department decided they wouldn't pay for my medical expenses since I could not prove that I was injured when I said I was (oddly, there were no MRI devices on the border of Pakistan in the most kinetic area of the conflict).

So, I came back to Bisbee in terrible pain, uninsured, and discouraged about the time spent in Afghanistan. 
So, there I was, in intense pain and not able to either run (which has kept me sane over more years than I care to admit) or do yoga.  I spiraled down to a very dark place from which there seemed to be no return.  That time is summarized in my “notes from my balcony” blog and I won’t rehash it here.  So, deep dark depression, can’t get drunk, won't take pills.  What’s a girl to do?

I remembered that a friend had given me his old mountain bike just before I left for Afghanistan.  I pulled it out of the shed, threw it in the back of my pick up, drove to the main road, and hopped on.  And a miracle occurred.  I was not in pain- my tailbone was just off the back of the seat and I was bent down just slightly on the handlebars, so no compression was on my spine.  It was heaven.  I rode every day and healed, both physically and emotionally. 

In May of 2013, I contacted Ken Wallace, the owner of the local bike shop and someone who has traveled in cycling circles for many years, about traveling with my bike.  He suggested I look into a Bike Friday. “Bike Friday?  Never heard of ‘em”.  So I did some reading, a lot of reading, and I had no doubt that I needed one of these gems.  The only problem was that Bike Fridays are pretty expensive.  When I came back to the States, I was able to get a job teaching Neuroscience online for the UofA in the fall semester only.  It was a great score because, not only is Neuroscience my field, but I love Neuroscience.  I am and unabashed NeuroGeek. The only problem was that teaching only one course a year, which is all I could get that first year, was about $8000- and only that high because I was designing the online component as well.  While I did have some reserve from Afghanistan, it was far less than one might think and I still had, and have, a lot of work left to do to finish my little house.

Well, Ken, knowing just about everyone in cycling circles, told me he had seen one in a friend’s bike shop in North Carolina while he was visiting out there.  He contacted the shop owner and, between them and the bike owner, I was able to score the bike for $300.  I could do that, not much more than that, but I could do that.  Ken helped me assemble the bike when it arrived.  Ok, well, Ken assembled the little jewel for me as I stood watching, captivated and in love with my new best friend.

Riding Friday for the first time was sublime.  And it has been so for every ride since. Not only was there no compression on my spine, but she was so light.  We flew; at least it’s as close to flying as I will get without wings. We soared.  And I continued to heal.

And for the next just-about 12 months, I had a life I could only have dreamed of.  I took Friday to New Zealand and together we conquered the South Island.  The post on my FB page at the end of ourjourney pretty much summed it up- “1500 kilometers, 36 days, 2 cyclones, and one badass little bike.” 

And when I wasn't cycling, I spent 2 nights a week pressed up against a man I loved with an intensity the likes of which I've never known before. I laid my head on his chest, just under his chin, and believed I could live off the air he exhaled.  I lay awake for hours just to feel the way he moved across the bed with me, keeping me close even as he slept soundly.  I would press my nose against his back, intoxicated by the scent of him. He made me coffee in the mornings and we ate sourdough bread dipped in olive oil while we talked about physics, metaphysics, and scifi movies.  I adored him.

And so we’re off to bike the Carretera Austral, Chilean Patagonia. Friday will bear the unimaginable weight of my heavy heart as we climb to excruciating altitudes and confront glacial winds.  But our load will lighten with each kilometer we tackle, with every lake we set a campsite by, with everyone we meet that shows us a kindness on our travels.

No question, I have anthropomorphized this amazing little piece of technology.  She is mine and I am hers. We have been together so much and so long that when I ride her, I feel bionic; we ride as one. And my back?  Well, for the first time in 3 years I am running again.  I believe that is directly attributable to the time I have spend riding Friday.
Someday (probably soon- she was quite old when I got her), Friday, too, will have to let me go.  But I believe we will make it all the way down the Carretera Austral together before that happens.  Then I will probably retire her and hang her on my wall with photos of all the wonderful adventures we have had together.

So that’s a Bike Friday.

1 comment:

  1. So Thats Alyson Peel. The friend I know and love. Dave M