Much of the years leading to my change in living were spent trying not to think too much about changing the way I was living.
However, every blue moon or so I got it in my head that I would make the big push to becoming healthier.
I’d show these thoughts and feelings via avenues of expression imparted to me as a child.
I’d buy stuff.
I’d buy two of everything, as a matter of fact.
It was always right around Christmas. I guess that was the time of year where the weight really felt heavy. That was the time of year where I’d be getting clothes that didn’t fit, seeing relatives without filters, and surprising friends with considerable weight gain.
It started with two pairs of snowshoes — one for me and one for my then partner. It moved then to skis (a logical progression). And then it inevitably reached the end with a pair of bikes.
None of these items were ever used, really. The snowshoes were dusted off for a quick walk up the road during a storm a couple of days after Christmas, but they were then unceremoniously placed back in the basement.
I take full responsibility for the lack of use. I wasn’t exactly a go-getter. Unless I was buying something — I was pretty much the Tony Robbins of buying stuff.
The bikes were exceptionally researched on my behalf. I poured over hundreds of articles, reviews, videos, company websites — I mean I did everything in my power to find the perfect bike(s).
Immediately following the purchase I went through a divorce.
The bike sat in the basement for three years.
Each time I’d toddle down alone to do the laundry I’d see it there. Sitting in the corner with this look upon its bars. It was saying “why have you abandoned me?”
And every time I set eyes on the bike, I was reminded of the fear I had of riding it. Not necessarily of falling off the damn thing, that wasn’t really an issue. But rather how I’d look. Or whether or not the bicycle was strong enough to support me.
I used to picture myself wheeling my bike up Barter’s Hill in downtown St. John’s with a bent rim and flat rear tire with a flashing neon sign over my head that scrolled the headline: “Fat Man Breaks Bike”.
During a recent trip to Buenos Aires I had the opportunity to ride a bike on a Polo ranch I had visited. But I was just too big to use the damn thing. I’m 6’3”, so my height played a big part of my struggles (kept hitting my knees off the handlebars). I felt embarrassed though, nonetheless.
That moment stuck with me. It gnawed at me. So, one day a little over a month ago I told myself “fuck it, you’re going to ride to work.”
The only trouble was that I hadn’t ridden a bike for about 22 years.
I started small. The parking lot of my old high school. The first peddle forward felt so foreign.
You know that old adage that says “it’s just like riding a bike”?
Yeah. That’s a load of shit.
You do forget how to ride a bike.
It feels weird. It’s not normal. You’ve swapped two feet for wheels for Christ’s sake.
The next ride I moved to a local park and wheeled around the road that ran through it. Getting used to the way the bike handled a downward decline combined with a small rise in elevation.
The gears were hard to get used to. I pretty much left them alone.
Eventually I left the park and began taking a road that wasn’t used by much traffic. It was a ride with a prize at the end. Fort Amherst is the site of one of the first lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador. It also provides a pretty stunning view of Signal Hill — home to Cabot Tower, the site of Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless transmission in 1901.
For an added confidence booster, a few days later I took to the streets and made my way to Cuckold’s Cove. A pristine little slice of heaven off an unsuspecting road in the capital city. A place I spent a lot of time as a teenager contemplating my place in the world. I wrote a lot of bad poetry here. None of which helped me land a single girlfriend at the time.
And then came today. I woke up early. Packed up my bag with my new lock and water bottle and burst out of the door. I took the long way down through Patrick Street and cruised down Water (the oldest street in North America) towards the harbour.
The smell of the salt, the sound of the gulls as the dove and swayed, and the site of the roustabouts loading ships full of supplies as they endeavour to put to sea to fill their nets with capelin or herring or whatever else might be out there; The wind flooding the sides of my face. Enveloping me whole — it felt like I was flying.
Only I wasn’t.
I was rolling.
The freedom of riding that bike runs much deeper than just peddling.
Today’s accomplishment wasn’t about a bike.
It was about letting go of the fear that prevented me from riding it in the first place.
When you’re peddling there are only three things:
You. The Bike. And the world.
And what’s so empowering about that?
You are the one who decides where to go and how to get there.
The world is wide open.
All you need is the courage to steer your way through it.