I didn’t grow up around bicycles. I had a purple unicorn tricycle when I was a toddler and then upgraded to a sparkly bike with training wheel attachments. That was the end of my experience cycling until my late twenties when my boss was purging bicycles from his garage and sold me a vintage Sears cruiser. I fell off and skinned my knee for the first time at age 26, then forgot about my bike altogether when I had a baby. I had never really taken the bike out for more than a spin around the block until October of 2012.
That’s when my best friend, who has a long standing history in the cycling community, decided to take me to Critical Mass in downtown Houston. I had no idea what it was, what it stood for, or what I was getting myself into. I had never successfully ridden my bike for more than 3 miles (and that’s being generous), and wasn’t that great at steering. My bestie knows me well, and knows how I learn. She threw me into the mass and let the crowd be my teacher.
I don’t feel like I am exaggerating when I say the generous people of Critical Mass Houston taught me to ride a bike. My first real bike ride was downtown, surrounded by Halloween costumed citizens ecstatic to have their wheels on the pavement and their butts in a saddle.
After my second mass, I wrote:
“What do I love about CM? Well, what don’t I love? I love the large group of people who seemingly have nothing in common except their desire to be on wheels. I love when one thing can bring an entire community together like that. It’s beautiful and exciting. This will sound cheesy, but I totally love the wind in my hair and against my face. Even if it’s cold. I think it’s heavenly to have a bit of a breeze that you’re creating yourself through motion. I love my sore legs the next day, reminding me that I did something fun, productive, and good for me. I love my bike. I love other peoples’ bikes. I love the road. I love the city at night.”
Over the last two years I have tried to be as much a sponge about cycling as I could be. I’ve meandered through streets on a cruiser. I’ve ridden on a mountain bike through trails in the woods and pushed myself down hills I had no business attempting. I’ve gone as fast as I could on a road bike and listened to bickering about what kind of bike is best. But all I’ve really heard from everyone, down in the heart and soul of it all, is that there is an amazing passion shared by millions of people – from all different lifestyles, socio-economic groups, and political views – for being on wheels. And I’m thrilled to share this love with others.
I don’t often mass up downtown, but I do ride. I am still quite the amateur and probably will always be. I am a writer by profession who happens to love cycling and the bike community. I’m honored to be here writing for a group of people that rock my world.
(Share stories of your first mass, or other memorable riding adventures, in the comments. I’m sure everyone would love to read them.)
About the author
A.K. Klemm is a novelist, book reviewer, and freelance writer who happens to love cycling. You may find her humanities blog here: http://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.