I have this awesome bike. It’s neon green, built for Chase a couple of years back by his eccentric uncle Chris who has a barn full of custom-made bikes. It has coaster brakes.
For years every time Chase and I discussed this bike, he would rail at the maddening experience of coaster brakes.
I fondly remembered my first bike with the banana seat and flying things off the handle grips; pastel frame and coaster brakes. I figured his response was just him misunderstanding a product developed before his time that he couldn’t quite embrace.
Until tonight, when happily winding through every street in my neighborhood, listening to the bluegrass band playing in the park, and needing to stop or slow frequently, I realized the one real issue with coaster brakes and that is: their utter failure to live up to the Brakes part of their name.
I start to brake, the bike slows, slightly. I end up putting my foot down and drag-hopping my sandal while making sure I neither stub my toe or steer into a tree. The drag hop thing can last as long as the width of a house, including the driveway.
Finally stopped, I sit in a neighbor’s yard, playing ball with his big dog, and listening to the music and pondering the obvious metaphor.
There is no coasting, really. We think we are coasting at various times. Vacations. In-between times. Transitions.
But even when coasting, the effort minimal, the breeze, life-giving, within our minds, the machinery is always working. We process; we prepare or unplan plans; we make imaginary lists and relive things that took questionable judgment to live through the first time. We watch the perimeter prepared to adjust; we focus on what’s ahead of us.
We tend to living things that need a drink.
Coasting on a bike sort of demands a downhill stretch. I don’t know when I started enjoying the coast less because I could always see the climb that was waiting at the bottom.
Still. I have this awesome bike. Chase presented it to me for Mother’s Day after I had outwardly coveted it for years. He brought it over in his white ranger pick-up, boyishly wrapped in a big orange tarp. He had filled the tires with air.
I love my imperfect bike. It takes me farther than I would’ve otherwise gone just walking.
Stopping is not fun, but essential. Reminds me of the first time I tried to snow ski. I got to the bottom of the hill and forgot how to do a show plow and so I just fell down and almost slid to the parking lot! After that little experience, I decided the next time I try to learn to do something new, the first thing I want to know is how to stop!
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