“How long have you been riding?” You’ve been asked that question countless times. My memory and date math skills are underwhelming at best, so scraping together a sarcastic “too long” is usually my response. Thinking back, I do remember the first time I pedaled towards a jump and actually got my wheels off the ground.
As a little kid, I’d regularly go for weekend rides along the bike path that follows the Hudson River with my grandparents. Me on my department store 20″ bike and my grandparents on their tandem bike. The trips that my grandmother stayed home for, my grandfather would still venture out solo on the tandem bike. No worries.
Along the path there was a two foot tall concrete wedge, dropped in the center of a field, apparently intended as some kind of sculpture. On one of the first rides along the bike path, I noticed this concrete object and thought I could probably ride my bike off of it. I’d never done anything like that before, but I was curious.
Armed with some encouragement from my grandfather, I pedaled into the grass and took aim at this ramp that was half as tall as I was. Later I’d learn that checking the run up would have been wise, as I hit the rough lip at the bottom and was sent off the end of the concrete, barely on my pedals. Given my age, landing crotch-first on my top tube wasn’t as bad as it would prove to be as I grew older. I immediately looped back around and gave it another go. Every trip after that, I couldn’t wait until we got to the jump so I could give it a couple good runs.
I couldn’t tell you how old I was at the time, no idea of the year, but I sure as shit know how stoked I was to hit a jump on my bike. Thinking back, I always wished that I had a photo of me hitting that jump on my little 20″ bike.
A few weeks ago, Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast and caused substantial flooding in some parts of the Northeast. My parents’ house fell into the crosshairs of a swelling creek that had no regards for its long-standing banks. Water consumed the basement and took out everything that wasn’t within a few feet of the ceiling. Spending the day afterwards in waist deep water, we saved what we could. It was just stuff, after all. Everyone was safe. I pulled several boxes of photographs out of the water and handed them up to my Mom, fairly certain they were a lost cause.
After a few water-logged hours, I came upstairs to take a break and my Mom handed me a photo she’d pulled out of one of the soaked boxes. It was a photo of me jumping off that concrete wedge on one of our first bike trips.
I flipped the photo over, written in ballpoint pen was “Albany Bike Path, September 1991”.
Twenty years ago this month I hit my first jump on a bicycle. If you asked me then what I thought I’d be doing in 20 years, I’m sure the naiveté of childhood would take over and I’d tell you, “hopefully I’ll be jumping my bike off of stuff.” Yeah right, kid.