“How long have you been riding?” I often say, “Too long.” That avoids the date math and serves to temper expectations a bit. Thinking back, I do remember the first time I pedaled towards a jump and my wheels left the ground.
As a little kid, I’d 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. When my grandmother stayed home, my grandfather rode the tandem bike solo. No worries.
Along the path there was a two foot tall concrete wedge, dropped in the center of a field. A sculpture of some kind? On one of the first rides along the bike path, I noticed this concrete object and my mind began to race. Could I ride my bike up and off of it? I’d never done anything like that before, but I was curious.
Armed with some encouragement from my grandfather, I pedaled down the path and into the grass. I 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 edge at the bottom and my feet bobbled. I launched off the end of the concrete, my feet no longer on the 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 looped back around and gave it another go. This time my feet stayed on the pedals. 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 remember how amazing it felt 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 flooded many areas in its path. My parents’ house was too close to 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 only stuff, after all. Everyone was safe. I pulled several boxes of photographs out of the water and handed them up to my Mom. They were a lost cause, I thought.
After a few water-logged hours, I came upstairs to take a break. 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’d be doing in 20 years, I’d tell you, “I’ll be jumping my bike off of stuff.” Yeah right, kid.