‘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 20’³ 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 20’³ 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.