Friday, July 6, 2012

To bike is to live

St. Louis is a very bike friendly city. Roads are littered (probably not the best choice of verbs, but whatever) with proud signs saying "Bike St. Louis" with a little dude (or dudette) on a bike. There are numerous bike trails around the area. Significantly, there are at least three bike shops within a 3 mile radius. Although the bikes they sell are very expensive (the cheapest are around $300), just the fact they have $4000 bikes shows how serious biking is.

That's all splendid for me because I am a huge fan of bikes. Have been ever since I learned how to ride and earned my "badge of honor" in form of a nasty scar on the knee. I rode it to school for many years growing up in India, and even at UCLA lorded around the campus at odd hours. When my Diamondback got stolen the very next day I bought it, I felt like I was having an acute case of MI.

So when I moved to St. Louis last year my first order of priority was not to get a bed and mattress but to get a functioning bicycle. I had to leave my bike behind and was anxious to get my hands (or legs, I guess) on one as soon as possible. Weeks of diligent scouting on craiglist paid off. In early October, I trotted (ok, more like was driven over) over to this dude's place. He had a garage full of bikes. Most were rusty and resembled something taken straight off "Junkyard Wars" but a couple seemed fit for the mean streets of St. Louis. The bright red Outpost GT caught my eye and I took it out for a ride. Without any exaggeration, it was one of the happiest moments of my first year in med school. Over the next months, my friends probably grew tired of me saying that this was the second best decision I made (the first was deciding to live alone).

The advantage of having a bike is you are both a vehicle and a pedestrian at the same time. Shitload of cars blocking the right turn lane? Hop over on the sidewalk and roll right along the peds. Too many people crowding the walkway and thus impeding your swag? Swerve right onto the road and zip right past them. Chortling with mad glee is optional. Nothing is too far for me anymore. Botanical Gardens? Pssh, a mere 15 minute bike ride away. Lab? 7 minutes, sharp. Cold Stone creamery? 12 minutes, bros. The best part about having this bike is having an equally crazy partner in crime. One of my closest friends, Saran, also has bike-o-philia to the extreme. Every now and then we randomly set off into the distant horizon to stretch the limits of our imagination. Like that one time we biked 2.5 miles east towards downtown at 1:30 am. Or that one time we biked all the way to downtown St. Louis and back in 45 minutes. Forest Park purportedly closes at 10 pm. HAHAHAHA, not for us it doesn't. Several of our friends now have bikes and serious thoughts of forming a badass biker gang are underway. One of them bought TWO bikes, one for only $25!

When I get out of lab around 6:30 and trudge towards the bike racks, the weight of a failed experiment bearing down on me, I want nothing more than to hop onto my Outpost and ride it home. The moment I pedal away and feel the cold/warm breeze caress my stubble, my frustrations disappear. To bike is to live.

1 comment:

  1. Hehe, great article. I think all urban bicycle commuters sort of "speak the same language" and feel similarly about cycling. I've been commuting to work and around town for the past 5 years almost every day and it has given me the same freedoms it has you. Congrats on finding the freedom of cycling!