Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

First Bike Ride

My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

I quickly hit a snag: a bolt was stuck. Right about then the kids woke up from their nap and my wife brought them outside. She loaded them into the stroller for a long walk around the block, assuming that I’d be nearly done by the time she got back. The pressure was on, so I went straight for the big gun: a breaker bar and a four foot length of iron pipe.

I promptly snapped that bolt right the fuck off.

I stood there for a minute in disbelief while I wondered what to do next. I couldn’t drive the car in that condition and the neighbors weren’t home; so I dug the old mountain bike out of the dark corner of the basement, hosed several years worth of dust off of it, put air in the tires, and rode to the Do-It-Best in Bellevue to buy a replacement. I stuffed the chain and Master Lock from our back gate into my pocket so I could lock up when I got there. Do-It-Best didn’t have what I needed, so I set off down the hill to the Advance Auto Parts on 65. The ride down was exhilarating!

I bought what I needed and started the trek home. I seriously thought I might die on the climb back up to Brighton Heights (and almost barfed near the top), but I made it without stopping and the feeling was incredible! I was instantly hooked again.

I rode into work (13th and Penn in the Strip) the following Monday. I think I biked in twice that week. I kept at it, riding in as often as my out-of-shape legs would allow. I loved every minute of it…I’d finally found a commute I could enjoy, and in the same amount of time as the bus but on my own schedule. I even bought a cheap beater for 80 EUR in the Netherlands on a business trip and did the 24 km ride from the hotel to our office in Zeist a couple of times, and used it to explore all over Utrecht.

The front derailleur on the old mountain bike finally gave it up last fall, and I decided that bicycling was something I was going to keep doing, so I pulled the trigger on a shiny new ‘cross bike from Pro Bikes in Shadyside in October. I gave up the car commute for good on 2 Dec and haven’t looked back.

Two weeks ago I took the little people out for their first rides on Daddy’s bike. They loved it!

I took my son for a nice long ride downtown on (he won the coin toss) and back to Brighton Heights. As we got close to home I asked him if we should go home or keep riding, and he yelled, “KEEP RIDING!” We went another five miles and only turned around to make it home in time for dinner. Isaac screamed, “No home!” the whole way through Bellevue.

My daughter knows it’s her turn this weekend and runs around the house yelling, “Melanie rides!” every day. She’s requested to see a train on her ride…fortunately I know just the place on California Avenue from my winter commutes.

I’m just short of 1,000 miles since mid-October and should hit it by the middle of next month. I’m down 30 pounds from last June, and in the best shape of my life. A few weeks ago I dug my wife’s old (and for years unused) mountain bike out of the basement, hosed years worth of dust off of it, and completely overhauled it. I’ve got a line on another toddler seat and rack on Craigslist, and we’re taking our first practice ride together this weekend. I’m hoping to leave the car behind for most of our family outings this summer, and I keep fantasizing about selling our cars and pocketing the cash. The old mountain bike sits in pieces in my basement, awaiting its conversion into a single-speed for trips around the neighborhood and into Bellevue.

The best part about all of this? I snapped off that bolt because I was turning it the wrong f’in direction. If I’d just taken thirty seconds to stop and think before reaching for the big gun…

Matt recently re-discovered the joys of bicycling, and has spent the last several months learning the ropes of Pittsburgh bicycle commuting.


8 thoughts on “Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

  1. Awesome story! I also have 2-yr old twins and know exactly that feeling of trying to get a job done during nap time – very rarely worked for me either. I ride them both on my bike now with a cargo bike, so we don’t have to flip a coin. They love the bike to, as do I. Keep riding!

    1. Elise, I’m looking for similar stories, particularly from women, so if you’d like to write one, please send it to moregardenslesscars[at]! Here’s the call for stories. I’d love to hear it!

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