During the month of June in Portland, adorable biking enthusiasts take part in themed bike rides throughout the city for what is called Pedalpalooza. Most of the rides involve a stereo of some kind blasting jams to accompany the bikers, many of whom delight in an adult beverage here and there along the way. Of course, this year’s Naked Bike Ride set a new record for participants with over 8,000 scantily clad/au naturel bicyclists taking over Portland’s streets on a Saturday night.
In June, I become ecstatic with love of the bike, most especially when I am biking with other lovers of this two-wheeled marvel. If you ever have the chance in Portland to pedal along with Pedalpaloozians, you should jump on it. With this crowd of Portlanders, I’ve had some of the purest funtimes of my four year tenure in the Rose City.
And there is safety in numbers when you bike in a pack, which is a meaningful consideration if you are a woman biker. How many women during the Naked Bike Ride have unfortunately received creepy comments from male observers? (And no, a woman who reveals her skin is not asking for feedback.) How many male voices have called out to me from passing cars, “whore,” “slut,” “bitch,” or other poorly articulated calls? Come on now, gents, be civil. (Ha. Such unenlightened males will not be likely to read this post.)
But the act of biking is always beautiful and this June, I remember June 2011, when a Crossroads came into my life and together we stretched out across the city.
Out of the house, I’d pull my bike into the night. Once the door was locked behind me, I savored my slyness and lingered to fasten my helmet and adjust my tights and short skirt. All systems are fully operational. Let’s go, bikey. Across the street, I biked past revelers at Breakside Brewery and thought of them with little respect (why aren’t they biking?) as I swung up Durham to slip away to Chase. I biked to meet him at a prearranged location where we’d drive to dinner or to a concert or the bluffs.
He was not accustomed to dating athletic women and he liked that I biked (doing so at least as well as him was the most he would admit). Once his bike was operational, we’d bike together, and that was best of all. We biked to St. John’s for the first time together and went up on the bridge. He was in love with the view and the town. He had given me a bell for my bike because he worried that my light voice was not loud enough to let people know when I was passing them (again, I will emphasize that passing people is something I do often) and he attached it to my handlebars.
Once, Chase and I biked through North Portland in a rainstorm that turned to hail and then to freezing rain, down the river to Sellwood where we, of all things, were joining my brother and his wife in their backyard for a winter barbeque. My brother lent me some wool socks and I dried off my pants with a blow dryer, donning a ski jacket of his that fell to my knees. We drank beer and stuffed ourselves for hours until the time came for the bike ride home on frozen streets. The terrifying bike ride was a delicious, icy dessert. Every time we turned a corner, the wheels skidded. We couldn’t quickly take the steep hill on Northeast 15th and yet our slowed pace made balancing on our way up the incline even more difficult. But we glided on and on without mishap to sleep in our warm bed. I would dream of snow caves.
As I write this tonight in North Portland, the sky is pinkening from its stitching over the backyard fence. Has a hydrogen bomb detonated? Has the planet bled its contents into the atmosphere? I was biking today, of course. When I turned the corner onto my street this afternoon, a rooster crowed behind someone’s fence. Fences and neighbors are conversations I wish to hear more of; I glide past the fragments of other couples’ arguments and am glad I have little access to them.
When you’re on a bike, you feel too much, but, like water, it slips from your shoulders the minute you put both feet back on land. I bike to feel weightless. I appreciate these moments of freedom because they are rare for this body.
Drivers, be kind. Bikers, be lovers. Keep the asphalt happy and shift to bikes.