Romantic partners just aren’t bikes, are they? My eighteen year old hybrid still runs like a dream. I just pump up his tires at the beginning of the season, and once or twice during, take him in once in a while for some oil, an occasional readjustment of the seat. He’s got some dents and dings, but he still runs just as well – maybe even better – than he did eighteen years ago. He’s reliable. He’s still active in his older age. I can always find him in the same spot I left him the last time I rode him. Now I’m not going to say that coasting down a huge hill at top speed with the wind in your hair and your arms held high is better than sex, but it’s a pretty good high nonetheless.
Eighteen years after that hybrid bike purchase, my most recent boyfriend offered to buy me a new bicycle. It had been two years since I last rode a bike, the longest I have ever gone without biking. I had been too pregnant in my last trimester, then busy with the newborn and my divorce.
“Your hybrid is too heavy and too slow for bike races and long distance riding,” my boyfriend tells me. It’s not news to me. I had suffered through three bike races in a row, lagging behind everyone. But I was attached to the old guy. We had been through so much together. I knew his weight – and my balance on him – perfectly. I had replaced his chain with my bare hands more times than I could count. But I knew my boyfriend was right – it was time for a change.
So he bought me a bike for Mother’s Day. My boyfriend didn’t ask for a bike exchange, and he didn’t mind that he was giving me a gift that was more expensive than any I could afford to give him. This boyfriend did ride with me more than once, too. He kept a similar pace to me, and I knew there would be future bike rides. I felt proud of myself for finding someone, finally, who could, and would, ride with me.
But in the end, I did break up with him. Maybe I resented him a bit for pressuring me to buy a new bike. I had been with my old bicycle for eighteen years; I had been with my ex-husband for twelve years. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or maybe what did the relationship in was mounting a bike for the first time in two years. Cresting a huge hill, I put my hands up and had that glorious feeling again of absolute pure euphoria coasting down, and I turned to the man next to me and realized that he had failed in seven months to make me feel anything even close to that.
Melissa Rosato is a family physician, writer, bicyclist, Philadelphia enthusiast, and mother, in no particular order and hopefully with some flair. She has published creative non-fiction essays about doctoring and breaking up in Intima and Barnstorm, and her flash fiction Cruising can be found in Schuylkill Valley Journal.