Bicycles are a personal passion of mine. They opened up a world i never thought possible. People ride bikes for many reasons – some shared, others differing. My reason for riding is what propelled my want to help others find their own reasons to ride.
Wheels Like Wings v2
Or Why I Ride
I was born with a leg length discrepancy. Lord, knows I never thought I’d make a public statement leading with that. My LLD (leg length discrepancy) caused me great pain and embarrassment growing up. I was teased, had specialty shoes stolen, adults laughing when my mom bought me two different sizes of the same shoe. I cried when I couldn’t find shoes because both my sizes weren’t available in the same style. Only certain types of shoes could be purchases so they could have orthopedic enhancements added onto them. I hate shoes. I hated my left leg.
The discrepancy I have is not as severe as others or dramatic. It took until my late 20s to realize most people don’t even notice unless they are told of the difference in my legs or specifically and closely examine my body.
Knee and ankle pain – were all too familiar as a child. Constantly spraining my left ankle and feeling my joints misaligning due to their imperfect shape. Lower back pain comes with this type of deformity as well. With one leg shorter than the other in addition to the difference in feet, it causes the hips to tilt and cause much discomfort. Once, I met an elderly German lady who had the same issue as me. I had never met anyone with an LLD before. She told me her back always hurt. It never went away. She was in her 80s.
By the time I was 15 years old I had, had two surgeries, numerous different physical therapies and orthopedic gear. Knee braces, ankle braces, crutches, shoe inserts. Walking long distances was out of the question. Sports that required quick movements on the knee, also out. It didn’t seem like I could do anything physical or athletic. I was told to swim by my orthopedic surgeon. I still don’t know how to swim.
By 26 years old I was a low-income, single mom. Read, no car and lots of public transportation which also means lots of walking. Poor people walk a lot. I used to think by 30 I’d be in a wheelchair. It hurt so much to walk. I couldn’t walk a mile without extreme pain to my left ankle, or left knee or both and maybe even my right knee. Or all three plus back pain. Which meant if I had to walk a distance or multiple times during a day, I would be limping and miserable before the end. And sometimes this was unavoidable. Some days I had to wear two knee braces and an ankle brace and still knew I’d still end up limping.
The limping and pain caused me to walk very slow. So it took forever to get anywhere and I was in a lot of pain. I didn’t know how I could keep it up. Every trip, every day, had to be planned around where things were and how long I had to do it. Busses and BART was utilized as much as I could but walking always occurred. It could take days to recover from walking too much and sometimes I needed to walk a lot multiple days in a row. I was in constant pain and had limited mobility.
At 27 years old I met a girl who I dated briefly. She rode a bicycle. If I wanted to keep up with her, I needed to ride one too. The last time I rode a bike prior to that was at 13 years old. So I got a bike. A used and probably stolen bike from my downstairs neighbors for $50.
As soon as I began riding I knew I was free. IT WAS AMAZING!!! Everything was better. If it used to take one hour to get somewhere, with the bike it took 15 minutes. Everything was faster and there was NO pain. I could get places in no time without pain or damage. I was ecstatic. Sold. Cyclist for life.
These two wheels felt like being given new legs. Legs that worked and didn’t betray me. They didn’t slow down or hurt or quit or trip or limp. Not only was it easier to get around, but it made me stronger. I never thought I could do a physical sport before and now I did almost everyday.
I began biking for transportation then pushing myself to bike more. Go up hills, go farther, use higher gears. Many years later and of course I still ride. I’m no racer. I don’t tour or polo. I just ride and wrench. A bike is my tool. My bikes are my legs. Bikes created a new me, opened doors I never knew were there. There is still so much more I have to do. There is so much more I want to do with my bikes. Challenge myself more and go on new adventures. At least for now, getting around is so much better, easier and funner than before. Mobility is absolutely taken for granted. I’m fortunate enough to be able to utilize a basic unadapted bicycle. Not every one can. But as someone who has had increasingly worse mobility issues – the bicycle was the best help. Better than braces or surgeries.
So now I bike. With groceries. With pets. With my child. With work supplies. I bike in rain and wind. I bike. It is my legs when my legs can’t. It feels like flying when I thought I’d never get off the ground.
Why do you ride?