Cycling Stories

Though I Never Owned a Bicycle

August 19, 2020

Though I Never Owned a Bicycle

Sundays were the best days of my childhood.  

As a girl, I was never forced to do anything, other than what to wear and where not to go. I have a brother to envy who is a year older than me. My parents never worried about me since I was just a girl whose only job was to study. 

In the 5th grade, I demanded they sign me up for dance class, but they didn’t seem to care much. But my brother got to learn keyboard and karate. During his 7th grade year, he used to go to a chess class every weekend, which was quite far, so he rode his bicycle.  

One Sunday, I was even more bored than usual. So, I rented a bicycle and sneaked away from my mother and out of the house. It was crazy and frightening—the roads were in bad shape, and the thought of being kidnapped was overwhelming. Still, I rode to my brother’s class. 

I stared at building walls for some time, rode back to shop where I rented the bike and walked home. I felt like I acted against the laws of my house, but it was worth it. I still keep this a secret today, and I don’t intend to tell my family anytime soon.

I soon started walking to school to save my bus fare and use it to rent bicycles during the weekend. The shop’s owner was a strict man in his 40s, but after my regular visits, he gradually became a friend. 

Some Sundays, I used to race my neighborhood friends with my rented bicycles. I almost crashed into a cab, was chased by stray dogs, caused a guy to fall into a pit, and scolded by strangers. My childhood began to be amazing. Those are still some of my most cherished, exciting memories. 

Eventually, the bicycle shop moved to another location. I was upset, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a genie to grant me a new bicycle–or at least make the shop stay near my home. 

When I was eight, my brother got his first bicycle. He was very excited, and so was I. Back then, I didn’t know how to ride, and my brother refused to help me learn because he couldn’t stand to scratch his new possession.  

Instead, I learned to ride on my rented bicycles. At first, I would beg my cousin Ruby, who’s three years older, to teach me. But she became easily irritated whenever I shook my hips or hands during the learning process. 

Seeing her face turn red was terrifying to the younger me. Now, the memory makes me smile.  

Some days, when I couldn’t convince anyone to help, I attempted to teach myself. I fell many times. Once, I injured my right hand and wasn’t able to write clearly for days. Another time, I rode straight into thorn bushes.  

However, after I learned to ride, my brother started offering his precious bicycle to me. For my first time, I rode it to the store. On my way back, a stranger, who looked like a college guy, stopped me and asked me for my license. I got scared, had no clue how to react, and decided to play along and tell him that I left it at home. The smile he gave me in return still creeps me out to this day. 

Every now and then, I would borrow Ruby’s cycle for tuition. It was rusted, the bell was jammed, and it made weird sounds while I rode.  So, I repaired it and used it mostly during the mornings, when the weather was perfect for cycling.  

Since the road was almost always empty, I would ride with no hands. I would take the long route, even though it made my legs hurt at night. But the worst feeling occurred when I had to return the bicycle. 

I tried to save money and buy myself a bicycle, but there were other priorities. Now, if I see someone I know with a bike, I will enjoy a ride.  

Going through my memory file, I realize there were tears, fights, arguments, and, most importantly, an intense desire for a bicycle. Cycling will always be my favorite activity, although I haven’t owned one yet. 

Maithreyi Ravichandran is a biotechnologist by day and a writer by night who lives with her family in Tamil Nadu, India.
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