19 July 2014

The Bike That Meant Everything

Having your bike stolen is never a happy experience.  Even if it's an old rust-holder or is ridden only occasionally, losing your bike means losing a part of yourself, however small.

The reason, I believe,is that any bike we own holds some part of our experience.  Of course, if it's a bike you ride every day, whether to work or for pleasure, it's a companion.  If you took a once-in-a-lifetime tour, or raced, on it, it was an extension of you.  And, even if your relationship with your steed isn't so intimate, you have a memory of acquiring it.

If the bike was previously ridden by someone dear to you, of course that makes it all the more precious.  Just ask Mikaela Rogers.

Three decades earlier, a teenaged Mike Rogers got tired of riding pieced-together hand-me-downs and saved the wages of his minimum-wage job for a black Bianchi Sport SS.  He rode it to school, on a tour and the bike paths that were later built in Minneapolis, near his home turf.  But one day he noticed that riding left him even more fatigued and in pain than usual.  He thought he was just out of shape and that he could pedal his way back to health.  If only...

He died three years ago from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gherig's disease.

After he could no longer mount the Bianchi, Mikaela--who was, by that time, almost the same age Mike was when he bought it--rode to and from school and around town much as he did three decades earlier, even though the frame was much too big for her.  She simply wouldn't dream of riding anything else.

So, of course, one of her most heartbreaking experiences--short of losing her father--was going to the family's shed and not seeing the bike hanging from its usual perch.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.  Someone found the bike abandoned on a street corner, placed an ad in Craigslist and reunited the Bianchi--and the memories of the man who bought it so many years earlier--with a young woman.

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