I talk about bike riding a lot. Way back here I made an attempt to explain exactly what it means to me to have a summer day and a pair of wheels. Freedom, I said, and nostalgia.
On Monday, K and I biked the same trail we took that day, stopped on the same hill and used the same bikes. It was our first ride out this summer, and it was glorious, but something had definitely changed. We tried to pin it down as we rode through village after village, but it wasn’t until three hours later as we turned back onto her lane that I realised.
It’s the fact that I can drive now, K said, It means this doesn’t feel so much like freedom as hard work.
I prefer grass under my feet, the wind in my hair.
(You look a mess, by the way, she said, I need to put it in a plait.)
Is it that we’re too old for this? We’re like kids, weaving all over the road and screeching when we go down hills.
It’s not that, but it’s something like that. Even now, this still reminds me of the day we left high school and took off in our school shirts and black pumps.
Memories then, she said, It’s bittersweet now. You used to bike part of this route, from the high school to see your ex boyfriend, didn’t you?
In the pouring rain, I smiled, and Liz’s dad had to pick me up when I got a flat tyre one time. But it’s something else…
The weather was perfect and I took a disposable with me, because it was a day for film. Perhaps that speaks volumes; the choice to use low-grade film rather than sophisticated digital is one made solely in order that the shot have a different ambience. It’s completely about nostalgia. Two girls in skirts on bikes, riding through the countryside sounds like the set up of a movie which opens with acoustic guitar and is later hailed as a beautiful coming-of-age tale. That's the image I had in my head when I left my Nikon behind.
Is it that it’s something we’ve always done, K asked as we made our way home again, pedalling side by side as there hadn’t been a car for miles. Is it that, soon, you’ll be at uni and we won’t be able to do it any more?
It’s like that, I said, It’s sort of about us not being able to see each other any more, and not doing this.
No more, K said as we turned into her lane, I’m shattered. Let’s walk.
So we did. The sheep and their new lambs had been turned out in the field opposite, and they watched us.
I think I know, I said.
It’s to do with simple pleasures and to do with freedom. It’s to do with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. It’s to do with high school and to do with growing up. It’s to do with the end of an era and to do with finding new horizons. It’s to do with being utterly alone, and to do with having a friend by your side. It’s about all the things there are still to do, and the things which are done now. That’s what these bike rides are about.