Right on cue, spring fever arrived as soon as we hit a string of warm days that let us soak up the sunlight. All those physiological changes that occur with the long, bright days lead some toward a lazy, upbeat feeling. If you are anything like me, you might get a restless sort of energy – the type that finds you sunburned and white-knuckled, careening toward a group of three nuns after having re-learned to ride a bicycle only hours earlier.
While spring fever is hard to quantify, experts acknowledge that we respond to seasonal patterns. We exist in time as well as space, and so it is natural that there are rhythms to life. As sunlight becomes more intense, and the days become longer, we react to these changes by producing less melatonin and more serotonin, in other words we are less sleepy and generally in a better mood.
When we went to the bike shop, I was certainly relishing in one of those moods, loving everything down to the feel of sandals on my feet. My son loves to cycle around the neighborhood, and my husband had decided to join him by getting a bike of his own. The first things that hit me as we walked through the door were the smell of the rubber tires and the gradient of candy colors. Sure, there were the sleek black and silver models, but then there were the oranges, pinks, and blues arranged like sweet confections.
Until we arrived at the shop, my plan had been to find a Vespa blue tricycle with a basket. The boys would race up and down their hills, while I would stock up on French baguettes and pastries, leisurely pedaling home to meet them. If I found some beautiful cut flowers along the way, all the better.
At some point while my husband was test driving a few models, keeping up with the busy traffic, I realized that I didn’t want to lag behind, figuring out how to balance my clunky tricycle as I turned sharp corners. The only thing holding me back from riding a bike again was the fear I’d had for too many years, and which had been prompted by an accident. Everyone cheered me on to try, but I wasn’t quite ready. My husband found his bike, and we went home.
The next day I woke up and swore I could smell those rubber tires. Forget a tricycle with over-bloomed flowers peeking out of a basket; I was ready to ride a bike. Spring fever had kicked into high gear, and it overrode the fear I had for so many years. Back to the shop we went. I tested out a few of the around-town bikes and was told they would be good for anyone who was a little timid. They didn’t feel right. I wasn’t timid anymore.
After a few wobbly test runs, I picked out a model with all the speeds, gears, brakes, and features a cyclist would want. (I was using words like cyclist already.) The nice man at the bike shop told me I would adjust and be able to ride in no time.
When you are overcoming this type of fear, you have to continue moving through it or you tend to backslide. If I didn’t use it immediately, my new ride was in risk of being buried in the back of the garage. I rode it up and down the block, braking often and screaming a few times, but I kept it under control, and it was exhilarating. I wanted more.
Not far from where we live is a 2,700 acre farm, a portion of which has paths for nature exploration and cycling. This would be my ultimate test. Spurred on by my newfound spring energy, to the farm we went. Uphill, downhill, and through mud, I re-learned how to ride, getting comfortable with my gears and learning how to brake safely. At times I was still unsure, but I kept upright, which is the mark of an expert cyclist I tell myself.
The obstacles at the farm were plentiful – a little boy also learning how to ride and making a beeline for my wobbly front tire, families walking four across on a narrow path, and then the ultimate challenge – a group of three nuns who popped into the road right as I was nearing the end of our trip. They had been giggling and otherwise joyfully enjoying the fountains and budding spring-ness that day. We would take circuitous journeys, and each time we circled back to the main path, they were off-roading by foot, enjoying the grassy areas.
As we headed to the main gate where walkers and cyclists leave together, they skipped into the road right next to a father with a stroller. There was no space on the path, and even the grassy areas on both sides were filled with people leaving. I lowered my gear, white-knuckled the handles, and then…careened right through them. The father sped up to meet his wife, and the nun on the left walked over to a patch of daffodils. Like a bowling ball flying past the last three pins, I sped right through the group, braked, and hopped off my bike. What a miss. What a finish.