When we arrived at our place in St. Thomas, Ontario, where my family and I would stay for a part of the summer, one of the first things we did was pull out our bikes. My dad went over to our old house where my uncle and aunt are living, to bring over the few bikes we had stored there as well as two that we were borrowing from my uncle and aunt.
When the bikes arrived in the back of the truck, my brother and I were asked to go and help my dad clean them all up and get them ready for riding. We hadn’t seen most of the bikes at all, and when we did, were we ever surprised. The two bikes from my uncle and aunt were shiny and new, mountain bikes in their prime. They had enough gears to keep you changing all day and looked too good to even ride. My dad’s bike on the other hand, had seen a much different life. Dragged out of someone’s garbage, it was rusty, cheap and far past its prime, if it ever had one! Then there was my bike, or my sister’s; we weren’t quite sure. It looked like a kid’s bike, painted burgundy, used here and there and nothing special in any way. However, the bike that caught my attention was not any of these. Instead, it was my mum’s old ten-speed racing bike from high school. It’s thin frame and tires looked used and enjoyed while its old chrome joints wore the rust of time. ‘Free Spirit’ was painted on the frame in thin white letters.
Looking at the bike and reading those words, it struck me that this bike was a relic of the past. Other bikes had ‘Mountain Tamer,’ ‘Ridge Rider,’ and ‘Trailblazer’ written across them, but it seemed to me, a completely different approach. These new mountain bikes were well oiled machines, made to conquer nature, climb the highest mountain and tear down into valley. But in my mum’s blue racing bike was something else: a free spirit. It echoed a breath of fresh air from the past. It was the kind of bike that seemed to camouflage into whichever weathered fence it leaned against. It seemed at home wherever it was. It didn’t shout out its existence, but faded into a quite place of being without screaming. Its rusted frame asked only to be free, to fly across paths, not bending nature to itself, but simply enjoying it. It held a spirit, not of conquering but of enjoying.
I saw in that bike a desire that I had longed to fulfil. One of being. Not being loud, not being noticed but just being. To me, that bike was freedom; freedom to roam wherever I pleased and to enjoy nature as a part of it. It was there, riding on my mum’s old bike from high school; a bike that had been around long before I was born, that I felt truly free; a ‘Free Spirit.’