My beloved Bianchi
She is the trademark pastel Bianchi green, with her label faded a little now, but not too much...of course she is a bicycle.
I remember so vividly the day we met. It was in a bicycle shop down by Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. It was 1973. I don't remember why I wandered in, I don't think I was really shopping for a bike...but there she was, on sale, price drastically reduced. I've never understood why. She was the cutting edge racing bike of her day, 23 pounds total, exquisitely well made. Bike shop owner temporarily insane? I've never understood that part.
The mistake was getting up and riding her. Sew-up tires, lightweight frame, certainly the most responsive bike I've ever been on, before or since. It was one of those moments in your life when you know. What is the right thing and then you do it. I had no money to speak of, but I pushed it and bought her anyway.
It was love. Love has no price.
I started law school that year. We lived almost in Daly City, and I rode her every day to Hastings Law School downtown, 6 miles or so, down Mission Boulevard, fighting for space with the Muni buses. Bike helmets hadn't been invented yet. I named her Law Review. (Being chosen for the Law Review was the mark of high academic achievement, and probable professional success. Still is.) I was so young then, and so earnest. I had two little children ages 6 and 4, and I was so determined to do well, to defy the sexism that was still way out in the open then in the law (and elsewhere), to succeed, to make it.
So we bumped along for three years on the rutted and broken pavement, with 25 pounds of law books strapped to the luggage rack, more weight than she weighs herself, weaving around to avoid the traffic, going flat-ass across a curb and bending a delicate wheel...on weekends sometimes we'd do long distance rides, like the one with two male classmates from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, and I got stoned on the last long grade down... I did make Law Review. The real one. I did get the fat job. I did succeed.
All this of course is very long ago.
Because I'm suddenly riding horses now, I'm remembering my first love too. So I took Law Review into the high-end bike shop today, to be refurbished, oiled, conditioned.
She was breathing gently, without effort, as we walked in. She is old, but she has not aged. I too was relaxed, comfortable in our long relationship, holding her gently by her taped and lowered horns. Two young bike mechanics not anything like as old as she is took one look at her and jumped up off their seats, running, competing to meet her, their eyes lit up. She knows, and they know.
I said, "Adjusting and oiling...check that the spare tires hold air. I'm open to suggestions about upgraded gearing and other equipment...price no object, really. The only non-negotiable elements are the sew-up tires and the leather saddle." The young men nodding, nodding, they can't take their eyes off her.
And don't change her heart. But no one can touch that.