This is the story of my first Ypsilanti bike ride, and why it won't be my last.
I bought a bike in a whirlwind of self-actualization ("All the cool kids ride their bikes…I can be cool.").
It was a glorious thing, a shiny blue street bike with ten speeds; in my one-car family, it was going to be my ticket to independence. I bought it for $150 from a sweet neighbor who built them out of his back garage. He helped me adjust the seat, showed me how the gears worked—every conceivable and generous help short of lighting a candle and pledging my soul to the patron saint of bikes.
I was ready.
I walked the bike back around the corner to my house, took a deep breath, and mounted my steed. My foot connected with the pedal for the first glorious push, and OhNoOhNoOhNo, I'mMovingAndIt'sReallyFastButIfISlowDownI'llFallOver, IsThatACarComingOhNoOhMercyOhSweetJamAndCrackersThisIsHowI'mGoingToDie—
Never again has my beautiful bike seen the warm light of day.
Maybe you haven't ridden a bike since your newspaper route when you were ten.
Maybe you're worried that cycling is for other people—people who like how they look in bike shorts.
Maybe you moved houses and forgot your bike in the old entryway for almost six months and had to call the new tenants and ask if your special, $150, ten-speed blue road bike that you bought from your neighbor and only took out once in an unholy blitzkrieg of terror was even still there.
It's worth wrestling with the errant straps, and clips that don't seem to attach anywhere: find a way to get that bike rack onto your car, and Ypsi will find a way to show you and your bike a good time. There are many Ypsilanti groups and organizations working to make Ypsi the best bike city it can be, and no matter what your excuse, the cycling community in Ypsi can get us all rolling again.
Excuse: Sorry, I can't. My bike is broken.
Well, it's either broken, or I don't really understand how to use it. Either way, the Ypsi BikeCo-Op has your back. This volunteer-driven collective of cycling enthusiasts sets up a Repair Booth nearly weekly at the Ypsilanti Farmer's Market, and is happy to help you get your bike set up to support your needs, or repaired if needed. You'll learn about your bike, gain confidence, and likely make new friends.
Excuse: I would do it if someone went with me.
Another bum excuse, because BikeYpsi, a local group of cycling enthusiasts, hosts open group rides, every Friday morning, all 52 weeks of the year! Some riders meet up to commute to work in Ann Arbor or elsewhere, and some meet just for fun. Just arrive at Beezy's cafe at 8 a.m. (or, better, at 7 a.m. and slam a Chorizo Scramble first), and watch in wonder as other cyclists begin to materialize around you, ready to accompany you on your way. It's likely that your courage will begin to materialize simultaneously. BikeYpsi also hosts an annual fall ride (Oct 14, this year), Spring ride (2nd Sunday in May), and other "odds and ends" rides, like the Heavy Metal Ride, Cider and Doughnut Ride, MetroPark Rides, Ride of Silence, Bike to Work Day/Week, etc. You can even email them with your own suggestions for rides if none of these ideas tickle your particular fancy.
Excuse: I'd do it if there were tacos involved.
I've got good news for you.
Hang on until the second Saturday of September (or thereabouts), and join in on BikeYpsi's annual Taco Tour. Ypsi residency is not required, but advanced registration is. As you can imagine, the Taco Tour is quite popular, and almost always sells out.
Excuse: I don't know where to ride.
Ypsilanti boasts a beautiful piece of Washtenaw county's Border to Border (B2B) Trail. The Friendsof the Border to Border Trail publishes up-to-date maps to guide cyclists and others along the trail, including color-coded priority indicators, showing which routes are the safest. The Ypsilanti portion of the B2B takes you alongside the glittering waters of Ford Lake and the Huron River, and near the grounds of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
Excuse: I am differently-abled.
Ok, that may be valid. But, believe it or not, Ypsi still has cycling options for you! Just ask PEAC (Program to Educate All Cyclists), the Ypsi-based nonprofit working specifically to get individuals with disabilities onto bikes. PEAC promotes ridership for everyone, working with individuals and addressing their unique barriers to self-transportation. PEAC believes that cycling boosts self-esteem, and that the social aspect of cycling is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. PEAC hosts their annual Celebration of Cycling event this fall, on September 8.
I bought a special, $150, ten-speed blue road bike from my neighbor, but my only ride on it was an unholy blitzkrieg of terror.
Ok, back to me. If I've learned one thing about cycling in Ypsilanti, it's that I'm not alone. I don't have to be scared because there are so many people and groups looking out for me. I haven't even mentioned yet the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition (advocacy, education, community support), and the Bicycle Alliance of Washtenaw (advocacy, helmet fittings). The Ypsilanti community is not just passionate about their own riding, but passionate about making the city a leader in bike accessibility so that everyone can enjoy a ride. The efforts of these advocacy groups have increased Ypsilanti's bike safety, and made biking a more practical transportation option for the community. I'm not alone, and I don't have to be scared.
Will you dust off the old bike this summer? Bring your wheels Ypsi-side, and you can be sure: no matter what your excuse (or mine), our incredible community can get you pushing pedals like a pro.
Photo courtesy of Bike Ypsi.