In my family, when you turn double-digits, you get two big presents: a mountain bike and a bedroom set. It kind of worked that way for me and my parents kept the tradition for my sisters. So, on my tenth birthday we all hopped in the van and drove to the same bike shop where my mom and grandfather got their first adult bikes. I still remember the day. This must have been before my purple phase because I came home with a maroon bike that I absolutely loved and a red helmet I tolerated. I'm now twenty-one and that same bike came to college with me.
Nikki hates to walk everywhere from our middle-of-nowhere apartment, so I offered her the use of my bike. Problem: I'm tall; Nikki's not. We tried to find a seat-height that would satisfy both of us but couldn't. Finally we realized the seat moves very easily, a brand new feature back in 1999 when I bought my bike. When Nikki wanted to ride it, she could lower the seat. When I wanted to ride my bike, I could raise it. Very simple; very easy. I told her the code to my combination lock, and we were set.
A few days later, my bike was missing from our second-story porch because Nikki took me up on my offer. Except Nikki was in the living room.
Katie: Where's my bike?
Nikki: OH MY GOSH! Katie, you have the smallest seat in the world!
Katie: I have the smallest butt in the world.
Nikki: It's in my office. I rode it to work and go so fed up with it that I got a car ride back.
This was Friday meaning my bike was locked in there over the weekend. Not really a big deal. Nikki also conveniently wore a dress for the next several days meaning she couldn't ride my bike back.
Nikki: Next time you're up near the caf, swing by my office and pick up your bike because it might stay there all semester if you don't, and we really need the space back.
Katie: Yeah, I'll remember to take my helmet with me to the caf. That's not dorky.
Last fall, I crashed on my bike. My thoughts went something like this, "Road? Sidewalk? Road? Sidewalk? Road. Crap, speed bumps. Just kidding! Sidewalk."
I learned something very important: You can't do "just kidding" on a bike. Indecisiveness leads to skinned knees
Since I've always been very safety conscious and I have a history of bike crashes, I wear a red helmet when I ride my maroon bike. I also ski with a purple helmet and have been known to Wii Bowl in my ski helmet. Yes, everyone laughs at me. I've decided I'd rather be the dork with the helmet than the dork with the broken head.
When I did finally retrieve my bike from Nikki's office, I rode it down the hallway, on the sidewalk, through the grass, across the parking lot, up the hill, through the building, and up the stairs without a helmet. It was terrifying. And liberating.
When I told my mom this story, she laughed all the way through it. When I got to the "So I rescued my bike and rode it home without a helmet" part she said she was proud of me. Huh?!
And now I face a major decision: Helmet or no helmet? That is the question.