I remember learning to ride my brother's red, hand-me-down two-wheeler by coasting and kicking, setting my feet on the pedals over and over until the balance was just right. Then, and only then, I started to soar and glide for months in the outdoor garage area of our apartment building in Queens.
In suburban contrast, I encouraged my young bike-riding son to try out a potential purchase around the back aisles of the local Wal-Mart to make sure he felt comfortable before I imposed on my neighbor and her mini-van to get the bicycle home. And due to my work in the city, I only know of the Saturday afternoon legends, in which my daughter, one of the first on the block to ride without training wheels, took hairpin turns at every opportunity.
Fast forward to this pandemic, which has increased the purchase and use of bicycles and the need for servicing of them. But it's not just the repair. It's the riders.
There are few bike shops locally and the one in Merrick has walk-in repair so we plan our day around their 9 a.m. Saturday start. Warned that the place gets really busy, we arrive thirty minutes early and there are seven people before us — a classic hurry up and wait. But this is not an impatient group — if anything it is camaraderie in motion — mom with kid's bike, dad with adult son's racer, us with the beloved Wal-Mart special with a popped inner tube.
A few days later, given the roads and street potholes, same pop. Only the Merrick shop is closed for ten days so we drive to a Wantagh bike dealer, finding its back parking lot filled with people, beloved bikes and two lines for pickups and repairs at 5:45 p.m. The people are diverse, wearing different uniforms in their weekday roles: t-shirts and shorts, dress shirts and ties, helmets and yoga pants. They come in cars, pick-up trucks and by foot. Everyone talks shop, looking at their phones, comparing derailleurs and kickstands.
Our reward for patience on this line is a fresh inner tube and six-feet of social distance at the cashier. And from the moment we are there until the moment we leave, there is a palpable enthusiasm and gratitude. This is a group who loves the road and any opportunity to soar again.
A contributing writer to the Herald since 2012, Lauren Lev is an East Meadow resident and a direct marketing/advertising executive who teaches marketing fundamentals as well as advertising and marketing communications courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology and SUNY Old Westbury.