“Those I’ve Loved” at Word Riot

Word Riot published a short piece of my creative nonfiction in their January 2016 issue. Thanks for checking it out!

Edit: Word Riot‘s site is down. I’m not sure if it’s coming back or not, which makes me sad–not only for the sake of my own work, but for all the good stuff they’ve published over the years, and all they might have published.

I’m posting here my essay as they published it, according to my notes.

Those I’ve Loved

It all started with a little red Schwinn with 16-inch wheels. I don’t remember riding it, but there are pictures. As a teen living in a sordid shotgun house with two other bike messengers, I sold it to the man next door for $20.

Next was a boy’s black Schwinn with 24-inch wheels. I liked black better than pink.

I reclaimed Mom’s dusty maroon Nishiki road bike from the garage when I got my first job, teaching special education. Rode it to work, learned to love battling traffic on it. That’s how I met the bike messengers.

The first bike I ever bought myself was a yellow Haro mountain bike from that pawn shop on Washington Avenue that used to be so good for bikes. I broke the front shock, rode it that way for years. Eventually sold it to a bartender.

The first bike I ever bought myself new was a blue and white Redline Conquest Pro. Messengered on it, raced it, equipped it with fancy race wheels, nearly died on it when hit by a late-model white Ford F-150. Hung it on the wall for years, had it repaired and rode it some more.

I bought my first sponsored gear through my first race team, in college. I never could have otherwise afforded an Orbea road bike, Euskaltel-orange with carbon stays.

Next a red Cannondale CAAD-4, second-hand. Rode, raced, wrecked on a training ride at 29 mph. Life-Flighted. Brain injured. Will I learn to read again?

Then the Colnago, sky blue. Raced for several years on several velodromes, flew to California for the national championships (no results). My aluminum soulmate, annex to my body. It belonged to the team, so I gave it back when I switched allegiances. My fiancé tracked it down and surprised me with it as a wedding present. The team manager was happy to return it to me: he understood. I cried.

Vintage, jewel-red Univega mixte, restored by a former messenger who moved out of state. I put a basket on it for my dog. We rode together that way to my wedding.


When I got my first professional job after grad school, I celebrated with a Cannondale CAAD-10 road bike, white, and another Redline Conquest Pro, black and red and white.

Cannondale’s orange Caffeine hardtail started my mountain biking career. Quickly thereafter, a Specialized Epic, through a shop where I worked for just four months. Then a blue Redline singlespeed, to get me through mud races at Rocky Hill Ranch.

Discovering 29-inch wheels: a titanium Salsa El Mariachi, custom-built with all the high-end parts. Then a Salsa Spearfish, cheaper, less exhilarating. A bright green rattle-canned singlespeed with decals that read “Ferrigno,” a little household joke. Another mud race: crashed the Ferrigno, and impaled my upper inner thigh on a tree branch. Rode back in with crotchless shorts.

There have been others. A green Schwinn road bike from the first bike shop that employed me. Another Redline, stripped for its parts. A dark red Tsunami track frame, donated to a pair of young twins. Salsa’s Casseroll, factory-recalled. A short-lived Trek T-1. The Surly Long-Haul Trucker, meant for touring, but that year I had knee surgery instead. An AMF Nimble with front basket, for the smaller dog this time. More titanium: a Salsa Warbird, for gravel racing. (A good excuse to travel, seeking gravel in an increasingly paved world.) A black Surly Karate Monkey with racks, fenders, and basket, for the city.


Now, upon moving from the far South to the far North, a new bike for a new life I don’t yet love. The Santa Cruz 5010 is an epiphany, with 27.5-inch wheels, 5 inches of rear travel, a slack head tube and virtual pivot points. Beautiful orange-and-lime-green paint job, clean lines, dropper seatpost. This should fix everything.

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