Steve, the Sea, and the New Purple Bike

I’m decompressing. It was a whirlwind of a weekend with lots of Love. Lots of Bikes. Some new Friends. A Dog and a Dog-adjacent being.

The weekend started with me learning a very important lesson about leaving Portland for destinations north on a Friday afternoon. I thought I was beating the traffic by leaving at 2 pm. Traffic turned a 4.5 hour drive into a 6.5 hour drive. My original intent was to try to make it up to Northwestern Washington BMX for a run at their racetrack: USABMX said that they were racing Friday and Saturday. The extra drive meant I missed signups, which turned out to be OK because the track had their opening day on Saturday, not Friday.

God, that’s boring stuff.

Anyway, the point of this trip was to pick up a bike. Well, the point of this trip was also to see my friend Steve, but the actual point was to pick up my first custom bike, made by Greg of Donkelope Bikes. It’s a BMX dirt jumper, a bike I’ve wanted for quite a while now, and one that will expand my “fun zone” and allow me to continue to take small risks all the time, in the anticipation of reaping great (or moderate) glory. Possibly. Eventually.

I expected Greg to build a stellar BMX bike, but I didn’t give him a lot to go on, since (a) I’ve never had this kind of bike before, (b) I don’t know what I want from a dirt jumper, and (c) I know absolutely nothing about bikes whatsoever. All I know is that my race bikes fit me well, so I gave him the geometry of my 20” bike and my height and weight, and threw caution to the wind. Or left it in the hands of the expert. Whatever. I wasn’t concerned.

The bike has exceeded all of my expectations. It fits me beautifully. I took it for its maiden voyage (I think? Maybe Greg sent it off some jumps before me) on its home turf at the waterfront bike park in Bellingham. It felt right for that first ride to be on Bellingham dirt.

The second ride happened today, her first rip around Portland’s east and west bank river paths. I know, I know, it’s paved and there are no jumps and it’s a 4 mile ride, but I wanted to get to know her better, maybe do a few little rolling start sprints, get the feel for slightly shorter cranks and a slightly more upright position. You get to know your bike by riding it. So I rode it. I also wanted to find a spot to get some pictures, but nothing I do can do justice to that bike’s glory. It’s a masterpiece, crafted with care and a genuine love for BMX bikes.

I had all kinds of questions for Greg about his bike building process, but absolutely all of them escaped my head the second I saw the bike. Over the next 24 hours I asked a few of them, but I still wasn’t able to plumb the depths of his talent the way I wanted to. I’m so grateful to him. He’s given me a beautiful bike, but by extension also a means to expand my riding and stretch my limits beyond racing. It used to be me against whoever is in gate 3 and gate 5. Now it’s me against me. Or me with me, progressing, learning, stretching, gaining, growing.

It was a wonderful weekend, with a 30+ mile ride on my Kona with my dear friend Steve, who took me to rushing waterfalls, and to put my feet in the sea and smell my saltwater childhood. Steve is, as ever, the most invaluable sounding board I have, a kindred spirit with a parallel upbringing who always seems to know right and wrong so clearly and cuts me a ton of slack for my insecurities and understands my pain. It’s been a while since I’ve had someone who gets me so completely. While my growth has been stunted over the years, his has flourished in myriad ways, and I’m so lucky to find myself in his orbit, benefiting from his care and wisdom.

Joy can’t be bought, but a bike can. I’m taking this new, beautiful BMX bike to a women’s jump clinic in Whistler, BC weekend after next. I’m going to learn the basics. I’m going to learn the things that I need to know from women who won’t just tell me to “send it”. I mean, they’ll probably tell me that, too, but they’ll ensure I have the tools to try properly.

And someday, someday soon, I’ll be able to be proud of my progress in this uncharted direction and feel new confidence at previously untouched levels. There may be a few scabs along the way, but I can’t wait for more. I am having so much fun. Joy, unlimited.

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