My Heart Wore a Monkey Print Helmet
Before our first daughter’s first birthday, my husband and I were thrilled to find a gently used Burley trailer on Craigslist. I attached an obnoxious neon orange flag to it and stored it in the garage. I eagerly anticipated spring, when the weather would be warm enough, and our daughter would be big enough, to finally take her for a ride in it.
I’d been an avid cyclist for nearly a decade when I became pregnant for the first time. I stopped riding during my second trimester, but I looked forward to getting back on my bike, imagining towing my baby along in a trailer someday.
By the time I became a mother, I thought I had put my fear of road biking behind me. The summer I bought my little maroon Specialized Allez, I could not bring myself to ride alone, for fear of traffic. So, I rode with my neighbor, a friend’s boyfriend, or the very creepy friend of a friend. I went on group rides and pedaled until my lungs burned, and my legs cried for mercy, to avoid being spit off the back of the pack, left lost and hungry on a country road.
Eventually, I felt safe riding alone. Over the ten years since I started my love affair with biking, I’ve pedaled across entire states and over mountain passes. I’ve ridden on days so hot, sweat stung my eyeballs, and on days so cold, my water bottles froze solid. I’ve taken my prized possession apart and packed it into a sturdy gray airline approved box half a dozen times, praying every single time that it would meet me at baggage claim. I exhaled every time it did and cried the one time it didn’t.
When it came to biking, I thought I’d tackled all my fears. But when the time came to take my baby for her first ride, I was terrified.
Because attached to the bike I bought all those years ago was a Burley trailer with my beating heart sitting inside. What if I took a corner too fast? What if we hit a pothole? What if a car ran a red light?
The first time I mustered the courage to take my daughter for a spin, I spent nearly an hour preparing for the voyage. I had to connect the Burley to the bike, adjust the straps of her miniature monkey print helmet, pump tires, and secure the flag to the Burley, while intermittently removing sticks from her mouth and sprinting to keep her from crawling into the street. The process took much longer than I’d anticipated. By the time we were ready to go, naptime hovered close, and I still hadn’t fed her lunch. We had time to go around the block twice.
The next day brought clear skies and sunshine. Library Story Hour was at 10:15, four miles away. At 8:05 I messaged my husband, “I want to bike to the Main Branch with the baby, but I’m scared.” He sent me a link to a Google Map with a route that would keep us exclusively on bike paths and encouraged me to go for it. I was tempted to drive, but the blue sky beckoned.
I got everything ready for our ride, pretending I was not afraid. I attached the Burley to my bike. I pumped up my tires. I put on my helmet. I got my daughter to stay still long enough for me to fasten hers. I strapped her into her seat and snapped the trailer’s cover down. I walked my bike to the end of the driveway and straddled it, pausing.
“Are you ready to go?” It was more a question to myself than it was to my thirteen-month-old daughter. I took a deep breath and began to pedal. I wasn’t sure if I was ready. I was only sure that I had to begin.
Pam Moore is an award-winning freelance writer, intuitive eating coach, and host of the Real Fit podcast. Get her free guide to improving your body image at pam-moore.com.