I used to ride everywhere. Because why drive when you can ride, especially in California where the weather is always perfect and lane splitting is legal? When I would lanesplit through traffic jams and zip around cars on the freeway I would look in windows at drivers staring mindlessly ahead and think “poor suckers”.
Then I had a baby. Now, that’s me in the car.
I started riding a few months before my 30th birthday. I was living in San Francisco without a car, bicycling to work and play, and secretly tiring of never being able to leave the city. My co-worker had recently taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Basic Rider Course and gotten his motorcycle license. I couldn’t afford a car, but a motorcycle held the promise of a motorized vehicle with easy parking and cheap insurance. With zero prior moto experience or knowledge, I successfully completed the course, got my license that weekend, bought my first bike on Craigslist a few weeks after that, and was on my way into a whole new world.
Since that MSF class I have logged more than 50,000 miles on two wheels. I’ve done hundreds of weekend rides, long trips, track days, a little dirt riding, and completed the Saddlesore 1000 to earn entry to the Iron Butt club. It was through riding that I met my boyfriend of three years, and one child. Wait, what? You have a kid and you still ride? Yes, yes I do, when I can. My boyfriend and I take turns riding and watching our six month old daughter.
I rode while I was pregnant. In utero, my daughter did three track days, many local rides, and attended a three day rally in Hawthorne, Nevada. Riding made me feel normal when everything else in my life was changing. It kept me from feeling trapped by the impending life changes that come with new parenthood. I said I would ride until I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike, or didn’t fit into my gear anymore, whichever came first. But at six months in I could still fit into my Aerostitch and comfortably ride my Street Triple, I felt like I finally needed to call it quits for the duration (note: I was small during pregnancy because my daughter was *tiny*. Like, less than five pounds at birth).
How could I take that chance, riding while pregnant? Decisions like these are not intellectual, they are made from the gut. Right next to my internal speedometer that tells me this is fast enough for this situation I found the part of me that said “if you stop riding for this child, you will give up a huge piece of yourself, and you will resent her for it.” No child deserves to be resented before they are born, and every child deserves a mother who is whole and happy.
And so I rode through my second trimester and then stopped for a while. Attending track days on foot and missing rides with your buddies is not fun, but it was temporary (or so I hoped) so it was ok. When my little girl was about one month old, I started riding again. The first time back on a bike felt physically weird – a little off balance, a little sluggish – but mentally wonderful – the best break from the demands of taking care of a newborn that you could possibly ask for. I rode slowly, savoring the feeling of the wind around my body and the smells of the trees as I rode by. It was wonderful, and it filled me up like nothing else can.
Now, my partner and I take turns riding and watching our baby. Adding a new person to your life means you need to rebalance your priorities, and reassess the cost-benefit of everything you do. For some riders, the birth of a child means a hiatus from riding. For me, it meant that riding would play a different but still important role in my life – it is my escape, a reminder of who I am besides a milk dispenser and diaper changer.
So now, I sit in traffic like everyone else, with my daughter strapped into her car seat behind me, hopefully sleeping. I try to make plenty of room in the split for bikes, and when a rider whips by me I look after them wistfully. And then I look back at my little girl and think that this short season of her life will pass, and I’ll be back on the road soon enough. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to have a new little riding buddy, too.