On July 5th, my dad and I rolled back into our driveway, covered in sweat, grime, spit, and sunburn. In three hours, we had covered 40.2 miles of Pittsburgh hills, climbing a total of 3,105 feet. After hobbling into the house, we plopped down in the kitchen, and ate whatever we could get our hands on – cold steak, berry smoothies, broccoli, mashed potatoes, chicken legs – without a care for utensils or plates. My mom walked into the room, surveyed the scene, and only asked “Why”?
It is a valid question, and one that I ask myself every time I hop on my bike for a hard ride. I have the story line written in my head. It starts with waking up at 6:30am and dreading the cold air, thinking I could still be asleep if it weren’t for the ride. Then comes the stiff muscles in the cold, and fighting the first few hills of the day, accompanied by a fair amount of swearing and disgust towards the others on the ride, usually my dad. I spit, and I cry, and sometimes I stop to rest. Over and over, I wonder why I decided to get on my bike that day, why I thought putting myself through hell would be enjoyable.
But then we crest the mountain. Maybe it took two minutes, or maybe fifteen. I gasp for breath, my chest forcing me to suck in air uncontrollably. And then we descend. I tuck down into an aero position, first moving my left hand into the drops, and then my right. Turns approach, and I take them aggressively, pulling my inside knee to my chest, and leaning the bike into the turn as sharply as I dare until the road almost seems too close to my face. All I can hear is the wind whistling past my ears, as my speedometer tells me I’ve reached 25mph. Then 35mph. Then 40mph. And as I peak at a speed of 43mph, I realize that my smile is stretched across my face. There are cows, schools, dogs, and deer on the sides of the roads. I briefly take in the sign for “Coal, Corn, and Catfish!” and another advertising lava lamps and shag carpet. Not long before, I had been in my suburban home, and now I’m whizzing through farmland and past mines. Powering up huge hills tears down the walls I put up, and my real character comes out. I persevere, and then I escape.
This is why I ride.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mariah Murphy, and I’m the new Biking Intern for the Center for Sustainability Education. I am a junior Chemistry and Geoscience major, and this year am a Residential Advisor for McKenney Suites and will be doing research with the Earth Science department. I also enjoy rock climbing, playing my instruments (violin, guitar, banjo, ukulele, and harmonica), and riding horses.
Becoming a cyclist was bound to happen – at the age of 86, my grandpap still rides 75 miles a week, and has taken me riding more times than I could ever count; both my parents were serious mountain bikers when they were younger, and a couple years ago, my dad became a hard-core road cyclist. But becoming a bike mechanic was a different story. One cold, February morning my freshman year, a friend of mine dragged me to the Handlebar for a pancake breakfast… I never left. Now, you have to understand that I knew practically nothing about bike mechanics at the time. In the shop, I was ridiculously shy, and mainly kept to myself for a couple months, until I felt a bit more secure in my skills. Compare that to today, where I’ve build two Green Bikes from the ground up, and refurbished countless others, have been head volunteer for two semesters, and now am running the show. The Handlebar has been a place for me to grow, and I’m still enjoying the ride.
This semester, I have some big plans for the biking community, including another Bike to the Farm Potluck, trips to Recycle Bicycle Harrisburg, bike-themed movies, bike blender appearances, and bike rides to Leo’s for homemade ice cream. I will also be working with the newly approved Cycling Club to form rides for all levels.
If you would like to get involved with the Handlebar, biking, or would like to look into building a bike, stop by the shop, or email email@example.com for more information!
Handlebar hours for the fall semester are Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-7pm.
I can’t wait to meet all of you!