I was reminded last weekend of one of the things I love most about bikes.
Uncle Jason had just installed a new bell on the youngest nephew's bike and a new helmet on the youngest nephew. Before I even had a chance to put down the screwdriver (for the bell installation, not the helmet), the kid was out of the driveway and down the street like a shot, test riding the new equipment.
Next thing I know, here comes the older nephew behind me, unable to resist the lure of a bike ride. So I've got a four-year-old disappearing into the distance, a six-year-old headed off in another direction, and the foot speed of a garden slug with a sprained gastropod. Remember, I have one sibling, no kids of my own, and these two little boys are the only ones she's going to make. The entire future of my family is making a break for it, and nobody's covering the deep zone in my defensive scheme. In short, I'm screwed.
So what's a bike nerd to do? I saddled up on my sister's bike (which is way too small for me, but there was no time to be picky), grabbed someone's helmet off a shelf (because even in a panic, I felt the need to be an example for the boys) and took off in hot pursuit. And as soon as I got wheels under me, my panic was replaced by calm. I was in my element. I could catch either one of the boys at will, check in on him, then circle back to the other one effortlessly. I could hold back, keeping them both in my sights, secure in the knowledge that if I needed to, I could get to either one with just a few pedal strokes. On foot, I didn't stand a chance against these tiny speed demons. On a bike, I felt like a bird keeping watch over chicks that hadn't quite learned to fly yet.
It's easy to forget that feeling of flying. After all, I'm not exactly the fastest guy on wheels either. But that brief reminder of just how clumsy and slow I am without those wheels was enough to convince me. The bicycle is a pretty amazing thing.