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Experiencing Bike Love in Austin

Somehow I have convinced my friend Michael to take up cycling. Not only did I coerce him onto the road bike for “health reasons,” but I’ve gotten the adrenaline junkie inside of him jonesing for the trails.

My first weekend away from the children was to visit Michael in Austin, Texas where I found myself in awe of the city’s biking infrastructure. There are bike lanes everywhere. A greenbelt surrounds the city like a human-paced train, where people travel to work and home via running shoes and bicycles. It’s 7.9 miles along 809 acres.  At one point you can either stop to swim in the gargantuan clear springs, or keep riding into even more miles of trails in a pretty technical area of arroyos, rockbeds, and twisted trees that snatch you from your bike. There are some smooth trails, but mostly it’s more fun than that.

They also have the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, which is a six-mile bike route into town. Although, get this, the locals complain that there’s too much traffic. I mean, I live in a place where things are thrown at people riding bikes. Having part of the road publicly acknowledged to be mine for the riding seems dream-like.

Oh, and peppered throughout the city are pump tracks—BMX tracks—taken care of by city parks and rec. Just 20 minutes west is another area of boundless desert fun at a park called Walnut Creek. The trails there are super fast and beautifully sculpted.

We rode four days in a row, and I don’t think he’s stopped riding since. He’s told me here and there of rides he’s taken over the last year, but he understated it all in the way that an alligator stalks its prey, floating under water with just its eyes exposed.

“Oh, be sure to tell me what’s coming up on this trail,” he warned me. “Remember that you’ve got a novice following you.”

Novice. That’s the word he used.

I told him of ridiculous moments when water may be crossing the trail over a few rocks. I waited for him after going through it to offer pointers when he nearly mowed me down, pumping past me in the big ring.

I went over a three-foot in diameter log and watched over my shoulder as he hesitantly approached. I took a different tactic. “It’s totally ridable, just lean backwards.”  So he did, which is when I saw the glint in his eye. I saw the way his face twitched away the desire to laugh.

I spent the rest of the ride fantasizing about where I could take him next. Our Sunday ride was mapped by the time we reached the parking lot.

It’s very fun watching somebody fall in love with a bike. There were moments, in the beginning especially, when I hated my bike and could care less if I’d have left it in the woods, flinging my shoes and helmet after it. I think it was after those moments, like a beaten wife, that I loved it the most.

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