It's nighttime and I'm peddling hard down Van Ness Avenue.
As I come up from the underpass that leads to Fresno's Christmas Tree Lane, I kick my feet off the pedals, lean back some and just drift. The holiday lights are gone and there's no moon, just the darkness and breeze and the occasional mist from a rogue sprinkler. And in this moment, I understand what the folks at I Bike Fresno mean when they say: Biking = joy.
May is National Bike Month and the organization is moving full tilt to get people out and on their bikes. A quick rundown of the month's events includes:
-- The Mall to Mall Ride, 8:15 a.m., May 8. This ride starts at Manchester Center and goes down Blackstone Avenue, through downtown and along the Fulton Mall. A Clovis ride leaves from Sierra Vista Mall at 7 a.m. Perfect for: Those who've never experienced taking up lanes of traffic in a large group ride.
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-- Bike to Work Day and the Bike to Work corporate challenge, May 15. Every company has at least one "bike guy." If you're that guy, start getting the word out to co-workers. If your are not that guy, go find him and introduce yourself.
-- California Classic Weekend, 7 a.m. May 18. Starts at Chukchansi Park and rides down Highway 168. Get that? They are closing off the freeway to cars. Motorists needn't worry; it's only for a couple of hours.
-- Bike to the Park Day with the Fresno Grizzlies, May 19. Ride your bike to the game and receive a $6 game ticket, plus free bike valet (but you should tip).
-- Park to Park Ride, 8 a.m. May 25 at Woodward Park. This is a new event, done in conjunction with the Fresno Bike Party, a do-it-yourself group of bike enthusiasts who host monthly group rides.
Riders are also urged to go to ibikefresno.org and log the miles they ride throughout the month. The goal is to log 1 million collected miles during May. It's a symbolic idea, but it would be pretty stinking impressive -- and go a long way toward proving that Fresno is indeed a bike-friendly town -- to reach that mark.
This year, there are even incentives for riders. Each day a rider logs miles they will be entered into a prize drawing. There's 31 days and 31 prizes.
I'm passing this all along because I bought my first adult bike from a friend at a yard sale for $40. It was a vintage Fugi with one bad wheel, probably too small for me. It also changed my life. I say that with only hints of hyperbole.
In the time I've been riding, as a commuter and for fun, I've seen -- and ridden through -- parts of the city most people would be afraid to drive, and I am OK. I've discovered that you can ride from Fresno to Clovis in an evening -- though it's one heck of a workout if the wind is not blowing your way. I've also found that sometimes it's quicker and easier to hop on my bike than to deal with my car.
When you stop riding, it's easy to forget those things -- the stuff that make bicycling so enjoyable. You forget the simplicity of a bike, how it goes because you do. How, on a bike, you are not trapped behind glass and conditioned air. It's easy to forget the wind on your skin and the sound of rubber on asphalt.
Riding a bike just screams, "This is an experience, take it in!"
So, take it in. Enjoy bike month. And remember biking can, in fact, equal joy.