krikketgirl: (Stairway)
For several years now, Chris and I have participated in the annual Indy Nite Ride. Thousands of bicyclists come together to ride a roughly 20-mile course through the city streets of Indianapolis in the middle of the night. At 11 p.m. exactly, the national anthem plays, and then waves of bicycles set out from the Major Taylor Velodrome.

It's a pretty neat experience. One rides at one's own pace on almost silent pavements, accompanied by the swishing of bike tires, interrupted by "On your left!" or "On your right!" or the trill of a bike bell. A few riders bring music to share, so that one is suddenly surprised by a driving beat somewhere in the vicinity.

The city looks different by night, its clusters of people more visible for their rarity on the dimmed walks and in the lighted intersections. Clumps of people gather in front of their homes to cheer on the riders; others, their trips interrupted by closed-off intersections, honk and either cheer or grumble to the policement who protect the passage of the Nite Riders. The symphony lets out, and men in tuxedoes and women in shining jewelry watch the passage of a mass of people in bike helmets and sports shoes.

I saw one couple coming home, dressed up and speaking closely; I saw another couple, in their formal best, having a disagreement on the corner. The man put his hand to his head and then stretched out his arms in disbelief, as if to say, "Well, what do you want me to do?" The woman's face was lost to me, turned towards him and away from the street.

There were those whose bikes are used for basic transportation instead of fun; they wheeled them along the sidewalk, watching with perhaps bemusement. I saw limousines and beat-up old cars, rode past a hospital, a library, a seminary, a college, apartments and luxurious houses. Perched on a heavy coaster bike, only 6 gears to my name (and really only five, because one of them isn't working right), I breathed in the smells of urban night. The cityscape that during the day passes by my car window rapidly was traveled at ten miles per hour Saturday night, every inch hard won by muscles that are not used to two hours of strain. Others may ride for the riding. I ride for the experience.

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krikketgirl

June 2015

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