This was me at age three. By age 4 or 5 I had out grown my tricycle and moved on to a two-wheeling “big boy bike”….with training wheels. I remember waking up Christmas morning and excitedly running out to the family room to see a sparkling new grey two-wheeler with shiny white rims. Attached were training wheels….it was mere days before those were taken off.
At the time, we lived in Windemere Apartments. Soon after getting comfortable with my new bike, my dad took me around the corner to the huge cement basketball court. Time to take off the training wheels and learn to ride!
Excited but scared of falling, I hesitantly agreed. Dad modified my bike, Transformer-style, from a four to a two-wheeler. The plan was for me to peddle as he pushed from behind. “Don’t let go!” I urged, picking up speed. “OK” he assured me.
As I circled the court and saw dad standing in front of me with a huge smile on his face, I became simultaneously thrilled and worried. I was riding alone! Out of fear, my natural instinct was to freeze. I stopped peddling and tipped over like Humpty Dumpty. Splat! It didn’t take me but one or two more tries before I got the hang of it. I was a natural! Zoom…. Zoom!
The last time I road a bike was in 8th grade. That was over 15 years ago. Since then, my increased oxygen needs have made it impossible to ride a bike while lugging heavy canisters. Would I ever be able to ride a bike again? I clung to the idea of strengthening my lung capacity to the point where I didn’t need oxygen, even for 20 minutes. In the back of my mind I knew I had to accept that being oxygen dependent meant some activities were simply out of bounds for me.
This past summer the most incredible opportunity presented itself! I was relaxing on the beach in San Diego, not a care in the world, when my cell phone ring broke my Yogi-like trance. “Get up to the condo and be ready to go!” my dad urged. He sounded excited. I felt something big in the works!
As my parents and I jumped in the car, they took turns telling me they had found for me the perfect short-distance vehicle! An electric bicycle! An E-bike is basically a regular bycicle (2 or 3 wheels) hooked up to a motor that allows you to go without peddling. We arrived at Surf Monkey Bikes and discussed my oxygen needs with the owner. Ten minutes later, we had sketched out an idea to build two oxygen carrying shafts in back of a electric three-wheeler. I was thrilled at the prospect of experiencing independent travel: to feel like a “regular” person.
About a month later, after the store had received the parts and built the rack to hold the battery and oxygen tanks, my parents drove me to the shop to pick it up. At a high-speed rate of 25 mph, the three wheeler looks and feels like a tricycle and a rocket ship had a baby.
I arrived back at the beach, eager to test out my new wheels. Taking it slow at first, I eventually got my bearings and picked up speed, rocketing down the boardwalk with the wind in my hair. I felt free.
I also felt relief that I could finally join my family and friends on outings. “Hey, we’re riding our bikes to the breakfast joint/park/friends house nearby. We’ll be back soon.”
Hey, now! Let me hop on my E-bike and join the party!
My new E-bike gives me Freedom. Mobility. Fresh Air.
Now I can be one of the gang. Now I can feel “normal.”