My CAAD4 Bicycle
So, there is the story of the Tweety Bird-yellow Cannondale CAAD4 that came into, out of and back into my life in serendipitous ways. I raced on that bike as a CAT IV and then III on the Green Mountain Bicycle Cycling team from 1997 - 2002. I named that bike Lemon Drop. Yellow, yes, but I thought I could reverse jinx myself and my racing career if I had “drop” in its name, a measure of karmic control so I wouldn’t “get dropped” from the peloton in any race, and the bike would perform perfectly, never showing signs that it was a “lemon.” That didn’t work though. Karmic control is an oxymoron afterall.
IN. As part of our sponsorship package, our whole team sported CAAD4s. I loved racing that bike in criteriums, with its aluminum frame stiffness, carbon fork and yellow-spoked Spinergy wheels zipping me around the course corners. I rode that bike for a total of eleven years. Beyond my race years, that bike got me up and over many of Vermont’s finest gaps and notches.
One day I walked into the Skirack in Burlington, Vermont for a tune-up. One of the mechanics, who knew me well as a regular bike shop junkie, said, “Jess, it’s time for a new bike.” I pouted. “I know.” I walked out with a Cervelo S2. I posted an ad for the CAAD4 on Craigslist.
OUT. A guy named Abe bought the bike for $750. Throughout the years following, I had visions and dreams of riding that bike again. It was part of my soul and, although I don’t have regrets in life, I feel giving up Lemon Drop had left a sour taste in my soul. How could I have dropped it from my life? It turns out I was the lemon, not the bike! It had taken me places geographically, but also philosophically and spiritually. I had colossal epiphanies about life decisions on that bike. I broke up with boyfriends and hopped on that bike in the immediate aftermath, the bike and the ride recalibrating and centering my physiology and amplifying resilience. “At least I have my bike. We’re always here for each other - cycle synchronicity. Who needs boys when I’ve got a bike!” A Boy Drop and a Lemon Drop - both were chosen wisely!
Who’s the true steed?
I choose the velocipede
Me in the breeze upon bike, nothing to impede
I ride with ease goddesslike, ‘tis all that I need
I even had a dream once about riding that bike along an oak tree-canopied road where I came upon a village of people standing petrified on the right side of the road while a pack of teeth-barring, jaw-drooling wolves aggressively stood on the left side of the road. The people and the wolves were facing each other as I rode up the center yellow line. It was silent all but the hum of my wheel hubs. In slow motion, I extended my left hand out toward the wolf pack and the ferocity of their turquoise blue eyes surrendered. I could feel the hot breath of the leader of the pack on my hand and could hear its puff of breath as it sniffed my fingers and then bowed its head. In this moment, I awoke. I had been asleep on my back with my left arm dangling over the side of the bed. In that transitional moment from sleep to wakefulness, when the conscience aligns with the senses, I could feel the wolf’s hot breath on my hand. I was awake, but I could feel it. I didn’t open my eyes. The moment bore down on me. I wouldn’t say it was fear, but more disbelief that I was awake and conscious within the senses of my dreams. A glitch in the fabric of space and time? Or perhaps it was the magic of that bicycle uniting two worlds as one. A messenger of peace.
Funny. That bike was my peace for all of those years. My go-to. My steadfast steed. I remember having missed it, and wondering why I’d ever sold it. The Universe does listen, in case you’ve ever doubted that. You just don’t know when the Universe is going to listen or exactly what and how it’s going to present what it does. The timing is a mystery, but the energy is certain. And certain it was for me when I received an email from Abe five years after I’d sold the bike to him.
In addition to multiple cyclists who had been recently killed in our community at that time, a friend and community cyclist icon Richard was riding his bike one afternoon, and Joseph, a student of mine at Champlain Valley Union High school, was speeding in his car. As Joseph veered around the corner, he struck Richard on his bike, and both were killed in the accident. It devastated me. It devastated the community. The following poem emerged from my sorrow, and I read it to the crowd of bikers who showed up for the memorial ride.
"For Joseph and Richard."
There’s a colossal realm in one’s heart
Where a dart can piercingly puncture right at that juncture
Where the inquisition shakes hands with the answer in twisted discomfort:
What kind of sick synchronicity is the universe staging
When a teenager I know and a cyclist I know embrace in a tragic dance of fate?
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I bow in namaste for you both.
The poem was printed in the local paper and Abe saw it. He reached out.
IN. Abe and I exchanged multiple emails, catching up on life, chatting about the local trails like Saxon Hill and Kingdom Trails, and events such as the VT50, the Brewster River Ride and Del’s Ride (which we later rode together - thank you, Ben and Katrina!) and I wrote, “Hey, if you ever move on to another bike, I'd like to buy it back from you. BUT, if I were you, I'd keep her for eternity.” Per our mutual idea, I found Abe a Cannondale that was compatible with the CAAD4 and two weeks later, the CAAD4 returned home to me, and I wrote Abe a check for $250.
That bike today is sitting in my brother’s basement with a flat tire and a brand new blue Brooks saddle on it that’s as stiff as the frame. It didn’t make the cut when I moved to Colorado. At the time I felt it needed to stay in Vermont where Richard and Joseph lay to rest. Did you catch my wording? “I felt it needed to stay …” I never thought to ask that bike what it wanted. In three weeks I travel to Vermont and I intend to have a heart to heart conversation with it. A personification pedaler and her CAAD4. “Dearest Lemon Drop, where would you like to be?”
UPDATE: I did talk to Lemon Drop and she’d like to stay in Vermont. AND, I rode her for the first time in twelve years. A 24 year old bike and a 50 year old velo-lover. I rode with my friend Deb, and Lemon Drop was no lemon, let me tell you. And all that got dropped were memories Deb and I shared as we cruised our favorite roads.
And circling back to Abe, we rode Del’s Ride together for a couple of years. We’d pop over the burly roots and rocks in Sleepy Hollow, Hinesburg Town Forest and Carse and chat as if all the world’s wind was in our lungs. Amidst the huff-puff-pedaling, we’d philosophize about life, our reflections whisking our ride’s endorphins. Good good times, my friend. More to come!
“Dear Bicycle, you are a living entity. You are my chatty chariot. You speak through squeaks, silences and soul rhythms. I am listening. And I’m rolling with you! Where to go today?”
As a trued bicyclist, the full circle of truth forms in the lines of connection we have with our tribe of bicycles and people. The Lemon Drop and Abe have taught me about loyalty, that when we hold true to what’s important in our lives, those things remain with us. They may leave for a while, but they’ll find their way back - the eternal paved road with some offshoot cattle paths and dirt roads that lollygag and eventually loop around.
What connections and loyalties are true in your life? What has left and looped back around? How do you celebrate them?
Thanks for reading, and for considering a clicked heart, comment, Pledge and Tip if you so choose. See more of my writing and info about me here: Jessica Amber Barnum
About the Creator
Jessica Amber Barnum
I’m a coach-tutor-writer-artist-bicyclist-Pactimo Ambassador. I'm LOVING Vocal Media's scribe tribe vibe!
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Thank you, Jess, for another wonderful, evocative, and touching story—-and poetry, too!