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Why I Ride #4: Love and Marriage
(A real-life bicycle love story from Rachael Kefalos-Bronson, executive director of the Palmetto Cycling Coalition in South Carolina.)
Bike shops have always intimidated me. The neighborhood shop in my hometown also doubled as a skateboard business, which was staffed with nothing short of attractive, tanned young men with sculpted calves and big egos. As a meek and mild Southern teenager, visits to this shop in my youth took a lot of confidence and purpose.
But my story today is not about the hurdles that women like me face when it comes to bicycling, or how the bike industry is too male-dominated—it’s about how those super intimidating bike shop dudes might be your future husband.
My story is about bike love.
Exactly seven years ago, I mustered up the courage to visit Outspokin’ Bicycles in Columbia, South Carolina, where I had recently relocated to finish school. I was shopping for a new bike, and upon entering the shop, I was immediately greeted by a room full of those good-looking young men who seem to be pervasive at shops around the country. A hunk of a guy named Michael was the salesman on the floor that day, and he helped me pick out the perfect commuter bike for my trips around town. I didn’t make the purchase that day, though, because I had to return several more times (with girlfriends in tow) to ‘evaluate’ whether the bike was worth the investment. I was in my early twenties, and was not going to jump into this (the bike purchase or male pursuit) without doing my homework.
I eventually bought the bike that Michael recommended, and also managed to give him my phone number. Shortly thereafter, we started dating, and fast-forward six years, Michael and I got married. Our wedding day was nearly a year ago from the moment that I write this.
Bicycles have always been a part of our daily lives. Michael now works for Hawley LLC, a bicycle-parts distributor based in South Carolina, and I run our statewide bicycle advocacy organization, Palmetto Cycling Coalition. So, it was fitting that we incorporated bicycles into our wedding.
Unlike many women my age, however, I dreaded the wedding planning process. Having been to many weddings of friends and family, wedding planning seemed overrated, dull and pretty inconvenient. As I begrudgingly started to do my research, I was delighted to learn how bicycles were often used in other weddings these days. This inspired me to get my act together and allowed me to learn to enjoy every detail of planning our special day.
Our wedding was very simple and low-key, much like we are. Since bicycles brought Michael and me together, and are such a meaningful part of our daily lives, we wanted to incorporate them into our wedding day. We decided to make our entrance into our wedding reception—as just-married husband and wife—with me on the handlebars of Michael’s fat-tire bike, the Surly Pugsley. It was an entrance fitting of our personalities and humor: with my dress and petticoat gathered tightly around my legs, I took the very uncomfortable seat of Michael’s handlebars, he pedaled down the farm road, and I honked the obtrusive bike horn announcing our arrival.
We also incorporated the bicycle in other small ways throughout our wedding day. Michael’s mother, who creates ceramics art, made us a bicycle cake topper out of clay, with two sweet lovebirds on the handlebars. It was through these kinds of details that we were able to weave elements of our lives and ourselves, and make this day very special to us both.
My advice to those single women who also step into a bike shop with feelings of intimidation: remember, you might one day be walking out of the shop with much more than a bicycle. And my advice to those brides and grooms who are procrastinating their wedding planning: as long as you maintain the spirit and love that brought you together, you might find it to be much more fun and lovely than you ever imagined.
May is National Bike Month and this year's theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we'll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collections of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.