“I don’t know about this,” I said to my husband as we stood in the aisle of Target looking up at the perfect, sky blue beach cruiser hanging above us on the rack. With a curved body and shiny silver handlebars, she was a beauty. I pictured myself riding her down our quiet, suburban street in the springtime, wearing a skirt, a fresh baguette artfully peeking out of the basket that I would obviously add on as an accessory.
“Try it out,” said Luke, easily lifting the bike down and steadying it for me. Reluctantly, I straddled the bike and with the front wheel pointing toward the grocery section, prayed I would not go careening into the display of Mission tortillas and taco sauces that were visible on the horizon.
I was always a bit shaky when it came to riding a bike. I had learned as a kid, but by the time Luke and I met in graduate school, it had been years since I’d been on one. Back then, Luke rode his bike everywhere around our bucolic university town, his helmet a permanent fixture next to his notebook in our writing classes. We were both in our 20’s and had just started dating when he decided to re-teach me how to ride. One afternoon, we headed to a garage sale out in Appalachia and purchased a used boys mountain bike. Standing together in the parking lot of a local restaurant, Luke ran alongside me, encouraging me to keep steady and pedal until finally, he let go and I was riding.
From that day on we rode our bikes everywhere together — to classes, the health food store and up to Stroud’s Run where we took different trails, not knowing where they would lead to as our relationship began to blossom and grow.
Now, ten years of marriage, two kids, a mortgage and twenty years together as a couple later, my husband watched as I carefully navigated my way past the housewares section, picking up speed as I passed ladies lingerie and hung a U-turn back to the toy department.
“I’ll take it!” I exclaimed, exhilarated with the notion that yes, I could still ride a bike, and that maybe this would be fun.
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Initially I thought I needed a bike so I could keep up with my seven-year-old twins who were now riding. What I didn’t expect was that getting back on the bike would actually help reinvigorate my long-term marriage.
After a few weeks of biking to and from school for pick-up, I was getting more comfortable on my new ride, Joanie (as in, loves Chachi). I loved the feeling of the wind rushing over me and other moms marveled at my ability to make it up the step hill near the elementary school (all those squats were actually paying off!). Then one Friday afternoon, Luke and I decided to steal away for a day-date. The plan was to go to lunch in town. We were about to get into the car when I had a brainwave.
“Let’s ride our bikes!”
Luke considered my idea and moments later we were strapping on our helmets. Luke slung his heavy wire lock across his body and suddenly the sight of him like that brought me back in time to those early days when we were just getting to know each other. Hopping on and pedaling, I followed his lead down the side streets and out onto a busy thoroughfare, heading toward the restaurant. I had to admit, it felt dangerous and exhilarating, riding alongside cars and trucks on a busy street, following my husband as he confidently led the way. Okay, so we weren’t jumping out of an airplane or stalking wild animals on a safari, but it was still exciting enough to get my juices flowing!
Doing something out-of-the-ordinary invites the novelty factor that stimulates your brain, specifically, the release of dopamine, a chemical that triggers lust and desire.
Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, a professor teaching human sexuality, tells me that the feelings I was experiencing make total sense from a scientific standpoint.
“Doing something out-of-the-ordinary invites the novelty factor that stimulates your brain, specifically, the release of dopamine, a chemical that triggers lust and desire,” says Fulbright. “This reaction can have you feeling infatuated with your partner.”
This was definitely the case as we stopped for lunch at a small café and basked in the sunlight as we talked and ate. After lunch, we decided to bike on further, heading out to the grounds of a nearby university with a beautiful lake and hiking trails.
With another jaunt down a busy road, I felt myself getting those new, butterfly feelings that usually come at the beginning of a relationship. Dr. Fulbright explains there’s a reason for that.
“Doing a more physical activity activates a greater response with the release of endorphins,” she says. “Endorphins are responsible for the pleasurable sensations we experience when we become aroused to the point that we experience an altered state of consciousness. Obviously, with these sorts of reactions, lovers can find themselves coming back for more feel-good sensations and special moments.”
As it turns out, bikes are good for more than just keeping up with your kids and transporting French breads. For me, it was a way to reconnect with the romance of days past and also get excited about our future together as a couple. And as anyone in a long-term marriage with kids knows, that’s not exactly an easy thing to do!
Now I’m looking forward to more bike rides and unexpected adventures together. And even though we may already know almost everything about each other, it’s wonderful to feel like there are still new things to discover.