Bike Love story number five is written by Maria Rasouli, Founder and Operator of Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals on Sparks St here in Ottawa. Thank you, Maria for sharing your story of Bike Love!
Our childhood memories and experiences mesmerise us, haunt us, and shape our hobbies and even career choices in adulthood. Have you ever wondered which kind of memories you are creating for your children?
I grew up in a small village in the North of Iran, near the beautiful Caspian Sea. Having a bicycle in the post-revolution war time was a luxury many could not afford when even essential items such as eggs, flour and sugar were scarce. Our family was not rich but we did have one Banana bicycle that was shared amongst me and my two other siblings. My dad who was in the navy had bought that bicycle for us on one of his overseas training trips. The pre-revolution monarchy government of Iran had strong ties with the USA and Iranian army personnel were sent abroad to receive military training from the USA Army. That bike was so precious that we kept it inside for a long time. In fact, I learned how to ride that bike inside our home on our Persian carpet! It was like riding a bike on a sandy beach.
Eventually, we brought the bike outside. My greatest joy was riding that bicycle every day after school with my best friend, Eli, balanced on my handlebar. We’d travel through the open fields and into the forest on the edge of the village. We’d often fall in the fields, or on the dirt paths, laughing hysterically at how ridiculous we looked.
Around the age of eleven everything changed. One day, Eli and I fell off the bike in front of a soccer field where a group of young male were practicing. We found it funny and started laughing at ourselves but an older man approached us and told us in a paternal tone:
“My daughters, you are a grown up woman. Getting on a bicycle in a skirt is inappropriate, especially around these young men. Go home and wear proper clothing. The two of you are grown up women and should not be on a bicycle.”
This incident propelled our parents to forbid us from biking as growing women. The next time I got on a bike was on July 25 2002, the first day that I arrived in Canada; straight from the airport to a room I had rented and then hopping on a bike that a friend had left for me. He was 6.2 and I am 5.1; I was riding an XL bike after almost 13 year and all I could feel was a rush of excitement, freedom and joy!
My parents gave me the gift of biking though the society took that joy away for over a decade. On the day I was told to stop bicycling, I could never have imagined that one day I would be free to bicycle again in my beautiful home, Canada. I often think about how different my childhood would have been if I could go biking with my family members freely and whenever wished. I love biking so much that the biking theme even makes it to my cooking! I say “Why walk when you can bike?”
I was thrilled to discover such beautiful pathways, nature and ease of access to everything via bike paths in Ottawa. I started Escape Bicycle Tours to share the joy and freedom of bicycling. One of the greatest joys I get at Escape is seeing happy parents and their kids before and after a tour or bike ride. It is like reliving my childhood through offering the biking experience to these happy young kids. What better gift to give our children than the gift of happiness, joy, wellness and health?
— Maria Rasouli
Read more from our Bike Love Series!