"Are you all right?" the tall, tanned, muscular stranger asked, as he dismounted his bike and pushed it toward me.
I sat on a tree-shaded bench along the bike trail rubbing my grass-stained knee, while my bike—my younger brother's bike, actually—lay in a heap beside me in the grass.
"I saw you take the fall," the stranger said. He stopped in front of me, his startling blue eyes full of concern. "I was about fifty yards behind you. Are you hurt?" When he removed his helmet, he revealed a head of short, curly black hair, his square-jawed face clearly in view. Oh my!
"Embarrassed, mostly," I said, eyes lowered. "A rabbit darted out of the woods. I hit the breaks, I swerved, and suddenly I was lying in the grass.”
"Glad you were wearing a helmet,” the stranger said. “ I know a bit about bikes.” He told me I was riding a skinny-tired road bike, often used for racing. Casual bike riders sometimes find a bike like that uncomfortable and unstable. All of which I already knew.
I smiled at the stranger. “Unstable for sure,” I said.
“The seat on that bike,” he added; “is sway too high for you, the handle bars too low. And though I’m glad you’re wearing a helmet, you need one that fits better.”
"The bike and the helmet belong to my brother." I explained he was off to college. I was visiting my folks. They lived only a block from the beginning of this trail. I spotted the bike and helmet in the garage and decided to enjoy this gloriously bright, sunny day with a bike ride—I couldn't resist. "But I hadn't ridden a my own bike much lately, and now I'm sitting on a bench rubbing my knee, my brother’s bike in a heap."
"Look," the stranger said, and flashed a wide smile. "I've got an idea. I'm testing this new hybrid." He inched the bike closer to me. "A padded seat and upright handlebars provide a comfortable riding position and—"
"How do you know so much about bikes?"
"I sell them," he said, beaming. "I own Bike Right, best bike shop in the state."
"Ah!" I said, and grinned. "I thought you sounded like a salesman."
"Sorry about that." He shrugged, a slight blush creeping across his sculptured cheekbones.
He said, "Bikes have been my life since I was a kid. But here's what I was thinking." He explained he could lower the seat and handle bars on the hybrid he was riding—no tools necessary. He'd ride my brother's bike, and we could continue riding along the trail together—if my knee felt okay—or go back to the parking lot at the beginning of the trail, maybe five miles back. My decision.
"Um, I don't know if I trust the knee for a long-distance ride," I said. Besides that, I wasn't sure I should take a ride with a total stranger, no matter how totally handsome. "Let's cycle back to the parking lot," I suggested.
We rode side-by-side, slowly, chatting, while other bikers and a few runners whizzed by us. When he told me his name was Jeff Bradley, I nearly fell off his bike. I'd been a cross-county runner in high school and college, and I remembered reading in the sports pages about a kid at my high school who'd been a junior national cycling champion several years in a row and had even tried out for the Olympics. We'd never been in any classes together, though.
"You're Jeff Bradley?" I asked. "Graduate of Clear Creek High School, fifteen years ago?"
"I am!" Big, big smile.
"I'm Sally McBride. I graduated the same year."
"Are you kidding me? Cross country star, right? Four high school state championships. I read about you in the paper all the time. A college star too."
"Until I tore a muscle in my left calf—it's never been the same. Now I don't run at all."
By the time we'd reached the parking lot and stopped at his car, we knew each of us was single, not dating, and he knew I was the lead teller at the Clear Creek State Bank.
"Look," he said, all sheepish. "I can set you up with the perfect bike, helmet, everything but..." His voice trailed off.
"I'd love to go riding with you—you know, just to make sure everything's okay. I mean, if you're interested in a bike."
My head tilted. "Do you ride with every lady you sell a bike to?"
"No. Never before," he said. "Ever. Honest."
My heart thumped again.
Oh my! Oh my!
A smile stretching wide across my face, I said, "I'm interested," and realized maybe this could the most enjoyable ride of my life.