Archives for posts with tag: Bicycles


Winged Helmet
by Isobel Cunningham

I got a bike for Christmas when I was ten years old. After a spectacular head-over- heels crash into a ditch full of stinging nettles I abandoned it. My bike was forgotten in the flurry of our family’s preparation for immigration to Canada. Montreal’s hilly terrain and city traffic made my parents understandably reluctant to get me another bike.   Years passed and in spite of lessons from friends and a sporty ex-husband, it seemed like a lost cause.

Last summer I met a man who heard my profound frustration at my failure. “I don’t know what it would take to get me on a bike again,”I told him.

We went for brunch one Sunday morning. “Hey a bike rental! With tandems! Let’s give it a try.” Was it the effect of two mimosas or his hopeful smile that made me fight down my panic? Joe introduced me to Maria, the young manager of the shop. They exchanged a few words in Spanish and she gave me a helmet.  “This is a magic helmet,” she whispered. “I’ll just adjust the strap.” I was shaking, but I decided to believe in the magic of the helmet. “Hermes’s helmet,” I silently dubbed it. How could I fall with Hermes’s helmet on my head? Joe’s broad back was before me on the tandem. I clutched the handlebars, we pushed down together on the right pedals and off we went!

I was on a bike, gliding along the path beside the Lachine Canal! I relaxed in the otherworldly protection of the shiny black helmet.  A long pleasant ride ended with warm congratulations from Maria and a photo shoot. Almost sixty years since I last rode a bike! There are all kinds of magic, after all.

PHOTO: The author in her Winged Helmet (September 25, 2016 at the Lachine Canal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When people saw the picture of me on a bike they gasped. My inability to ride a bike had always been met with incredulity from strangers and mystified resignation from friends. I could hardly believe it myself when I felt the wind in my face and saw the canal slipping by on that sunny Sunday this past fall. The “Magic Helmet” imbued me with courage, with confidence.  Later, I was delighted when my friend and the playful manager of the bike rental opened up about the kind ruse they had played on me. This is my first opportunity to explain how a long-standing fear was banished….as if by magic!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Isobel Cunningham writes poetry and short fiction. She published a book of poetry in 2015 and is working on a collection of short stories. A volunteer docent at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, she loves the outdoors and is a passionate gardener.

NOTE: STARTING TO RIDE Poetry & Prose Series is a revised version of our LEARNING TO RIDE Poetry & Prose Series. Based on the submissions we have received to date, we’ve decided to revise the guidelines to allow work about both learning to ride a bicycle and teaching someone else to ride a bicycle — and are also allowing material about when the author first started to ride a bike (not necessarily about the learning process per se). Deadline has been extended to April 30. 2015. (If you’ve already submitted, there is no need to re-submit.)

OVERVIEW: Most of us have a story (or stories) about how/when/where/why we learned to ride a bike — or taught someone else how to ride, or have vivid memories about when we first started to ride a bike. We want to hear about your bike-related experiences and invite you to submit your work to our STARTING TO RIDE Poetry and Prose Series. (Non-riders can also participate by explaining why they’ve never learned how to ride a bicycle.)

PROMPT: Tell us about learning to ride a bike, teaching someone else how to ride, or something that happened when you were a novice bicycle rider in a poem (any reasonable length) or prose piece (300 words or fewer). If you’ve never learned to ride, tell us why in poetry or prose.

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or prose. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish the piece on social media and in a potential print edition.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems and prose in the Silver Birch Press STARTING TO RIDE Poetry and Prose Series on our blog starting in May 2016 . We’ll also feature the work on Twitter and Facebook.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email one poem or prose piece to as an MSWord attachment — and in the same file include your name, contact info (including email address), one-paragraph author’s bio (written in third person), and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about your piece. Please put all this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name (and only your last name). Write “Ride” in subject line of email. If available, please send a photo of yourself around the time you learned to ride a bicycle — or a photo of the person you taught to ride, with that person’s permission (if it’s your child, submitting the photo implies permission)  — and provide a caption for the photo (when, where). Photos with bikes encouraged!


To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Smith.doc or Jones.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, mailing address, email address).

3. In the same MS Word document, include an author’s bio, written in the third person (e.g., Bobby Schwinn lives in Ohio…”).

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. In the same MS Word document, include a caption for your photo (including where, when and/or date taken).

6. If available, send a photo of yourself at the age you learned to ride a bicycle — or a photo of the person you taught to ride a bike, with that person’s permission (if it’s your child, submitting the photo implies permission) — as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Jones.jpg). Also send a current photo to accompany your bio.

7. Email to — and put RIDE in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Saturday, April 30, 2016.

PHOTO: Bike rider in training (wheels), photo from 1950s purchased on