One of the reasons I chose to go to Southwestern University was the bikes.
It’s something they’re known for- they call them the Pirate bikes.
All over Southwestern’s beautiful, Hogwarts-y campus are bright yellow cruiser bikes. If you find one, you just get on it and ride to your next class or dorm. When I saw this on my college tour, as a person who has always loved the suggestion, “Let’s ride bikes” (no destination, no reason- just riding), I forgot all about my acceptance letter to St. Edward’s. I was going to be a Pirate. And although I never had a lot of school spirit (I didn’t go to any sports games- I’m not even sure what sports SU plays), I loved my college and the yellow bikes that would dot the campus a few days after the semester began each fall and spring.
One of the secrets was that many of the bikes would end up near the on-campus apartments that juniors and seniors lived in. The greedy older kids tended to hoard them, sometimes tucking them under the stairs to their apartments for easy access later. There were rarely bikes around the freshman dorms, with so many kids coming and going all the time.
Sometimes the bikes didn’t hold up too well. We received campus-wide emails every single semester warning us not to jump the bikes off curbs or ride too wildly, or the bikes would be taken away. In my last semester, I saw half a dozen of them all chained up behind the Campus Police station, in for repairs.
But man, the feeling of finding a good one…
I was running late for Spanish class one time, which was located in this weird building down a hill. As I left my dorm, I saw a Pirate Bike on its kickstand, just waiting for me on the sidewalk. Someone had ridden it as far as they needed, and now it was my turn. I hopped on and started riding. It was perfect- no janky chain or wobbly handlebars, just an incredibly smooth ride. I rode towards the Joe Mundy building and pedaled backwards to slow down as I went downhill. The second I got off the bike, another student got on without a word, pedaling hard to get back up the hill. I was a little sad the perfect bike wouldn’t be there for me when I was out, but that was how Pirate Bikes worked.
I always wondered why they don’t do this at every college. It was one of the most magic parts of my college experience. On weekends, we would just ride bikes around the looping campus green, enjoying Georgetown, Texas’s idyllic fall weather.
I have my own bike now, one I love; one that can go really fast and has hand brakes. But sometimes I still want to ride a wobbly yellow bike with SOUTHWESTERN on the side in black letters, feeling my Pirate Pride.