My May-Forever Romance
How I put the brakes on my bike-riding fears
Bicycles, like relationships, can disappoint you. They can break your heart. And over time, my bad bicycle relationships contributed to my aversion to them.
For example, the bike I had been riding since I was 12 was really not suited to me: It was cumbersome, it had no gears, and you had to pedal backward to stop. Let’s just say, we had grown apart and no longer had anything in common. That bike was a bad match for me.
I would tell people who asked why I didn’t ride to work, “I don’t do bikes.”
But one day, I switched gears (pardon the pun). Was I going to let these negative experiences prevent me from saving the planet one ride at a time? That question, paired with parking costs and a less-than-reliable car, made me realize that now is as good a time as any to immerse myself in the world of bikes.
I began researching bikes, bike accessories, bike safety, and bike maintenance. I wanted to make sure I knew as much as I could in order to make a smart purchase and ride safely without looking like a complete rookie. Loaded with that information, I still wasn’t afraid to admit that I knew nothing about being on two wheels when I walked into a local bike shop. So, there I found myself test riding an Electra Loft 7D down the sidewalk, screaming and tentatively pedaling at the same time while the bike shop salesperson shouted, “You’re doing just fine! You won’t fall!” I rolled to a stop and even with all the shouting, the cautious pedaling, and the timid braking, I knew this was the bike for me. I heard when you fall in love, you just know.
To prevent her from slipping through my fingers and me from getting hurt, I purchased a lock and a helmet. Safety first! Too afraid to actually ride my precious bike on the street, I ever so gently shoved her into the back of my Mini Cooper and drove home. The next few days consisted of me timidly riding around town—first to meet my uncle for dinner just about three-quarters of a mile away, then to the pet supply store two miles away, then eventually to the gym and office four miles away. Other than quietly begging cars not to hit me on my initial trips, the rides were fast and smooth. She’s a great commuter bike!
I used this “dating” period to find out how to carry all my belongings. I love baking and bringing my baked goods in to work, but still haven’t figured out how to carry a cake on a bike. But, converting from car to bike was a challenge I was grateful to face. After trying out a wooden crate, two backpacks, and four sets of bike bags, I finally decided on one tasteful yet practical pair of panniers—expensive, but high-quality and worth it. They fit my lock, a replacement tube, bungees, my lunch, gym clothes, and a few other odds and ends. But, what about my dog, Olive? I removed the basket from my old bike and made a reversible liner, a matching pillow, and a harness to keep her safely strapped in while we ride about town.
As far as I can tell, she seems to like it—often peeking out to see other dogs and letting the wind blow on her little face. And guess what—as it turns out, I like it, too! After experiencing the wind on my face (and often dust in my eyes), the street beneath my tires, and the freedom of not having to find a parking spot for the past several weeks, it’s safe to say I’m still in love. Maybe I’m happier because it’s just the honeymoon phase, but I’d like to think it’s a new beginning.
It didn’t take long, but I’m back in (or on) the saddle again.
So, what did I learn?
- Crates fall when they are not zip-tied to your rear rack.
- There is no shame in fan-girling over your bike.
- Glasses do not keep dust out of your eyes.
- Hang a small can of mace on the handlebars to keep creepers at bay.
- Don’t scratch your head through your helmet holes because your fingers will get stuck.
- Making or shopping for bike accessories are just as fun as riding a bike.
- There is no cure for helmet hair.
- Changing a tube is much easier with a bike mechanic named Rick guiding you through it.
- Riding without holding the handlebars is way harder than it looks. Proceed with caution.
- There is no correlation between jerky guys and bike riding because riding a bike is fun.
- Riding a bike truly does make you happier.