Thursday, May 19, 2011

Did I tell you about my bicycle?


This is the first time I've had a bicycle since about fourth or fifth grade. It was a corporate holiday gift. Which is cool, in one respect, because who hasn't thought "boy I sure would like a new bike for Christmas!" at one point in their life? So I decided to be all Portland-y and keep the bike, instead of donating it to toys for tots (which was the other company-approved option), or trying to sell it on craigslist (not an approved option). I thought, "Great! Cheap transportation to places the buses don't go!"

Here's the thing- I'm naturally a rather timid and unadventurous person. So I've only ridden it 2.5 times. It came dis-assembled, of course, so it sat in Pete & Cynthia's garage for a while, until I finally asked him to put it together for me. Then I nearly crashed into the woodpile/hedge in his driveway the instant I first got on it. That was in February.

Then there was about one sunny day early in March. I rode it to Fred Meyer. In retrospect, this was a bad idea. It really was too nippy to be pleasant, and I was trying to figure out how to use the gears, and the brakes, and manage my satchel and bike lock. I felt like a tortise on a highway. The experience was unnerving, and made me start looking my gift horse in the gears.

It's awfully ugly, isn't it. It didn't come with fenders either, I had to buy those. And a lock, and a light, and a helmet... To tell you the truth, though, it's the ugly factor that has put me off the most. This is a town full of bicycle people, and I am a bit embarrassed to be seen on it. It's a perfectly good starter bike, as Pete put it. But really, if you're going to design the frame to accommodate a seat suspension, wouldn't it be best to, well, put the suspension in it? This feature has been pointed out to me as a glaringly silly characteristic by a couple of people who actually know about bicycles. Subjectively, it is just a rather inelegant machine. I don't know much about bicycles, but I know a good bit about ugly when I see it. So it sat on my porch for the last couple months.

But I'm on vacation, and have been doing lots of things all week that I don't usually do, so I took this thing out for a spin today. Here's what I think now:

1. It's still bloody ugly.
2. Don't try to remember how to ride a bike in less than perfect weather. No good will come of making the initial learning curve more unpleasant than it needs to be. By the end of my first trip to the store, I was freezing, and sweaty, and shaky-kneed nervous, and I still had to shlepp my groceries up to my apartment.
3. On a related point, don't make the initial attempt have an object other than tootling around. Today I gave myself the option of creeping around the block one time and then deciding that I didn't like it. So I left all the excess crap at home and wandered around in circles for about 45 minutes. It was pretty cool.
4. It's very possible to exceed the speed limit on downhill residential streets. This is scary, and a bad idea.
5. Whoever this thing was designed for, they were not shaped like me. And they must have a much more cushiony butt.
6. On the other hand, I have returned to the idea that maybe using a bicycle is a good idea, at least some of the time.

Over all, I'm not completely sold on bicycles, but now I can see that it is true that I ought to make sure that it isn't just this bike that I don't enjoy, rather than all bicycles universally.


  1. haha, I'm totes rly bad at riding around on my bike. I keep thinking I want to start a bike riding collective "The Wobblers" - but where could we go en masse that isn't a danger to our physical wellbeing, or that of others? (:

  2. I agree that it is ugly, but that matters only to you rather than to the rest of the community! Why not try to see if there's a bike shop willing to trade for a bike you like better. The shops will let you take any bike out for a spin ride and once told me I could take it on a real ride before deciding. When you get a bike in a shop, they will do a pretty good bike fit that you won't have to pay extra for because they want a happy customer. If you want any company, I'd be happy to go with you...