My expectations of bicycle ownership may have been a bit…unrealistic, let’s say.
I had some birthday money without intended purpose that was burning a hole in my metaphorical pocket. I was going to buy one of those old-fashioned bicycles with the wicker basket that are so popular with the hipsters right now. Hopefully, it would be yellow. I would ride my bicycle downtown while wearing a white skirt, and in the basket would be a hardback book and a little lunch of bread and cheese wrapped in a red handkerchief. I would ride to the park and sit under a shady tree, and read my book and eat my little lunch. Then, as the shadows grew longer and the air chilled with the oncoming dusk, I would stand up, dust myself off, hop back on my little bicycle, and bike home.
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t quite so delusional to believe that this was how it was going to work. For one, I am not Heidi, and bread and cheese is not a damn lunch. And there’s no way I could spend an entire afternoon sitting on the ground without my ass going numb, nor could I come within three feet of grass while wearing a white skirt without staining it to hell. But I did see long, leisurely rides with Kyle in the sunshine and zipping around downtown for lunch and ice cream. And I definitely still saw a yellow old-fashioned bicycle with a wicker basket. So I hadn’t been on a bike since…early high school, maybe? We were going to become bicycle people.
The first hole in my fantasy came when I began searching for my dream bike. Turns out, those old school bikes come in two varieties around here: new and very expensive or old and very shitty. And despite my insistence that we were going to patronize one of the local bike shops, I learned very quickly that unless I was going to spend $800 on a racing bicycle they had no interest in helping me. Not even a little. The disdain they had for the casual biker was palatable. So despite my belief that they’re a bunch of sexist assholes, we found ourselves at Dick’s. And let me tell you, they may not believe that women need athletic wear for anything but yoga and tennis, but they do sell a nice bicycle.
Her name is Sassy.
A few days later, I took Sassy out for her first spin. To say that I was a bit nervous was an understatement. I mean, I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 10 years. When I got on Sassy in the store to try her out, I barely managed to wobble my way in a circle, and damn-near took out a rack of children’s bikes and a four year old. So while the expression on my face may have been, “Well, this is pleasant, I eagerly anticipate this experience,” the voice in my head was saying, “WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING? I’VE FORGOTTEN HOW TO RIDE A BIKE, THAT SAYING IS A LIE, I’M GOING TO DIIIIIIIIE!” Nonetheless, I straddled Sassy and pushed off, following behind Kyle.
Turns out I did not forget how to ride a bike. Apparently the saying isn’t a lie after all. I did, however, forget that I don’t know how to ride a bike anywhere with actual traffic. See, when I was a kid, we lived so far out in the middle of nowhere that you could just ride in the street without worry. Traffic was almost non-existent, and any cars that did come were seen at least half a mile off, plenty of time to pull off to the side. Here in Saratoga, however, traffic can be heavy, even on side streets. Sidewalks are everywhere, but it’s hard to get anywhere without having to cross at least a few busy intersections. Intersections that, when looking at them for the first time from atop a brand new bicycle, look like they mean certain death.
And then there’s the other little factoid of which I was unaware: my husband is suicidal. I didn’t realize he was so unhappy, but apparently he believes that being run over by a car would be cheaper and easier than a divorce. He won’t hesitate to throw himself across a busy intersection at the slightest break in traffic, regardless of the color of the lights. Which leaves me with two options: throw myself out there after him and hope I make it, or stay back and get stuck waiting for another break in traffic while Kyle waits on the other side. I usually went with the latter option, seeing as I don’t want to die, but I definitely saw my life flash before my eyes more than once.
But despite his best attempts to kill me, Kyle and I made it to the park without incident. A few embarrassed waves to cars who took pity on me and let me cross, but no death. Once in the park, I was able to relax and really enjoy riding Sassy. The afternoon sunshine through the trees that made everything look like it was glowing, the wind whipping my hair that made me feel like I was flying, a few impromptu races against Kyle; it wasn’t my book-in-the-park fantasy, but all the things I’d hoped for us as bicycle people were starting to come to be. It really was lovely.
As the shadows grew long and some rain clouds gathered in the distance, we headed for home. And even though we were still crossing busy intersection and weaving our way through cars and pedestrians, I felt more confident. I no longer saw death in every crosswalk, and I even allowed myself to coast down hills instead of riding the break the whole time. Daresay, I was actually enjoying myself.
Oh, until I ran into a house.
Yeah, I ran into a house. Well, not the house itself, exactly, I ran into the flower boxes on the front of the house. I’d looked back for a moment to make sure Kyle was still right behind me and BAM I ran smack into the flower box. Luckily, the only one between the three of us-myself, Sassy, and the house- who walked away with any injury was me, and I sustained only a scrape to the hand. Oh, and a giant bruise to my ego. That one still smarts.
Since our initial ride, Kyle and I have been out several more times, and every time I enjoy my time with Sassy more and more. Do I think I’ll ever take her on that romantic ride to the park for a picnic lunch? Not likely. But I’m seeing plenty more afternoon rides with Kyle. Discovering parts of our town that were previously unexplored, and ending our adventure with ice cream. And bikes will definitely be our mode of transportation to the track this summer. (Assuming we can figure out how to strap a 30 rack and some chips to the back.)
I think I’ll be a bike person after all.