On why I don’t ride my bike anymore: A series of stories
March 23, 2010 § 3 Comments
It didn’t begin well.
I mean, the obtaining of the bikes was fine. My friend and I purchased them from a kind old British man named Bob, who seemed to have a small bike repair and sales business running out of his quaint house. We rode them around the block, decided they were worth 40 pounds, and began the trek home.
This is where things started to go downhill.
On the way home we got lost. And then it got dark. We were on an isolated highway, confused enough that all the cars were driving on the wrong side of the road, and bewildered by the random back-paths we were forced to take (through dark shrubbery and under bridges). As we were journeying, my friend, who had not had much experience as a biker, thought that the best way to change gears was to click rapidly back and forth using the gear-changer. It wasn’t long before the chain popped off her bike.
So here we were, lost in the Oxford countryside late at night, hungry and with a broken bike. Eight miles later and after much guessing and second-guessing and eventual recognition of our surroundings and one steep hill, we made it home.
Maybe this first inhospitable experience with biking should have clued me in — it didn’t. Over the course of the next month, my spastic leanings combined with a precariously balance vehicle led to a few minor incidents…
…Biking to the first day of class while wearing a wrap dress and high-heeled boots. Lots of screaming and scrambling. So much for trying to fit in to the more sophisticated Oxford culture.
…Trying to balance 20 pounds of groceries on my handlebars as I maneuver across busy city streets and a large grassy field. Lots of wobbling. Maybe a few fleeing pedestrians.
…Almost being hit by a car several times because I looked the wrong way before I crossed the street.
…Repeatedly losing valuables from the bike’s basket as I bounced over speed-bumps.
…Running into the poles guarding the end of the bike lanes almost without fail every time I attempted to exit. Every person ahead of me maneuvered through them successfully and with panache.
…While stopped at a traffic light, an innocent bumble bee began to buzz around my bike. Rather than maintaining my calm like the rest of those around me, I screamed, jumped off my bike and allowed it to fall loudly to the ground. Later, I discovered that the key to my bike lock had fallen out during this episode, and had to return to that street corner to search for and retrieve it.
Maybe all of these sound like laughable, yet minor occurrences to you. Well, just wait — m
y lack of coordination on the bicycle, if combined with any less fortuitous circumstances, had the potential to lead to a more major incident…
It was a Sunday morning and I was on my way to church. I was on my way down an uncommonly steep hill with an unusually narrow path and went to use my brakes when *snap* they came OFF. I was about halfway down the hill, so thought maybe my momentum was still slow enough that I could use my feet as brakes. Unfortunately, my bike was actually moving really quickly, so with my feet jammed into the ground the pedals continually whapped the front of my shins until the bruises I felt forming convinced me that this was not working. I was only picking up speed. I decided I would have to ride it out. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the path there were two poles placed uncomfortably close together.
I made it through them. But the hill didn’t stop there. It continued to slope down gradually and had 5 speedbumps, which, even when I had brakes, proved a bit scary and jarring to the average biker. As I approached these, I began swearing loudly, and praying loudly, and then swearing and praying some more. These shouts continued as I safely passed over the first two, and became louder as I approached an upcoming sharp turn…
I made it around the turn (again, a tricky one even for the lucky brake-possessing biker) and over the next three speed bumps. Unfortunately, as I approached the coming intersection, busy with cars, my bike still wasn’t slowing down. I had to make a decision — should I throw my body to the ground and trust my backpack to break my fall? Or should I jump off my bike and run alongside it?
I decided that I was at a safe speed to jump off my bike and run next to it….so I did, and finally reached a leisurely walking pace after about 30 seconds of chaos.
And then broke down in tears.