Two Good Wheels

Dear Reader,

Sometimes you love things even when they hurt you… at least that’s how I feel about my new bicycle. One unfortunate side effect of the coronavirus pandemic is that universities are closing their campuses and students are being evicted from housing. With less than a week’s notice to pack up their belongings, students are selling and giving away their possessions left and right to lighten their loads. I took this as an opportunity to acquire second-hand items cheaply, which would also directly benefit the students—a win-win. After buying a few small appliances, I decided to go much bigger.

One morning I decided to buy a bike; that afternoon I purchased one on Facebook and the very next day I traveled across town to retrieve my new treasure. While not always logical, impulsive decisions can be the most satisfying ones. Hazarding to take big, decisive action and then following through to a positive end is emotionally awarding like a winning bet. I have not owned a bike since childhood and am afraid to ride one in traffic. Yet, there is something romantic about riding a bicycle that made me long for one. On a bike you are super human. Bikes allow you to go greater distances and carry larger loads cheaply and in an environmentally friendly way. I have always wanted to make cycling part of my commute, however, my very credible fear of falling and getting hit by a car has always stopped me from taking the leap—until very recently that is.

As I mentioned at the top, I made the decision to get a bike and picked one up all in the course of 24 hours. My exchange with the seller was pleasant. I traveled to Jamaica Plain near the Forest Hills ‘T’ station to meet her. Due to her university’s policy in light of the pandemic, she is unable to complete her studies this spring semester on campus and is returning home to Europe. She admitted to me that she only used the bike once on a trip a year ago and was happy to sell it now for some extra cash. The price was a little more than I would have liked to pay, however, the bike was still a bargain considering that it was sold under market value and came fully assembled (the seller had to have the bike professionally assembled at the time of purchase). The woman even offered to wipe down the bike handles and seat with soap and water on her front porch to help stop the spread of germs. If only the bike hand off were as smooth as my first ride.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times—I am not comfortable on a bike. My new bike is a foldable one made for commuters. Because this bike is designed for easy storage I was naively under the assumption that I could fold the bike to take with me into a coffeeshop and then unfold it for the ride back home. Maybe folding and unfolding is this simple for some, however, the seller confessed to me that she had never once folded her bike. For safety, the screws on the hinge must be very tightly secured and one requires a screwdriver and some serious finger strength to successfully perform this maneuver. Unable to fold up my new friend, my plan to bring the bike with me to a coffeeshop was out of the question. With less than hour before the start of my workday, I felt that securing a bike lock was my only option if I were to continue with my plan to work remotely outside of home.

I tentatively mounted my small bike and almost immediately collapsed. I adjusted the seat and felt a little better, but I could not go more than a few feet forward until I had to stop. I saw another biker breeze right past me and I felt wholly inadequate. I was trying to go up a small hill, but my little bike wheels and shocked leg muscles were simply not up to the task. Once I got up to the top of the hill I got back on the bike and was immediately confronted with another obstacle—oncoming traffic. Yet another biker was coming in my direction, I clumsily tried to veer to the right, but sent myself over the handlebars and landed on my hands and knees. Luckily, I was not hurt, but could not believe how unfamiliar a bicycle felt between my legs.

I still somehow had to aquire a bike lock and the nearest store was about 3/4ths of a mile away. My short, shabby track record with this bike and my sudden bout of motor-phobia compelled me to peddle on the sidewalks even though there was a designated bike lane just to my left. I made it to Target in a sweat that I can attribute 30% to exertion and 70% to sheer terror. I quickly located and picked up a bike lock and peddled to a cafe in Roslindale to begin work. During the day I visited a few other cafes around the Jamaica Plain area on my increasingly trust companion. Each ride became a little easier and by the end of the day I had gained some much needed confidence on my two wheels.

I love my new, old bicycle. It took me where I needed to go in great time. I was also easily able to carry it on the subway and even down the stairs. I am glad that I was able to give this bike a new home and help out the grad student who was in great hurry to pack up and go. Even if my bike will sit locked up for the next few weeks with my increased social-distancing measures, I’m excited to use it for more commutes to new cafes later this spring. Until then, Dear Reader, have fun inside!



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