If you’d been attacked by a lion in second grade and broken your leg and your parents thought you were faking it and made you walk to and from school on your lion-mauled limb for 3 days before finally taking you to the doctor and learning you’d fractured it, it’s conceivable you wouldn’t go out and buy yourself a new pet lion for many, many years.
Substitute lion for bicycle, and you understand my plight.
I grew up in a bike-friendly Baltimore suburb, where I was a modestly confident cyclist after many afternoons looping the high-school track, exploring the neighborhood and cruising the Gunpowder trails with my Girl Scout Troop (whatup 1106!) But then my 8-year-old self took a turn too sharply in the playground parking lot and broke her left leg, and my confidence on a two-wheeled death machine has never quite recovered.
Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been atop a bicycle more than a few times since that early 90s downfall, from joining a casual college triathlon to taking the occasional beach-bike cruise — but I’ve never been enthused enough to go out and buy myself a new bike with the express purpose of, you know, using it.
And I DEFINITELY wasn’t about to get one and ride it in Manhattan, essentially one giant mini-golf-windmill constantly trying to knock cyclists off their saddles with opening car doors, turning motorists and potholes the size of De Blasio’s head. No thank you, Lance Armstrong. (Is he still a prominent cyclist? No? Whoops.)
But then I moved out of Manhattan, and suddenly the idea of cycling around the neighborhood wasn’t so terrifying. In Long Island City, the traffic is thinner, the roads have more bike lanes and — most importantly — my building offers indoor bike parking for just $10 a month. Above all, I’m trying to be more active in everyday life (running 4 miles in the morning and the sitting still rest of the day isn’t exactly balance), and I figured having a bike to my name might be just the trick to get me out the door.
So after several failed attempts to purchase a used bike off Craiglist, my fiancé and I went bike shopping last weekend, and I purchased a brand new blue Felt hybrid and all the token accessories. (I’m tentatively naming him Bagic Bike in honor of my favorite Steven Soderbergh film, but it’s a working title.) The bike salesman told me I didn’t need a “ladies bike” because that’s a myth we need a different frame, but my non-flexible leg could barely get over the high bar of the others I tried, so this was the baby for me.
My first day of bike ownership, Ben and I rode to Roosevelt Island and explored the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, a memorial I’d probably never have visited if the bike hadn’t made it so easy to get there. Then last night, I faced my biggest fear: biking over the 59th St. bridge and into Manhattan. Despite my worries my untrained legs would fail to get me over the incline, I made it over and back in one piece and not in tears, like I’d been expecting.
I’m not a strong cyclist yet, but I’ll get there with practice. And while I’d been nervous I wouldn’t remember how to ride after so many years off the saddle, I can assure you: it’s just like riding a bike.
Do you bike in the city? Any tips for a novice hoping to live through at least November?