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Hubby talks about losing the car once the kids are gone. His intention is that we become stalwart, year-round bikers. Personally, I’d rather take the bus. I love the bus. It’s my favorite form of interaction–close to my fellow beings, but not having to, you know, talk to them. I like the civility, all those “Thank you’s” and “Have a nice day’s”. I like reading my book on the bus–just try to do that when you are driving. I like riding through the city at night, in our lit, warm trolley. I like walking to the bus in the winter with a mitten full of spare change–bus fare, but also self protection since my mitten becomes the literal equivalent of a sock full of nickels. Pow!

Still, I hate when anything gets the better of me. The fact that I dislike biking as much as I do and find it stupidly difficult awakens in me the desire to kick biking’s ass. To ride that stupid thing so often and so well that I will be declared the Queen of Biking…at which point I plan to break up with biking and never return it’s phone calls. That’s how I’ll win.

With that dubious motive, I coerced Hubby into taking me to the annual spring Police Bike Auction. His presence was mandatory, because I know myself. I am so easily swayed by superficial details. Show me a retro cruiser bike and I am instantly beset with desire. I see myself merrily petaling away, dressed in maybe a 1950s full-skirted dress, a scarf protecting my bouffant, wine bottles in the basket. Never mind that I have owned  a ridiculous number of these bikes and it is always a disaster. For one thing, they weigh just a phenomenal amount. Watching me struggle up a hill it becomes apparent that my forward progress is powered not by the endless turning of gears, but by verbal obscenities–extremely loud verbal obscenities. Every time I drag one of these monstrosities home, Hubby puts his head in his hands and sighs.

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I would totally buy this bike.

“Oh, stop being so dramatic,” I tell him, “This bike is totally different. It’s maybe lighter than the last one (I endeavor to hoist the frame above my head to demonstrate, but end up staggering off the sidewalk in the attempt), “The front wheel has nearly all its spokes and -LOOK!- Two pedals!”

The last one I bought solely because the bike license affixed to the stem is from a town near where I grew up and expired the year I was seven years old. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice until later that the front wheel was much closer to a Möbius strip than an actual circle. It was cute though.

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This time, with Hubby’s help, I managed to stay on task, despite there being several absolutely gorgeous retro bikes. Do you know how much they sold for? Every one of them, under $15. Apparently everyone at the auction was a wee bit smarter than me when it came to wanting a functioning, will actually get you to work, bike. Oh, I felt chastised, really I did.

Between the silent judgement of the crowd and hubby’s insistence that I focus, I managed to leave with a perfectly serviceable bike. A lightweight, 12 speed hybrid. Perfect height, wheels actual circles, the whole nine yards. And you know what? It hasn’t been terrible. I’ve been riding it around all week and, if I’m still getting passed by those weirdos on the 18 speed tandem bike, (I mean, really. What is that thing?) well, at least I’m not arriving at work panting for breath and bathed in the sweat of my resentful exertion.

I’ve even learned a thing or two, besides.
Number one: Despite all evidence to the contrary, my butt is no where near padded enough to endure a bike ride in comfort. What is up with those stupid little seats? I don’t have a joke, here, I would just like to know.

Number two: I am a straight up hypocrite. Little Man saw me try on a bike helmet and burst out laughing. I immediately stuck that sucker back on the shelf. Bike safety is for my children and people with smaller heads and more resilient hairstyles, not me. You should wear your helmet though. It probably looks very attractive.

Number three: There is a tremendous difference between how I feel when biking in traffic versus when I have to drive alongside a biker. When I’m in a car and spy a cyclist, I am concerned to the point of mental distress. The mother in me comes out and I want to warn them that the drivers they share the road with are lunatics–text message-reading, road-rage having LUNATICS! I honestly say a prayer for each and every one of them. But when I’M biking…? I’m all, “Well, no one’s hit me, yet…It must be fine.” Probably a little over-confident for someone who refuses to wear a bike helmet because of hair issues.

Number four: The wind is always against you. Why? WHY??!!!!

Number five: The redeeming feature of this whole endeavor is that there is more day to my day when I bike. Does that make sense? Driving is a necessary evil, a way of transporting myself for A to B, a comma between errands. Biking is its own activity. I move from place to place, if not enjoying, at least noting the journey. Cars bring out the worst in me and almost everyone I know. The car ride is terrible–everyone is impatient and wants it to be over as soon as possible. At least on the bike, I’m getting exercise, which makes me feel terribly productive. Plus, I love getting around under my own power. I’ve always enjoyed walking to the store or library, and now, biking here or there. It makes me feel competent, somehow.

So, maybe I’ll keep going with this biking thing. At least for now. Hubby can keep his winter cycling– I’ve got a whole coffee can full of nickels and I don’t look any better in a stocking cap than a bike helmet.

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The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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