D’uh, the bike and an unplanned bit about just getting on with it.
Eight or nine posts in, I realise I’ve been merrily writing away without having talked about my actual bicycle, beyond its deliberately ridiculous nickname*.
I’m not going to wax lyrical (or indeed wax at all, except when I maybe start racing) about derailleurs and Campy vs Shimano, mostly because I have at best a vague knowledge of what those words are. [They’re not even English, for heaven’s sake.] This will probably change one day and I’ll be sure to create a new tag called “Mechanical Shizzle” for interested readers to search for, but you’ll be a long time waiting.
Bit of a segue [not a Segway] - because the underlying topic is really interesting - this side of things comes with experience, and bike knowledge is earned over time, as well as learned. Not to disparage experienced riders knowledge of all things technical about their bikes, but it can sometimes sound a bit clique-y - a bit elitist if you must – and when surveys in most countries and over years of repeated polling show that many people, mostly women, see this knowledge gap as another barrier to riding, you have to ask, what’s really at the root of that? Nothing more than the fear of appearing foolish in front of other people.
But here’s the thing; at the moment, all I know how to do is repair a puncture using a little bottle of tyre sealant and a CO2 canister. You pour one bottle into the tube via the valve, spin the wheel around to coat the inside, jam the CO2 canister on the value and let the pressurised contents re-inflate your inner tube. Man, it was amazingly, forehead-smackingly easy [based on three practice tries in our driveway]. Easier than putting on eyeliner, let me tell you.
When I was out with my commuter group one of the guys got a puncture, and we massed by the side of the road while some helped and the rest of us just waited. A couple of people I’d been chatting with along the way urged me forward to watch, so I’d know what to do – and I asked why they were doing it old-school, i.e. taking the tyre and tube off and sticking little patches on it, then pumping it up manually with a bike pump borrowed from another rider.
According to the riders I was chatting with, the reason was the guys had no experience with the canisters, and were quite bluntly, a bit scared of trying them and looking stupid. Wut ! They were doing it the more time-consuming and fiddly way partly because of a fear of appearing foolish in front of other people?!
So anyone still dithering over starting to ride or not needs to understand that you ARE going to look foolish; whether it be on day one as you wear your SO’s beloved Mapei jersey, which looks like unicorn vomit; whether you slow down to descend but your entire group accelerates past you whooping with delight, or when a woman on her second-only commute knows a better way to fix a puncture than you do after 30 years of riding.
And get this; to some people you will ALWAYS look ridiculous; the good natured cheers from my office colleagues after I change back into high-vis lycra for the ride home is probably nothing to what passing motorists think about my attire or the size of my arse. Who cares? <end segue/>
Soooo the thing about my bike is that in many people’s eyes it means I am not now and never will be a “real” cyclist. I do actually understand that thinking, in fact I often feel that way myself. Until I tell myself to STFU.
I ride a BH E-motion City Commuter. Yes, my bike is electric assisted. And a commuter, aka a “Step through” or a “Dutch Bike”.
I sit upright, with my handlebars higher than my seat, and without racing handlebars aka “dropbars” not to be confused with “dropbears”, which are a native Australian mammal.
An earlier post describes my discomfort with a racing/road bike posture, and the feeling that my face would be ploughing into the tarmac at the slightest rider error. So I went with what I was comfortable with right now. Never let Perfect stand in the way of Progress. Less succinctly expressed as “I’ll do what I want, and you can stick your "Bike Culture" up your derailleur.”
I deliberately chose an e-bike model which requires me to pedal; so if I don’t pedal, the engine does nothing to help me, and the weight of the bike actually works against me. The last thing I wanted was to lazily putt around on a lightweight motorbike, but some people do want or need that and I throw no shade at them for their decision, because y’know, perhaps people are themselves the best judge of what suits their particular circumstances without complete strangers weighing in with their ill-informed opinion and being all Judgey Judgerson about it.
Actually, not one single person has, to my face, given me shit about not riding a proper bike, or about “cheating” or anything of that nature. I like to think that’s because I ride with some really cool, all-embracing “everyone starts somewhere” kind of people. Certainly there’s always been someone who has mused over my bike, wondering out loud if their partner might like one and subsequently be persuaded to come out cycling and join the cult.
I utterly LOVE that. My bike is a “gateway” bike and I love it.
I’ve noticed I often feel I need to explain, that for me, the need to get started NOW far outweighed the need to get started in a year or so when I was fit, when I had graduated to a proper road bike, when I moved closer to work, in other words when all the planets had aligned and everything about my ride was under control and was perfect.
As I enjoy myself more and more, I find I give zero fucks about any negative comments which may zing my way, and in fact I kind of look forward to them because I am SO ready to defend my choices.
I have rainproof detachable Ortleib panniers which hold my handbag du jour and my work clothes - I usually only need one pannier on a work commute, but there’s a second one for when we go on bike picnics or I decide to get the groceries on my bike – I also have a Reisenthel detachable basket I use instead of the panniers for just popping out for a bottle of wine or loaf of bread or whatever.
And finally, I have a parcel from Wiggle en-route, with a selection of tasteful cycling jerseys and bib-shorts designed especially for the laydeeez.
*I’m changing my bike’s name from Buttercup to Emmeline, as homage to the suffragettes. Now all I have to do is remember that’s what I’ve done.