A fortnight ago I dropped into Aldi and bought an item that may have just changed my views on riding a bike for the better.
For a few months now, I have been toying with the idea of buying a touring bike, a folding touring bike to be more particular.
A good friend messaged me to let me know that Aldi had folding bikes on sale that week. That message was on the Saturday. I held off the urge to rush straight to the store and buy one. I held off on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as well. But by Wednesday my will power was weak, my bank balance was high (yay for payday) and I found myself at my local Aldi trying to talk myself out of buying a sixth bike for myself. Yep, you read that right, sixth. At the moment I am the proud owner of an Apollo flat bar road bike, a Merida Ride lite road bike, an Apollo tandem, a Southern Star mountain bike and a Merida Scultura Pro. Twenty minutes later, I was also the proud owner of a Crane 20" folding bike.
My husband just looked at me in disbelief when I brought it home. I assured him it would get plenty of use as I planned to park further away from work and ride into the office on days that I didn't commute the whole way into the Gabba.
Day one, and after a non-eventful drive, I dragged my foldie out of the back of the car, clicked all of the clasps into place, popped on my old helmet (which now has a permanent spot in the back of the car) and jumped on ready for my first trundle. The bike runs a six speed Shimano gear set, so there's enough variation to get up and down some good hills.
Little did I know as I turned the crank over for the first time that this bike would bring me to an epiphany.
Firstly, I'm in civvie gear when I ride this bike. Not a bit of lycra in sight. Office clothes all the way. Day one wear was pants and a blouse. Day two a skirt and blouse and day three, oh my, a dress. Each day I have my handbag slung firmly across my back.
Secondly, no clips. Court shoes suitable to the office only. Sneakers one day cos the heels don't quite work for the hills!
Riding this bike is all about freedom. When I ride this bike it's not about how far I ride or how fast. It's not about power or training. It's about the joy of being on a bike.
That first day I could not get the toothy grin off my face the entire time I was pedalling the way to work, even as I pulled up at a set of lights and waited alongside the other riders. So cute to see the indulgent smiles on the faces of the big boys as they looked my foldie up and down and dismissed us as a novelty. What they didn't realise as they sat next to me was how much I had fallen in love with my new bike in that short space of time.
Riding that bike transported me back to my childhood days. Days spent riding on my Malvern Star dragster, exploring the neighbourhood, heading out to friends' houses, riding solo and singing at the top of my lungs, getting doubled home on the handlebars of a mate's bike or enveloped in the arms of my high school boyfriend as I rode on the cross bar. Those were heady days, blissfully happy, before the pressure of being a grown up kicked in, when the biggest worry was avoiding the gravel patch at the corner of Ramsay and Marigold Sts, which had seen a few high speed spills. And come to think of it, in 7 years of riding that bike, I never had a flat!
I stopped riding for a long period in my twenties and thirties, and when I took it up again in my late thirties, it became all about the exercise, losing weight, riding faster, longer, stronger. While I love my training, that other spark of joy had never been truly reignited.
Cycle Queensland acted like a flint and created sparks of that flame. My new bike acted as kindling and fanned the flame back into life. I've dropped some of my training to accommodate riding in that way a little more. I'm loving being a lone wolf again, exploring my neighbourhood, rediscovering riding for the sheer fun of riding again.
Watching kids riding past my house last weekend once again brought that goofy grin to my face. How good was it to ride with your childhood gang on a Saturday afternoon to the pool, or my horse riding lesson or the picnic in the park. No helmets, no shoes, no inhibitions. Popping wheelies, taking makeshift jumps, getting air. What a way to spend your weekends growing up.
And so my love affair with my bikes continue. I'm going to bring a little of that fire to my other bikes and enjoy just being on the bike. Anyone want to join me for the ride?