As part of my goal of being more active this summer, I bought a bike last week. Debbie at Tempe Bicycle was wonderful with me. When I walked into the shop and she asked what kind of bike I was looking for, I said, “Simple.” I haven’t owned a bike in about fifteen years. I just wanted something that I could easily ride to the store, the farmer’s market, the library, and along the canal.
We started with a “cruiser” bike. It was cute, but riding it made me feel like Miss Gulch from the Wizard of Oz. The handlebars were too wide set for my petite frame. When I walked into the store, I didn’t think the brake style mattered, but I soon realized that hand brakes were a necessity.
The next bike I tried was a 21-speed mountain bike. When she first showed it to me, I thought, “What do I need 21 speeds for?” It was a good bike, but too fancy for me needs.
Then Debbie’s eyes lit up and said, “I’ve got the bike for you” and she rolled out another mountain bike. It reminded me of Say Yes to the Dress when the consultant has an epiphany about what dress would be perfect for her bride. It was a white 7-speed Haro Heartland bike, with a wide cushy seat for my bony butt. I took it for a ride around the parking lot and I was in heaven. When I came back into the shop Debbie asked what I thought, and I said, “I never thought I’d fall in love with a white bike.” For some reason, I predicted my bike would be purple.
Tempe Bicycle and Debbie made sure I had everything I needed in terms of a good lock, wiring my seat to my frame so it can’t be easily stolen, a cord to lock my front tire to the back tire, and a good helmet. I know drivers in Phoenix don’t see runners and rollerbladers. I don’t expect them to notice me on my bike.
I’ve been on two bike rides so far – one to the store and one to church – almost 20 miles in all. I’ve noticed that riding makes me feel like I’m more connected to my community and neighborhood. Instead of being in my enclosed, music-filled car, I get to see, feel, hear, and smell my surroundings. I notice the little things like whether a property owner keeps their vegetation cut back so it’s not encroaching on the sidewalk (note to owners: please trim your plants), what A-frame signs are in my path announcing yard sales, and what streets have a designated bike lane (thank you 15th Ave.).
I hope my bike becomes a primary mode of transportation for me. Besides making me feel like I’m doing something good for myself physically, I’ve experienced an unexpected sensation of freedom when I’m riding. I feel like it’s my break from the rat race and a respite from my cell phone and laptop.