(If you enjoy my posts, please join my Facebook page!)
Last Sunday, I bought a bike. A beautiful bike. So lovely that I’ve gone down into the basement to hug it a couple times when no one was looking.
Earlier this summer, my friends started going for bike rides down at Bay Front park in the evenings and I was really jealous. Before I had kids, I used to roller blade there in the evening at least twice a week and I loved being by the water. Even in the dead of summer, a cool breeze comes off the water and it’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Hamilton. Back them I’d fly around the paths, passing bikers and more bladers and people out for an evening stroll as the sun set over the water. We’d share a knowing smile as insiders who were in on the secret that Hamilton is really an amazing place to live and play. I longed to be part of that group again and I started thinking seriously about purchasing a bike.
A bit of research made me realize that bikes can be really expensive, ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand. I certainly don’t need anything fancy but I wanted something decent. Sure, I could have purchased one used from Kijiji and I know there are a lot of inexpensive bikes at Canadian Tire. But I wanted a bike that I would love, one that I would be excited to carry up from the basement every single day. And after writing about supporting small business, I was really hoping to buy a bike from a local shop in town. Thus began the great bike hunt of 2012. (Sounds official, doesn’t it?)
The first thing I had to do was justify my purchase. A bike plus a trailer for the kids plus a new helmet for The Pixie was adding up to a lot of money. Big purchases stress me out. I think it works out to equal parts of self-doubt (will it be a waste of money in the end?) and guilt (there are better things I could spend my money on). I often feel the need to justify the purchase to my husband, my friends, even my mother.
So I went to work. I reasoned that we could park one of the cars for the summer and save money on insurance. I argued that a bike would make it easier to transport The Princess to school in September. I said that I would be even more motivated to declutter so that I could raise funds for the bike (and in fact I did sell about $500 worth of our stuff to help pay for it).
While I was busy justifying the purchase to anyone who would listen, I started doing some research. I decided that I wanted a bike that allows me to sit upright. I wanted one that was about having fun and enjoying the ride, not one that was built for speed or rough trails. I wanted one with a few gears - but not too many – and hand brakes instead of coaster brakes. And I wanted a bike that would allow me to quickly attach a children’s trailer.
To test the waters, I first went to Freewheel Cycle in Dundas and I rented a bike with a trailer for an afternoon. The girls and I rode through the side streets and up to Dundas Driving Park where we enjoyed the splash pad and a picnic. It was an idyllic day and afterwards, I was even more excited about getting a bike of our own.
The following weeks were a bit of a bike shop blur. I dragged my family to Downtown Bike Hounds, the New Hope Bike Co-op, Main Cycle, Central Cycle, and Ancaster Cycle. I kept searching Kijiji as well. I was pretty much sold on the Manhattan Green bike from Central Cycle – I liked that I was so upright and that it was a bike my husband would use too. But before we bought it, I asked if we could swing by and test drive the Bobbin Birdie that had caught my eye at Bikehounds.
“Why?” asked my husband, “So you can fall in love with that one and then always be unhappy because you didn’t buy it?”
“No,” I retorted. “So that I’ll see that its not really that different and then I won’t have a silly lingering doubt in the back of mind for years that I made the wrong choice.”
So we stopped off at Bikehounds and I took the Birdie out for a quick ride. Oh my goodness, it was so much fun. It was light and zippy and I couldn’t believe how much i enjoyed every second of my ride.
“Damn, that’s a sexy bike.” a parking attendant commented as I biked loops in the lot.
“Oh I’m just trying it out, it’s not really mine.” I quickly responded.
“It should be!” the woman replied.
The bike ship owners denied being in league with anybody working the local parking lots, but I’ve got my suspicions.
At home, I asked The Princess what she thought.
“Oh mommy, you have to buy that beautiful yellow bike. You looked so graceful.” she answered.
Hmmmmmm… I can’t say my four year old tells me I look “graceful” on a regular basis. Sold.
It ended up taking a bit to save up for, mostly because we had a few unexpected things come up, like the gas pipes that needed to be completely replaced, and all the dental work The Princess needed, and the property taxes that I forgot about til the week before they were due (oops). But last Sunday I went in and bought my bike and then took The Princess for a spin on James Street, which which was completely shut down to cars for the Open Streets festival. I like to think that they planned the day especially for me: “Let’s celebrate! Tamara has finally picked and purchased a bike! Call the record books! The slowest decision in history!”
Since then, we’ve gone out for a bike ride almost every day. My goal for the summer is to ride more times than drive. I’ve decided against permanently parking the second car just now – I’m worried that I’ll start to resent the bike if I force myself to ride it on really hot days or farther than I’m ready to. But maybe in a month choosing the bike will be second nature.
Now that I’ve got a bike and a trailer and even a bike lock (handy things, they are), all I need now is a “Share the Road” magnet for my car and I’ll be a certified biking enthusiast. I found a store that has them and I’m going to stick one on my car’s bumper, reminding other drivers to give bikes a bit of space. But of course, you’ll never see it. My car will be stuck at home in the driveway while I’m out riding my fabulous yellow bike.