The Night Owl
This bike appeals to my inner professor.
You know what I mean: Athena? Wisdom?
As most of my friends know, The Coach and I live downtown here in the ‘Ville. Our location has some distinct advantages: it’s only three blocks from the river, less than a mile from downtown restaurants and bars, and pretty close to the Friday farmers’ market and the central library. It’s also walking distance from one of the University’s satellite campuses — the one that I will teach at next summer if my grad-level intensive grant writing course attracts enough students.
In the past, I have walked to most of these places — the library is the one exception — but I’ve never actually ridden my bicycle to any of them. There are many reasons for this: I’m too short to open the gate to the backyard and I’m too wimpy to carry the bike up the basement stairs and through the house; the seat on the bike is stuck in an awkward position that tends to, umm, hurt girl parts; and the bar is too high for me to stand on the ground when the bike is stopped. The last one wasn’t really a problem when I lived at Moosehart (i.e., no traffic in an enclosed campus) or in Bloomington (i.e., where bikers are more accepted), but it’s a huge problem here in the ‘Ville. To be frank, I am klutzy and unbalanced and am afraid that I might tip over stopping for all the rude drivers that seem to live in this city. And, it doesn’t help that my neighbor’s brother got hit by a car when riding his bike down Ohio Street.
Plus, it’s not like I have a good history when it comes to bikes. When I was in fourth grade, the brakes gave out on my old cruiser and I ran into the back of a parked car at the bottom of a steep hill. That accident landed me in the ER at Children’s Hospital with a concussion, shattered glasses, and a broken finger. Oh, and my fingernail came loose so my stepmother (the respiratory therapist) yanked it off when I wasn’t paying attention. Then, when I was in high school, I was riding my ten-speed bike when I knew the brakes didn’t work — and in the spirit of my 10 year old self, I ran into the back of yet another parked car and ended up in the emergency clinic with a sprained wrist — and the car didn’t look so good with a body-sized dent in it.
My klutziness isn’t limited to bicycling accidents. I’ve broken toes on diving boards. I broke my wrist when I fell out of a bunk bed in a camper. I’ve been to the emergency room several times for falling out of cars and down stairs. Hell, I have even damaged myself while bowling. What can I say? I am a danger to myself and others.
This fall, however, I am going to be one of the lead researchers on a project related to our city’s Greenway. Seeing how I live close to the bike path, it just seems silly to drive to the study site. It’s also silly to drive to the Farmers’ Market and fight for a parking spot. And now that I’ve renewed my library card (which apparently expired five years ago), I’d like to ride my bike to the library. And to church. And to the local coffee shop.
So, for the past few months, I’ve been doing a little light window shopping. I want a new bike, damn it. Something that is culturally cool, like a retro-style cruiser. I want fenders and a rack on the back. I want the chain to be covered so I don’t get my pants | skirt caught in it. Most importantly, I want to be able to stand on the ground when I stop.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I got serious about finding a new bike. The Coach and I went out to the “fancy” Wal-Mart over in Newburgh where I looked at several bikes. I tried a 26″ Huffy Cruiser, but it was too tall for me. I tried a 26″ Schwinn, but it was too blue for me. I looked at a 24″ girls Schwinn, but it was too childish for me. The Wal-Mart also had some $88 cruisers which appealed to my inner cheapskate, but they were also too tall and the welding on the frames looked like crap.
After pulling down and trying out a ton of bikes — I really felt bad about that when a little old man appeared out of the back room and had to heave them up — we went to Target. Sadly, Target stocks mostly mountain bikes. They did have one Schwinn which was labeled as a “hybrid.” I tried it out, thinking that it wouldn’t work because it was a 28″ bike. To my surprise, the frame was cut just right and I could touch the floor while sitting on it. I thought about buying it; the price was right ($200), but I didn’t really like the fact that it had 10-speed tires on it so I decided to wait.
This one appeals to my inner bad-ass.
In a last ditch attempt to find the perfect fit, I made The Coach haul me over to the local bike shop. I went inside and “tried on” a 26″ Electra Cruiser. ZOMG – it was like Cinderella and the glass slipper. The bike was a perfect match for my short little legs! The problem? The bike was covered in polka dots and it was the only one in stock.
And, it was $650. Ouch.
It’s hard for me to think about spending that much money for a bike, but in the end, my inner goddess has won out over my inner cheapskate. If I want a bike that I can ride without getting killed — and that’s going to last (as long as someone doesn’t steal it!) — then I am going to have to ante up. So now, I am waiting for my summer teaching money to hit my bank account. The bike will be a post-sabbatical present to myself. Now, I just have to decide which design I want to order: this one or one of the two shown above. Fortunately, all three are designed in a way that I can add a back rack and baskets.
I’ll let you know what I decide.