For the past week or so my exercise has been confined to miles and miles of walking and a bit of biking but yesterday I got to play with a new toy and accomplish something new. A week or two ago, Rudder and I decided to buy a folding bicycle, but by the time we settled on one of these, the bike store was about to close. Since my uncle and I were walking around the market in the town centrum on Tuesday, it seemed like the right time to go ahead and buy it, especially since we were planning to do some riding to a local park / open-air museum that afternoon.
Yesterday, Rudder was planning to work late and then go row and the weather was glorious, so it seemed like the right day to try something that I’ve been a little nervous to do. We’ve been talking about cycling to work since we got here last fall, but the days were getting shorter and then they got colder and rainy, so we kept driving to work, using our bikes only to ride to the boathouse. Also, unlike racing or mountain bikes, our city bikes are sturdy things; the seats and tires don’t have quick releases, the handlebars are higher, and so they don’t really fit in the car. However, the folding bike fits in the trunk easily, and we’ve decided it’s smart to keep it there. Yesterday, I rode it all the way home from work. It’s about 10km, further than I’ve been riding but not a forbidding distance, and the day was warm but with a pleasant breeze. The quickest way home is a little different than the way we’ve been driving but I didn’t get lost, never got too hot or tired, and remembered that the bag I take to work is actually a bike messenger bag in time to buckle on the securing strap. It was a successful ride, I think. It was really pleasant to be part of such a mass of people riding instead of driving home at the end of the day. I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of riding both ways on any day that promises reasonable weather.
I’ve got only a couple of complaints about the bike: I think the gearing is a bit slower than my other bikes, and the seat is both harder to adjust and less adjustable because of the double seat tube that allows it to fold. On the other hand it folds smaller than most other folding bikes, and can be rolled along in the folded position. Also, I think the smaller wheels, exposed gears, and simple frame mean that it’s less affected by wind than my city bike.
We now have five bikes between us and are considering a sixth. We’ve had our mountain bikes for years. They’re good solid midrange capable bikes, with front shocks (we bought them before dual shocks were common) and good components, and they fit us perfectly. When we moved here we bought city bikes. The idea is that you want a not-so-nice bike that won’t get stolen. In pursuit of that goal Rudder bought his used; I had to get a new one because all of the used ones I found were too big for me. It only cost a tiny bit more, though, and is in much better shape, so I think he regrets the used bike a little. Besides being inconspicuous, these have all sorts of useful features for bikes to be ridden around town in all weather in casual or work clothing: back cargo shelves and bungees, panniers, sealed gears that keep both mud and pants legs out of the sprocket, locks built into the frame to further discourage theft, bells to alert anyone in your way, fenders to keep mud off you.
We wanted the folding bike not so much for right now, though it’s proving useful, as for the future when we’re back in America. This is the perfect bike to take along in the back of a Cessna or to stow in a corner of a boat trailer. At regattas we’re always going back and forth, to our hotel, to our launching point, to see the results or get numbers or take pictures of each other’s races. This was the logical time to buy one, because there are so many more folding bikes available here. We wanted to buy just one and see how well it worked before deciding whether to get another. We haven’t decided whether to get a second one; at regattas we often need just one and this is adjustable enough for either of us to ride it. On the other hand, if we took it along in on a flying or driving trip it would be nice to have two, and at the Head of the Charles regatta we often end up walking along nearly the full race course 4 times or more in a weekend, what with practice rows, the possibility of us racing on different days, and so on. This one works well enough that I think we likely will get another. We might get another style, though, one that doesn’t fold as small but is lighter and cheaper.
We are definitely going to miss the bike path system when we leave here, though.