Back in the Saddle

| July 21, 2013

Okay, you can’t live in Germany and not have a bike, right?  I have gone nearly a year without one.  I’ve always driven or walked.  That is, until Thursday when, in order to keep up with my friend, her daughters and my daughter, all on bikes, I tried to ride my daughter’s child-sized scooter.  Not a large scooter with a wide base and a pole that adjusts high enough for an adult, mind you.  A small child’s scooter.  This worked for about 2 minutes, and then I was speed-walking down the street awkwardly carrying a child’s scooter.  Every now and then, I would attempt to scoot without breaking the scooter, my ankle, or the side view mirror of a parked car.  I opted to walk through a group of convening old bikers.  I do have my pride.

This whole process: sucked.  As soon as I arrived at the pool, I texted Paul and told him I wanted a bike.  Now, Paul has been trying to talk me into a bike for quite some time, so I’d imagine that this text elicited both shock and glee.  Had he known that all he had to do was embarrass me on the scooter for half an hour, he would have attempted this months ago.  Up until now, the scooter was a novelty.  I loved to ride it–alongside a running Sequoia for 5 minutes.  But once Sequoia was taking off ahead of me on a bike, it was a whole ‘nother story, and that story ended with me wanting a bike.

I haven’t owned a bike since the 10-speed I last rode in 1988, and I’ve been perfectly happy in my bikeless lifestyle.  I know very little about them, including how they stay up without falling over (for most people).  Paul and I therefore had different criteria for choosing a bike for me.

Paul’s criteria: Comfortable to ride, easy for me to get on and off of, comfortable handlebars, at least 3 gears, blahblahblah

My criterion: A basket.

That afternoon, we headed to Real (Americans: think Walmart) to look for a cheap city bike so I could just ride around town taking my kid to the pool, buying croissants, etc.  At Real, the pedals are not yet attached to the bike and the bikes are bound in such a manner that the handlebars are not facing forward.  To a person who has not ridden a bike in 25 years, the thought of purchasing one without sitting on it is a bit unsettling.  I left, deflated.  I had really wanted to take home a bike.

So on Saturday, we headed to a bona fide bike store, Farradland.  There, with the help of a salesman, I perused the rows of frau bikes, then chose a few to try out.  Of course I first tried out the bike I thought was prettiest.  It had a sweet, vintage brown- and cream-colored frame.  It was also clunky and uncomfortable, which was a total bummer.  The next bike was lighter and comfortable (except for the fact that you’re riding a bike, which is like sitting upright on some kind of weird gynecological contraption).

Let me describe me taking a bike out for a test ride, as the salesman would have observed:

KTM bike, Griesheim FarradlandBike #1: I clumsily climbed on (bikes are much higher than I recall), wobbled, and looked like I was going to need my husband to come hold on and push.  I’m guessing the salesman was reviewing his insurance policy.  I rode halfway up the trail, braked, dismounted, turned the bike around, got back on, unsteadily began to pedal, and returned.  The salesman, most likely not accustomed to someone taking such a short ride (or getting off the bike to turn it around), asked in a concerned tone if everything was okay.  Yes, I assured him, but not comfortable.

Bike #2:  This time, I tilted the bike toward me and climbed on.  I wobbled slightly less, rode off, still stopped halfway down the path, and still dismounted and turned the bike around.  This guy had to be thinking I have not progressed past my daughter.  Little does he know, Sequoia can turn around on her bike just fine without getting off of it.

The salesman adjusted the handlebars for me and then I took the bike farther down the path and braked.  This time, I stayed on the bike, tilted it, and tiptoed through my U-Turn.  I’m really something now.

He adjusted the handlebars for me once more.  This time, I drove the bike all the way down the path, turned right and, in a shoulder, turned around without getting off of the bike.  And now I’m hot stuff.

This was the bike for me.  Now it was just time to choose the baskets.

All excited to have three bicycles in the household, we decided to go for a family bike ride on Sunday.  Let’s just say it didn’t start out pretty, and tomorrow there will be a blog post titled “The 5 Best/Worst Things About My First Bike Ride”.  You know it’s not going well when your 6-year-old daughter is saying things like, “I was scared when I started riding my bike, too” and “You’re doing a good job, Mommy.  Really, you are!”  This, as I exit the driveway, wobble uncontrollably off the curb and into the middle of the street, and nearly crash into a bell-ringing old man who seems to know how to steer his bike in a straight line.

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Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (2)

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  1. Oh, Jacki. I hope not.

  2. Jacki says:

    Oh, Kari. Is there video?