It’s been fun starting up this blog, but I’ve decided to make a move back to blogging about EVERYTHING rather than just my biking adventures. So if you’d like to read about those adventures – and more! – head on over to my new blog, Katie Writes Stuff. See you there!
Where has the time gone? It feels like a couple of days since I wrote my last post, but it turns out over two weeks have passed. There are very good reasons for this. Fifty thousand good reasons, in fact.
I am doing NaNoWriMo.
If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, here’s a quick guide: every November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world take up the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel by the time the month is over. I did it last year… and actually reached 50,000 words, which was a vast improvement on the previous two times I’d tried. And I’m doing it again this year, although this time I decided to start at the beginning of the month, instead of ten days in, as I did the year before.
It all means I don’t have much time for my blog, especially when you add in music lessons and now playing in two local bands, which counts out one night of the week entirely.
Amongst all that, what’s been happening with my bike? Well, the good news is that I did eventually acquire it, despite circumstances conspiring to prevent me. It turns out that being in the company of a shiny red bike inspires people to talk to you, or smile at you, or simply stare at your bike as you shepherd it home on the train.
I’ve hardly ridden it since then because, as the title says, excuses are easy. Excuses such as: Oh, I don’t have time to switch my stuff to a new bag – I’ll just walk to work. Or, I’ve put my hair in a bun and now can’t wear a helmet – I’ll just walk to work. Or anything on these and other themes. All of which is just a waste of a perfectly good, shiny red bike.
So this is where the excuses stop. As with most things, once you start, things will generally be fine, but that initial hurdle of beginning can sometimes seem insurmountable. It’s much like NaNoWriMo, really. On the first of November, that 50,000 word finishing line seems very far away, so you take it day by day instead. Focus on the more achievable goals that go together to make up a giant goal. Baby steps. Or baby pedalling, in this case.
That being said, if anyone has any tips for countering the excuses, I’d be glad to hear them!
(And good luck to anyone else doing NaNoWriMo. May the words be with you.)
You could be forgiven for thinking that my adventures in ordinary-clothes bike riding started this year when I suddenly decided I needed a new bike. In fact, it’s not true. It all began a few years ago, before I had my drivers licence. I decided that, much as I love walking, I wanted to have more options available to me when it came to going places. A bike seemed the logical (and possibly only) solution.
So I bought a bike. At Kmart, because why not? I was faced with quite the heady choice: would I like a mountain bike or a hybrid bike? My answer to this question should actually have been ‘neither’, but I had no idea at the time. Instead, we walked out with bike in a box, which was subsequently put together and never ridden, because it was pretty much constructed from 100% fail.
If I’d gone to Kmart for my bike this year, however, I would have been greeted with a few more choices. I was there on a quest for a new bike bell, which I didn’t find. Instead, I discovered this:
A lovely, shiny, red retro bike, complete with leatherish looking saddle and a basket. And a rear rack! OK, yes, that basket is kind of tiny and a bit hideous, but it’s an actual retro-style bike at Kmart. There’s even a child-size one next to it in a pretty blue, with a teeny basket. It seems to be a bit of a theme.
But wait, are you put off by the concept of more than one gear on your bike? Don’t worry – Kmart has you covered here, too. Check it out:
With an even tinier and more useless basket! I told you: it’s a theme here.
Seeing these bikes at Kmart, nestled among the more familiar selection of practical bikes, delighted me. Retro bikes are definitely a thing! And now people can buy them cheaply and easily and catch the bug. I could not be happier.
Until I decided to get back onto my bike, I hadn’t realised there was anything to learn about our mandatory helmet laws beyond the fact that I was going to have to wear a helmet if I didn’t want to find myself on the receiving end of a $185 fine. I’ve learnt a lot since then, some of which makes me quite angry and frustrated and some of which has opened my mind on the matter of who really bears the responsibility for keeping bike riders safe on their travels.
We’re not here to talk about that today, however. We’re here to talk about a completely different law which I found amidst the pages of The Casual Cyclist’s Guide. The Chef picked the book up while I was test riding a potential new bike and as it pretty much fell open at a section about op shops and vintage markets, he decided it was a sign that we needed to buy it.
Thus, as I was reading along, I came to this particular quote:
Never look at yourself while wearing a helmet.
Now that’s a helmet law I can embrace whole-heartedly. Fortunately, whenever I’m on my bike I’m either, a) enjoying myself too much, or, b) ranting about hills while pushing my bike up them, all of which means I’m distracted from the ugliness of the helmet currently gracing my head. Yes, even when the helmet looks like this, it still isn’t worth risking a mirror:
Thanks for being such a handy book prop, helmet!
That would be a Nutcase helmet in the style known as ‘Atomic Boomerang‘. Why did I choose this particular helmet? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s the logic behind it all…
1. As a ordinary-clothes bike rider, one of those bizarre, ridged, wind-swept helmets is clearly not for me. I like to define my style as retro or classic and words such as ‘ridged’ and ‘bizarre’ have no place in said style.
2. Part of my modus operandi is to present an alternative style of bike riding in my locale; this can only be enhanced by sporting an alternative style of helmet as I ride.
3. From my observations, it’s pretty much against the law for a rider of a retro bike to wear anything but a Nutcase (or similar) helmet.
So far, my experiences of the Nutcase helmet are reasonably positive. Even though it looks as though it should weigh much more than a more
ugly modern-styled helmet, I find that’s not the case. The magnetic connector is brilliant but I am finding that a lot of adjustment is required before I don’t feel as though the helmet is trying to choke me to death.
And yes, I have ignored the cardinal rule of not looking at myself while wearing a helmet. And yes, it did look completely ridiculous.
On the up side, at least I’m looking ridiculous in style!
One of the best things about my job (beyond being surrounded by all the books I can eat) is the fact that it’s close enough for me to walk, which is what I’ve been doing since I started there. And I can tell you that up until the last month or so, the amount of people on bikes I ever saw could have been counted on the fingers of one hand. This is why I made my bold claim at the beginning of this blog: No-one rides pretty bikes around here. Although, really, I could have left ‘pretty’ out of it completely. No-one rode bikes, pretty or otherwise.
Ever since then, the bike riders have come out of the woodwork, as though in answer to my silent plea. I’ve seen them braving the ‘bike lane’ on a local road (known to the people who live there as ‘a carpark’); I’ve seen them on footpaths and back roads and even the big main road; I’ve seen a guy in hi-viz cycling to the station on a regular basis.
It’s brilliant! Here I was, thinking I’d be the lone weirdo on a bike in a highly car-dominated suburb and it’s blissful to discover I was wrong.
Today was the best day, however: I finally saw another bike rider in ordinary clothes. She was coasting down the hill, riding a lovely powder blue bike with a basket on the front, an obligatory Nutcase helmet on her head. I called out “Nice bike!” as she rode past and she replied with a smile and a “thank-you!”.
I’m not alone! There are others!
Sometimes, I wonder if some fates are conspiring against my modest plans to ride a bike. Firstly, I had to wait an extra week to pick up my bike, thanks to the train network and now I have yet to even ride the thing, thanks to whoever passed on the lovely virus I’ve picked up.
Tomorrow is Ride2Work Day and I was planning to kick off my bicycle commuting by attending and being counted. Plus, there’s a free breakfast and what intelligent person ever said no to a free breakfast? I was going to hunt down fellow riders of pretty bikes and even summon up the courage to ask them for photographs for the blog, all the while enjoying the aforementioned breakfast of freeness. Oh, and there’d be the whole riding-to-work thing, too, of course.
But no. Tomorrow will be the first day back at work for me this week and I’m still not even feeling that great. It’s so frustrating! Why do I have this lovely bike with the obligatory wicker basket on the front if I can’t even use it? Unless you count hunting down the cat and placing her in said basket for photos of undying cuteness… which I haven’t done. Yet.
For now, I’m just hoping I’ll be well enough soon to actually ride my bike, instead of having it sit near the front door in the role of a slightly-in-the-way coat rack.
Why ‘Bikes in the Wild’? Because that’s where they should be, rather than locked away in a dark room for years (as mine was). The more bikes in the wild we see, the bettter!
Anyway, what was that I was saying the other day about never seeing pretty bikes in my area? “They’re non-existent!” I declared. “Or people are riding them in secret…”
And what did I see almost the very next day on my way to catch a train? Just a pretty, vintage bike, waiting patiently at the station bike rack. It’s the first bike I’ve ever seen there, in fact, and I’ve lived in the area for five years now.