It was a long winter. After all the bike fun last summer, I settled into a job downtown, reducing my time for leisure rides and shortening my commute by more than half of that for my previous job. Sure, that meant I had more time but time has a funny way of getting full. So although I would still say I love my bike, my bike and cycling in general was definitely not getting the love it deserves.
Then this past weekend rolled along and convinced me to ride with it and now my heart is back.
It started Saturday with the Velopalooza bike wash fundraiser in front of the Union Food Market in Strathcona. With 5 stands, 2 buckets, 2 hoses, rags, degreaser, a mechanic, and a handful of volunteers we beckoned cyclists passing by to get the winter grime cleaned from their bikes. Or in some people’s case, several years of gunk.
Washing other people’s bikes and chatting with them whilst doing so fed my general people-curiosity as I learned why they ride and how they feel about their bike. It made me remember the wonderful diversity of relationships people have with their bikes.
I also enjoyed a reason to hang out in a neighbourhood I never find reasons to hang out in. The Union Food Market is not just a grocery store but a place to grab a coffee and a yummy pastry to eat on their patio while you meet neighbours and watch cyclists cruise by. I noticed a few people walk out with this cake so had to try it myself:
As she passed it to me, the woman behind the counter said “get ready for your new addiction“. And yes, that cake will eventually bring me back.
The day ended with an evening on the balcony watching the sky darken, three men cooking while I watched (he he I don’t know how I managed that) and a curry coma.
Sunday morning I woke up finally motivated to deal with the panic of an approaching bike tour by getting my bike life in order. Wait! Bike tour?! Yes! A few months ago I finally booked a flight to Scotland to visit the lovely Jemma in Edinburgh and Anna in Glasgow. It so happens that Anna had already planned a Northern Ireland tour and when she asked if I’d be able to join for part, I couldn’t say no.
But honestly I’m a little scared – of not being able to get my gear in order and over to the UK and of not being in the physical condition to manage hilly Ireland. Neither are reason for not trying though. So in the three and a half weeks before the tour *gulp*, I will try my best to maintain, clean, love, feed, sing to, dream of, compliment, and admire my bike. I started Sunday by getting it a new Brooks saddle.
(Vincent: if you read this, I’m showing you mine.)
My first spin took me to a garden store in Burnaby, an 18km loop that felt suitably modest for the breaking-in process I had heard about. But throughout the ride and home again, it felt like I was floating on a pat of butter. What breaking-in?
Then…I had just started work in the garden when Eric called outside “seaball!” Aside: a seaball is a ride around the downtown and Stanley Park seawall accompanied by music provided by friends kind enough to tote PA speakers on their bikes. It’s the perfect way to watch a sunny afternoon slip into evening.
Halfway through the seaball I finally realized that I was indeed breaking my saddle in and it was indeed breaking me. The next day, still sore, I wondered if the secret to Brooks comfort was that my body would eventually become trained to hover over my seat while cycling. Thankfully, the few days after were much better and I’m now confident that I’ll have a pretty sweet spot to rest my bum in Ireland.
In great succession to weekend excitement about saddles, bikes, bike rides and upcoming trips, Tuesday evening was the first class in an informal bike mechanics course being held in our garage by the same woman who taught me how to true my wheel a year and some ago. She’s a great teacher who can explain things in a way that leaves you thinking, “of course, that’s so simple.”
We started by learning the names of bike parts. Okay, it did feel a little too simple at first but once we went through an exercise of attaching post-it notes marked with parts to the parts themselves, I realized how useful it was for really really learning all the parts I had been hesitant understanding: seat and chain stays and the difference between the headset and head tube being a few.
Next week we’ll look at brakes and (this is big one for me) cables.
Until then, my bike is spending the weekend at a shop for some professional love while I run off to the coast. As excited as I am to surf, I’m already missing my bike and am looking forward to early morning rides in the following weeks…possibly for donuts : )