13 November 2009

Mad Bike Skills

So, my biking ability has been getting so impressive, it's a bit scary. Seriously. You might read this and be scared too. The good news is that I did buy a bike helmet, which I wear most of the time, and lights that flash for my safety at night.

Here was the first moment when I knew that I was going to be a special kind of bike rider. In my second week, when I could hardly navigate traffic (and before I was wearing a helmet), I decided I needed to pick up a cup of coffee--this was before I could really drink a cup of coffee either. Now, I couldn't stand to lose the time to either wait for my coffee to cool and drink it or to walk with my bike and coffee back to college. So, what was the solution? That's right. Ride my bike with coffee in hand. I felt like such a rebel; and I only spilled a few drops. Now, when I say that I rode with coffee in hand, you should know that my coffee hand is also my "turn signal hand". As I was riding along, I started thinking about how I could trick out my bike (American style) with multiple cup holders and a cd player. Then I could ride my back like I drove my car--doing at least three things at once (remember that texting is a constant).

My second big advance, was when I started talking on my phone while riding. Yes, I almost got hit by a bus, and yes, I am very slow (a nuisance to all other riders), but I am still responsible. I got off my bike before I got to the round-about where my life is in danger at all times--even with my full attention.

After making these significant accomplishments, I started to wonder how improved I really was. So, I have been giving myself subtle tests. I passed the one-handed bike-riding with flying colors. I can ride with no hands for about 10 ft on level ground where I am pedaling, but my control is limited. I would describe my no-hands biking like my parallel parking when I first started driving; terrible, but can only improve.

So now, I have my eye on the true trademark of skilled bike riding. I see these people who pull the most graceful move as they dismount their bicycle. As they slow to a stop, they leave one foot on the pedal while swinging their other leg over the seat until both feet are on the same side of the bike. Then, they coast up to the curb and make a smooth dismount. It is sheer poetry in motion. I am trying to practice this in subtle ways, on deserted streets, partial dismounts, and the like. I have to say that I think I will be there by the end of next term.

Here's how you really know that I am an old Oxford bike pro. I understand the art of the plastic grocery bag. Initially, I didn't understand why these bikes had orange baggies over the seats. But 10-12 wet bike bums later, I learned. There is nothing more uncomfortable than being soaked to your pants (British pants). The key is to be prepared.

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