This summer I’ve spent a lot of time offline – far away from blogs and tweets and electronic distraction. I avoided what I enjoy spending time on the most – knitting and sewing and stitching. I was burnt out on writing and making. I needed time to rest, or in short, ‘acedia’, a term that I came across in Susan Page’s wonderful book The Shortest Distance between You and a Published Book.’ Acedia is, in a nutshell, the languid pace between projects.
Over the past few months, my thoughts have been on simple things: picking berries, farmers markets, visiting loved ones, and my bike. Not a knit covered bike – but a bike for the romance of transport and re-discovering the quirks of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods.
I’ve had several bikes throughout my life but none ever felt right for me. The closest I came to liking a bike was having a tiny red bmx that a friend fixed up for me during Vancouver’s infamous four month transit strike in 2001. That summer it was impossible to find a bike, and this one was just my size and easy to ride around the quiet neighbourhood that I lived in. My feeling of affection changed in 2008 when I was living in Vancouver’s busy West End and felt ridiculous riding a tiny bike that hurt my knees on hills and I frankly felt too old to ride. I looked for a bike for several months – my only requirement being ‘it can’t have a bar across the top, my feet have to touch the ground’. I ill-advisedly purchased a road bike, thinking it would be fine but every time I tried to get on it, my body would scream and I’d mentally shut down. The bike and I took a handful of uncomfortable seawall trips together and then it sat in the jumbled and dusty bike room where bikes went to die. I left it there and convinced myself that biking and I did not go together.
Last fall I moved back to the quieter neighbourhood that I’d lived in before, very close to one of Vancouver’s tree-lined bike paths. I started a job that has a beautiful and secure bike room and talked to many of my coworkers about cycling to work. I decided to take out my old road bike for a test ride and found myself huffing over a small hill. My shoulders hurt and my back ached. I hated every minute of it.
Then randomly, I came across Lovely Bicycle and began to learn about mixtes and derailers and lug work. I read her bicycle guide and learned about the differences between road biking and commuter cycling and the simple notion of cycling on the right bike; for the notion of enjoyment. I fell in love with the idea of the bike as a beautiful object – something that I’m sure many serious spandex-clad cyclists would sneer at but works for me. A bike for inspiration and pleasure, rather than sport and endurance.
Like a well fitting bracelet or a great pair of shoes, this past May I found a bike that suits me in character, appearance, and behavior. I purchased a vintage Raleigh Ladies Superbe from the early 1970’s off of Craigslist. The previous owner said that she hated to part with it but she had two many other bikes. She looked tearful as I rode away and as I took my first hill – I understood why. The hills that had seemed so difficult when I was bent over on my ‘properly sized’ road bike, were easy. I stopped thinking about riding a bike and actually began to enjoy riding a bike – something I hadn’t felt since childhood. I’ve spent the last few months using the beloved bike for grocery shopping, touring Stanley Park, visiting friends, and simply meandering. It has been a life changing experience.
Now that the weather is turning colder and I count down the last of my vacation, my thoughts are turning to the change of season and the desire to start making things again – which of course, leads me to a bunch of bike DIY projects. Here is a list of my favourite discoveries:
Personalizing Your Bike (via Lovely Bicycle)
Apply Twine (via Lovely Bicycle)
Sewing an Easy Bike Seat Cover (via Shellys Sewing Shrapnel)
Make a reflective tiecycle (via archives from Readymade – R.I.P.)
DIY Leather U-lock Holder (via BikeCraft)
A lining for a bike basket to hold picnic materials (via DesignSponge)
And of course, I have a lot of love for this knitted U lock cozy from The Knit Cycle.
As for myself, I recently ordered this highly reflective wool from Etsy which I will be combining into thin stripes on some small fingerless gloves and a cowl, both perfect for riding in early winter darkness.