Friday, August 1, 2014

A love letter to the bicycle.

The times I've written about biking on this blog, it's been mostly negative. When I started I was really scared, and then I had some very minor accidents, which scared me some more. These things made it onto the blog, and so sometimes when I talk to my friends back home about biking, the mental image they still have of me is of me crashing and being so terrified my knuckles are white on the handlebars. So I am writing today to amend that image because over the last eleven months my feelings have changed, changed utterly.

So here is the love letter to the bicycle, to mine in particular, and to biking in the Netherlands.

At home in Leiden
I love that now I bike so frequently that when Owen and I walk somewhere we get annoyed and confused with our legs for how slowly they walk. "How are we still going past this narrow building? If we were biking we'd be two blocks down by now."

The skies here are incredible

I love all the financial benefits! I love not needing to put gas in the tank. I love that our most expensive bike repair has been 60 euro. I love that when my bike breaks down I can carry it or walk it without any problem.

Biking with Owen to the Hague

I love how strong and free biking makes me feel. On days when I teach violin lessons in Leiderdorp, I bike for about a half hour through town and then through the fields for a bit. On nice days, especially when the wind is fighting me a bit I let out my hair and the speed of biking and the gusts of the breeze blow it out behind me, and I feel like I am life itself.

My first long bike trip alone, in November

I love that biking has given me the Netherlands. The huge skies swooping down on all sides to kiss the perfectly flat ground. The silver canals shimmering in the sunlight. The flowers blooming everywhere. The streets of the Hague, or the giant garden in Lisse, the shores of the North Sea, I can get to them all with the force of my legs and the two wheels they power.

here is a week's groceries on my bike.

I love carrying things on my bike. My violin, the week's groceries, a backpack or a bike bag full of sundries, are just the everyday things I've transported with my bike. I've also biked with dining room chairs, vacuum cleaners, luggage and a small tree on my bike, and love that it's become no big deal.

I love that biking has brought me intimately close to the weather. Characters in books are always talking about the weather, because it mattered so much more when people didn't go from temperature regulated houses to temperature regulated cars and back again, with shelter along most every step of the way. Here all those weather conversations make sense. I love that everyone looks out for the weather, watches and listens, plans their errends so that they miss the rain. And when the weather is good? You know those perfect days when you have a kind of long drive and you decide to open all the windows and just let the weather in? On a bike you get all that whoosh of speed and wind but without any car obstructing that experience. You smell the lilacs, you hear the birds, you feel the little sprinkles of rain as the start to fall. It's a full bodied experience and it's wonderful.

When Owen asked what I wanted to do for our anniversary, I said, "Let's go on a bike trip." So we went to the Hague, just a couple hours each way, and we rented a place to stay so the whole weekend we could bike around the city and wouldn't need to rely on public transportation... we'd just be free! It's been a big adventure, but I should stop writing now... I'm biking with a friend to the seaside.

Bike paths are a big deal here. 


Owen recommends hitting Cmd-A then Cmd-C (or Ctrl-A then Ctrl-C on Windows) to copy your comment to the clipboard before you hit "Submit". That way, if your comment doesn't post for whatever reason, you can paste it back into the comment field with Cmd-V (or Ctrl-V) and try again.