Opposite Ocean: What a ‘nieuwe fiets’ is and why I need one
Leah discovers that riding a fiets is not quite the same as riding a bike.
The first time I came to Ghent in March of 2011 it was clearly evident that I would need to pull my twelve-year-old bike-riding skills out of the depths of my knowledge base, gain some courage and do as the locals do. It was night as we stepped out of the train station and onto the streets of Ghent for the first time together and I immediately found myself among a sea of bikes. Christophe had been preparing for me to visit and bought a bike for me from a second-hand website. A couple of days after arriving we decided it was time to give the bike riding a go. The first matter of business was to lower the seat of the bike to accommodate my lack of leg length. Herein, I’m maintaining, is where the problem lies. You see, even with the seat as low as possible my feet only barely reached the pedals – this means it was utterly impossible for my feet to reach the pavement while seated. I was adamant that this would not be a problem for the days that I was there, so off we went. The first moments of riding a bike again were wiggly and awkward but then I started to get the hang of it.
That is until we came upon the Gravensteen. It’s a beautiful castle and it draws a lot of tourist activity, it also is a big intersection for the tram system. Christophe had instructed me to use caution while going across the tram track with the bike and I was trying to follow his advice. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this well enough and the tram track snatched up my bike tire and rendered me helplessly suspended for a few seconds until I executed what one might not deem the most graceful dismount ever. It certainly won the attention of all the passersby that happened to be enjoying the Gravensteen at that time. I picked myself up, picked my bike up, and then tried to gather all the bits of pride that remained. After that experience I was motivated to be more careful when crossing the tram tracks but apparently even the most delicate caution might not be enough. A few days later, I found myself in a similar situation in nearly the exact same location complete with all the onlookers and embarrassment that came with the first experience. This is when I decided that the bike is simply too big or that perhaps I am simply just too small. Whichever way it is, a nieuwe fiets (new bike) is needed.
During the past couple of weeks I’ve been searching for a new bike but haven’t had the opportunity to buy one yet. Last weekend we went to a curious little market on Sunday where they sell bikes, rabbits, chickens, and other little creatures. At the market all of those animals are alive but I’m certain they don’t all remain that way after purchase. Nevertheless, the animals were more interesting than the assortment of rusty, second-hand (perhaps illegally so) bikes. My alternate option for finding a bike is a Flemish second-hand website called 2deHands. From looking at this website it’s pretty easy to see that bikes are readily available here. You can buy an old bike for as little as 30 euro. The challenge will be finding one that is small enough so that I can ride it confidently and safely. Until then, the bike hunt continues.
Opposite Ocean is a web blog created and maintained by Leah Budke. Leah is a twenty-something American living abroad in Europe with a passion for languages, art, literature, and one special Belgian. She is a university graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish but finds that the drive to learn endures. Follow her as she cycles awkwardly through the streets of Ghent, Belgium, attempts to learn Dutch, and reveals all the quirks that make up the curious yet charming country of Belgium.
Photo credit: Ritzo ten Cate (nieuwe fiets).
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