The horror of cycling
Blogger Hallie Engel explains why her bike has been christened Christine, after the evil car prone to murderous rampages in a Stephen King novel. The name suits it.
My bicycle and I have a special relationship: it tries to kill me and I keep on riding. The list of injuries I’ve incurred while zipping around the city is on the rise; as well as a few scrapes and bruises, I have a sore wrist and a stiff shoulder, both the result of unfortunate tumbles.
My antics on the silver beast always cause my Dutch friends to gently ask if it’s the first time I’ve ridden a bike, but the answer is no. My first cruiser was a Strawberry Shortcake tricycle, which I traded in for a series of made-in-China Huffy’s and, finally, a gorgeous pink Peugeot when I lived in Bavaria. I spent many happy hours astride that marvel of French design, free of injury and worry. In Amsterdam, I assumed I’d pick up where I left off in, riding with the skill of a native.
That might’ve happened if I’d bought a sturdy black omafiets (grandma bike) or something in good shape from a dealer near the Albert Cuyp Market. However, I decided to go through a local student union which repairs seized and abandoned bicycles and sells them on the cheap, that being the key word in my mind at the time. They sold me a battered number with chipped fenders, splotches of green spray paint and a squeaky back tire: a bike only a mother could love.
I shudder to think of Christine’s last owner, who is probably dead and buried in a lonely grave somewhere east of the Amstel. I’ll probably be in an adjacent plot by the end of the month; I think I’m close to cashing in my last close call. Battle wounds aside, I’ve been afraid to throw Christine away, as I’m pretty sure when I awake the next morning, she’ll have returned, like that cursed tiki idol in the Brady Bunch Goes to Hawaii.
The aforementioned injuries were incurred from a sideways tumble while biking to my first day of university, and the other from falling onto a pile of bicycles when I lost my balance trying to dodge a random woman standing in the bike lane, who I assume was trying to remember the names of her cats.
Falling onto parked bicycles isn’t so bad though; as a connoisseur of disaster, I have to rate it highly, as there is little pre-impact drop and a pile of rusty Gazelles cradles my small frame surprisingly well.
Of course, the greatest damage has been done to my tender ego. I’ve been snickered at by children (note to the under seven set: laugh one more time, and I’ll loosen your training wheels while you sleep), given looks of pity by the elderly and have been beeped at by angry drivers more times than I can count. Little do they know, I’d much rather stop than amble through an intersection, forcing them to slam on the brakes to avoid crushing me, but I don’t have the option presently.
So, I’m going to peruse Marktplaats for a new ride. Something with a sturdy brakes, a cushy seat for my derriere and a frame suited to my petite stature.
But please, don’t tell Christine: I don’t want to make her angry.
Hallie Engel is an American student and budding writer living in the Netherlands.
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