After Riding Under the Rain
After Riding Under the Rain

When I first came to Canada, my initial feeling about the idea of biking was akin to eating a carrot cake. Deep down, I was thinking “Why on earth would you put carrots in a cake?!” and “Who actually enjoys riding a bike?”

Fast forward a few years. I love carrot cakes. And I have just bought a bicycle.

I guess people do change.

Much like most subcultures, bicycle advocates in Ottawa annoyed me for years. Many cycling activists tend to forget that not everyone wants—or is able—to bike. The culture felt like an “us vs. them” mentality, a constant war between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, who didn’t seem to know what “share the fucking road means.”

I didn’t belong to any group. I avoided driving as much as I could, I only walked in the city core and I took the bus the rest of the time. As long as I was getting from point A to point B without freezing, I was happy.

Things changed when I had Mark and when I started freelancing. Suddenly, I didn’t have to commute anymore. But now, I had a buddy with me. I started driving more because Mark and I couldn’t spend the entire day at home. I started walking more because it was a way to exercise and take a break and get some fresh air.

I rediscovered biking last winter, in Nicaragua. I hadn’t biked in years—since I was a kid, really. I enjoyed it. I decided to try it in Ottawa. It seemed like a good way to kill two birds with one stone—get around faster and cheaper (bus fares do add up) and exercise at the same time.

The first step was to buy a bike—yes, our Chinese household didn’t own a bicycle. Finding the right bike reminded me of hopping around for Mark’s stroller: we had stood in front of a huge display of strollers ranging from $20 to $900, and they all looked exactly the same. Eventually, we bought a cheap stroller and it turned out just fine, so I decided to adopt the same approach to bike shopping. I didn’t have $1,000 to spend, anyway.

After some research, I headed to Sport Check where I bought a Nakamura Royal for $259. I love my bike. It’s light, it has two wheels, a seat, a handlebar, uh… speeds, brakes…–okay, you got me. I don’t know anything about bicycles. But the price was within my budget and it’s by far the nicest bike I have ever ridden.

Along with the bike, I bought a lock, a bell (required by law in Ottawa) and a helmet. “Do you want to see how it looks on you?” asked the salesperson at Sport Check after ensuring the helmet fit me. “I assume I look like an idiot so no, I’ll be fine,” I replied.

Still, I wanted to wear a helmet. I’m a responsible person, Goddammit. And God knows how easy it is to fall off a bike when you try to light up a cigarette while climbing uphill (just kidding—I only smoke downhill, obviously).

I was so happy with my new purchase I decided to ride to T&T to buy some groceries.

Eight kilometres later, I was swearing out loud. Okay, maybe I needed some practice.

I didn’t give up though and learned to love to burn, the speed and the challenges. I rediscovered some places in Ottawa, such as the Rideau Canal. I found out that we do have an extensive network of bike paths all over the city. I learned that even though the first kilometre or so is hard at first, it gets easier as your body gets used to it and that endorphins kick in.

I truly enjoy biking. I can go downtown easily (it’s a 20-kilometre ride from and to home), I can visit my clients and I can get things done.

Above all, it makes me feel good. I’m like a kid with a new toy.

Who knew, uh?


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  1. Cynthia May 26, 2014 at 11:45 am

    I loved biking in Montreal especially when we did the Tour de l’île (50 km), but i find it way too stressful in Paris!

    1. Zhu May 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      I don’t think I would bike in Paris either!

  2. I Say Oui May 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    It sounds like your bike has all the necessary parts…

    1. Zhu May 26, 2014 at 9:28 pm

      I think so too 🙂

  3. L May 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Next step: buy some Basil bicycle bags that are super handy to clip on a bike rake, take in the store with you for shopping (or dry cleaning, or whatever), and then clip back on your bike. Most people are surprised to learn they’re bike bags when they see them off my bike. They make it really easy to run errands or transport things around by bike without having to strap stuff down with bungee cords.

    1. Zhu May 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      That’s a great tip, thank you so much! I’m going to check it out because I do have a lot to carry.

  4. Martin Penwald May 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I should buy a bike since I come in Canada 6 years ago, but I still haven’t. First problem, I fear using a bike in Western Canada, in Calgary or Edmonton. The cities are not conceived for bikes, and when a mayor or a consellor talk of bike path, a majority of stupids yield that it ’s irrelevant. Driving lanes are too narrow and drivers not accustomed to bikes, so it seems very dangerous here.

    Moreover, if I buy a bike, I need one I can take with me in my cab, because I don’t want it staying outside. So a standard bike takes too much room, and a folding one has too small wheels (and is often too large even folded).
    But there is one folding bike with big wheels which could fit in a cab, the iF Mode from Pacific Cycles. However, the price is, … how to say, … interesting. And no retailers in Canada.

    So, for your next vacation, you plan to go to Vancouver by bike ?

    1. Zhu May 26, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      I remember, years ago, I met a chick touring New Zealand by bike. That I could maybe do… Canada? I’ll pass 😆

      Folding bikes are ridiculously expensive, I looked into them as well. Ottawa is a great city to bike, I had never realized it before but we do have a good network of bike paths that actually go places (i.e. not just touring around the farm).

  5. Jeruen May 27, 2014 at 3:55 am

    Confession: perhaps I am one of the few people living in the “first world” who doesn’t even know how to ride a bike. The Philippines is not a bicycle culture, so people just learn it optionally. My sister and my father knows how to ride, my mother and I don’t. When we moved to Japan, that was a little problematic, especially at school, because they pretty much think it is default that one knows how to ride. Here in Europe, that is also the case, but since I live in Berlin, public transportation is very good so it’s not a problem.

    1. Zhu May 27, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      It’s surprising but I can perfectly understand. It reminds me of a Friends’ episode where the guys get Phoebe a bie and then realize she can’t ride 🙂 It’s never too late if you feel like learning and if not, it’s certainly not an issue!

  6. Holly Nelson May 27, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    🙂 I rollerblade and smoke!! How funny. I keep wanting to get a helmet and also so,e shin, knee and elbow protectors. I have fallen down too many times to care what I look like!

    1. Zhu May 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      I tried to rollerblade many years ago. I did great. Well, except for the fact I can’t brake and stop 😆

  7. Mel May 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I love biking along the canal too, as long as the pedestrians don’t get in the way! So much for sharing the road, haha. It’s nice along the Ottawa River too, though the hills trying to get up into downtown are killer.

    1. Zhu May 27, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      And boy, pedestrians do get in the way… it’s crowded now since the weather is nice and don’t get me started on office people taking the entire path!

  8. Dennation May 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    You know I love to bike and I’m happy to see you get on the bandwagon! I was actually thinking about this yesterday, that my next trip to Canada I’m going to try and cycle more. The bus is way too expensive and it’s often faster just to cycle.

    I’ve been thinking about something a bit depressing, though. I really love to cycle and am happy to use my bicycle as my main mode of transportation. But… what will I do when I get too old to cycle? Maybe it’s silly to think about these things now, but often when I am riding alongside cars (and you know that there is little room here), I think about this because you really need to have good control to not hit the cars when going through tight spots. What will I do when I no longer have this control? It really worries me because I hate driving so much. I guess I’ll be one of these bus ladies? But I hate waiting for the bus… This really limits the places where I can live in the future. I’ll always need to live somewhere well-connected, a city most likely, with services within walking distance. Anyway, sorry to get off topic, but that just goes to show you how much cycling is part of my life and how I shudder to think of a life without my bike.

    1. Zhu May 27, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      I hate driving too! Well, I don’t think you can ever get too old to ride a bike. Surely, if you can walk, you can bike! And then they have these modified bikes too, saw quite a few people riding them.

  9. petite yaye May 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Do you realize that Mark will ride a bike by himself soon too ??? weird….. Here it is very difficult to imagine to ride : anarchic streets , anarchic cars, anarchic street vendors, sand on the streets. I have seen only one biker in 8 years… But I look forward to bike during our vacations in France with Michoco in a bike chair ! Wind in our hairs…..

    1. Zhu May 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      I know! He wants to ride, but he is too young still.

  10. Christiane June 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Awesome ! G and I have bikes too but we haven’t rode them yet. W were waiting for the beautiful weather and now we need to get out and get back in the groove (hopefully i can still balance myself out with my belly lol)

    1. Zhu June 1, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      Oh, I’m sure you will be fine. Just take it easy with the summer heat!

  11. Carolyn June 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Just in time for summer. Your post reminds me to dust off my bike in the garage and catch the sunlight whenever possible. Oh and I’ll try not to forget to put sunscreen.

    I bet you had fun buying your bike and accessories. Any plan of adding more stuff (portable air pump, tail lights etc)? Just a tip: raise your bike seat as high as the handlebars. This way you can pedal faster without exerting much energy.

    Enjoy your new bike!

    1. Zhu June 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      I never put sunscreen on. I am terrible for that, but I tan easily and don’t burn. But still…

      I have yet to buy accessories but I should!


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