When I first came to Canada, my initial feeling to 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 want—or is able—to bike. The culture felt like “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 to 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 had 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 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?