Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Becoming Acquainted - a girl and a bike

Sometimes, when first I'm meeting someone, I feel really awkward even if we're destined to be friends. Then there's the continual getting to know you period, where I've learned things like that it's better to wait for her to have her morning coffee before making eye contact. Or that extended conversations require coffee or tea, and bagels or cookies. Or learning new things even after a decade of friendship, like that I can't answer thoughtful questions in response to NPR radio shows before breakfast.

It's been 16 years since I've gotten acquainted with a new bicycle, and so this getting to know each other period has felt super, super awkward.

Reading reviews about the Xtracycle Radish before I decided to buy one, I had some expectations: 
  • a quick light ride
  • good handling regardless of passengers or load (as long as the passengers are forward, and the load is low)
  • a surprising light bike to lift
  • massive cargo capacity
Over the past couple of weeks I've tried to cautiously approach the limits to see what this bike can do. I've ridden on snow, ice, and hauling a heavy load. I've ridden solo, and with my daughter on the back. This weekend was my first longer solo trip on the Dreamcycle when the roads weren't covered with packed snow and ice. Now I feel better qualified to give a fair assessment.

largest load to date included all the above (about 50-75 pounds) + child

And here's the reality:
  • bikes do not feel quick and light with studded snow tires
  • handling is not greatly affected with a child on the back
  • heavy loads make for squirrelly handling, and require my complete concentration during starts, stops, and turns (perhaps this will get better as I gain confidence riding this bike)
  • lifting the bike requires effort, although it's not impossible
  • eight gears are plenty
  • adjusting to ride upright takes more time than I would've guessed
a bicycle stage

The best have been the unexpected surprises:
  • unannounced wiggling, swaying, and dancing from a preschool aged passenger won't throw us off the bike, even when riding on packed snow
  • my daughter's quick transition from "I don't love the Xtracycle; I like it" to "I love the Xtracycle Radish" to "We can take the Xtracycle!" over the course of riding it twice
Today our relationship turned a corner, we've moved past super awkward and it's getting more comfortable. Cruising down the road the other day, a realization crept in that I wasn't looking at the bike. I was just riding the bike. Gosh, it was nice.

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