Just over a month ago, my mom generously paid for half of the price of a new bike for a birthday gift for me. I have been loving it and am using it now for most of my errands.
I am not a person who has really ever been part of biking culture. I had a bike as a kid, but probably didn’t have one of my own that actually fit me past the age of 10 or 11. It just wasn’t a big deal to me. Then, a few years ago, my daughter learned to ride a bike. She wanted to ride it everywhere, and at first I could keep up just walking along behind her as she went around the block. As she got faster, I couldn’t keep up with her and didn’t feel comfortable with my little 7 year old riding very far without an adult nearby. I decided that I should get a bike.
I bought an inexpensive Huffy cruiser bike with coaster brakes from K-mart. At that point it would not have occurred to me to visit an actual bike shop and I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to ride anymore. After a couple of wobbly rounds of my block, I figured out bike balance again. My daughter and I started riding around the neighborhood all the time. We’d ride to the library and downtown and just randomly around the neighborhood. I loved it in a way that I don’t remember loving biking as a kid.
That bike served me well for several years, but it was getting worn out and I was really wanting to start using my bike in more serious ways for errands and groceries. Over the years as my daughter has grown, she’s needed new bikes and the last couple have come from a local bike shop rather than a discount store. I love the people at this bike shop, and went there to try to figure out what my next bike should be. I explained what I wanted and the bike guy offered some suggestions to try. I was nervous, though, as I’d never ridden a bike with handbrakes and I was going to need to do that for the kind of biking I was wanting to do. There is an alley behind the bicycle shop where one can try out different bikes, and the bike guy offered me some tips about handbrakes and said he’d stay near me while I tried them out. After a couple of runs up and down the alley, I realized they weren’t that hard- much easier than I’d thought. The bike guy then had me take a few more rounds of the alley shifting the bike into different gears. He was very kind and helpful and didn’t make me feel silly about not knowing how to use handbrakes or gears at the age of 43 :).
I tried out a few different bikes and ended up with a Trek Navigator 2.0. I had a rack mounted to the back and now have two bike bags that hang on the rack. I LOVE this bike! It rides smoothly and I no longer have pain in my knees when I ride a bike because it actually fits me well. The bags work great for library and small grocery runs. My next step was to get a trailer for bigger errands. I was able to find a used kids trailer on craigslist that my husband modified for me to make it easier to use to haul groceries, etc., around.
Here is a picture of me that my daughter took this morning on the way to church. I had to bring in a couple of big boxes of T-shirts that will be used for VBS this week, so I popped them into the trailer.
After church, I ran by the grocery store and picked up a few groceries and put them in the trailer:
This is about $100 worth of groceries, which sadly only fill up about half of the trailer these days. I’ve easily been able to bring home twice this many on other trips.
Here’s some pictures of the simple modifications my husband made to the trailer. He found an old piece of plywood in the garage and cut out the various notches to fit the trailer frame. There is a lip of plywood that sits on top of the frame. Here’s a picture of the bottom of it:
Here’s a close-up of the clamps he used to attach the plywood to the frame:
It’s very stable and has worked great for everything I’ve needed to haul with it so far. The plywood was free, and the clamps were $3, so it was a very affordable project :).
I really don’t think at this stage of my life that I’ll become one of those true biker people like friends I know that are doing the Seattle to Portland ride this weekend. At this point, I’m very happy just to be able to run my little errands around town, knowing I’m doing a small part to use less of the world’s resources while also getting myself stronger and healthier.