October 11, 2014

My Dutch Canondale

I was getting too old for my bike.

Not that I'm getting too old for biking. Let me explain.

My trusty bike is a Canondale that has been with me for twentyfive years now, and on which I spent happy days with my friends, tearing up the trails in the woods.

The bike easily accommodated my children when they came: first in a baby seat that I hung from the handlebars, then in a child seat on the back. I have two Dutch bikebags that I hang from the luggage rack, for errands to the library, the grocery store, etc.. The only thing you have to be careful about is that the Canondale, with its aluminum frame, is considerably lighter than a standard Dutch bike, so you have to be more careful balancing cargo - such as a baby at the handlebars.

About those handlebars. You know how mountain bikes have straight handlebars? It gives you better handling on rough terrain.

But I'm never on rough terrain any more. And the straight handlebar, not exactly ergonomic, was starting to hurt my wrists. Leaning on them while biking doesn't help that at all. Also, as I'm getting older I find that I'm less comfortable leaning over: I feel much better balanced on a Dutch bike that allows you to sit up straight.

I considered importing a Dutch bike. CelloDad told me I was crazy. And he has a point. A good Dutch bike of old-fashioned quality is not a cheap item, and then you have to get it over here somehow.

But I did the next best thing: bought myself a Dutch handlebar this summer. Dutch bike shops have a selection of them, with varying widths and different curvature. A handlebar is much cheaper than a whole Gazelle bike, and you can carry it inside a suitcase. Last week, I finally made it to a local bike shop, the haunts of one of my rideshare children; they did an expert job of installing the handlebar.

I am stoked!

It's still my trusty Canondale: smooth gear shifting, easy to haul up a hill - but now I'm sitting upright on it!

I can look around, not up: I don't get a crick in my neck from just biking around town. I'm not bent over the handlebar, so the weight is off my wrists. And - let's be honest about it - my tummy doesn't get scrunched, even after a big meal. I feel better balanced, and can take the corners tighter and faster - heck, I'm almost ready to ditch my helmet!

Just kidding. I wouldn't ride around without a helmet anywhere in the US; the odds are stacked too steeply against cyclers here.

But I'm going to ride around on my Dutchified Canondale, wearing a big grin on my face. For the first time in many years, I'm actually totally comfortable on this bike. And it's not as heavy as a Dutch bike. With its light frame, and with that pleasingly curved and ergonomic handlebar, now it's a Dutch/mountain bike hybrid: if that isn't too much of an oxymoron (there are no mountains in Holland).

A hint to bicyle advocacy groups: if you want more bikers, and better bike infrastructure, you must get the moms on board. And yes, the little old ladies whose cadre I will be joining soon enough. There are lots of us, and our numbers will really make a difference. But we do need to feel comfortable: we need safe bike paths ("If an eight year old can't bike there alone it's not a safe bike path"), bike-friendly laws - and mom-friendly bikes. A mountain bike is fun, but it's not mom-friendly: it's really designed for energetic young people, without children and without a tummy. Too bad it's about the only kind of bike sold in the US right now.



You may also like:
1. How the Dutch got their Bicycle Paths
2. Ten Ways to Calm Car Traffic
3. Low Traffic Zones: anything but cars


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