Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The One Where I Fall Off My Bike

Germans like to bike.

Some people here in beautiful Deustchland don't even have cars- even in the suburbs where public transportation is a bit slapdash- but choose instead to use a bicycle as their primary mode of transportation. You know how I know this? Observation, my friends, observation. The sheer number of bikers riding around in the snow during the winter leads me to believe the bike is just as much a transportation staple as the car. I can only assume that given the option of a comfortable heated car ride with ample lumbar support and very little threat of discomfort in the middle of winter where the windchill hovers around 5 degrees, you would always choose the car over a bike. Always. Ergo, anyone riding a bicycle in such conditions must have no other choice. And frostbite.

Husband and I bought a secondhand bike off a fellow headed back to the U.S. a few months ago, and now the beautiful weather and our need for secondary transportation have joined forces to create the perfect scenario in which to stretch our...wheels. So I took the 'ole girl out for a spin yesterday and was absolutely delighted by the wind whipping through my hair and the sun beating down on my face as I breezed down side streets and through bike lanes. Germany seems to be on board with the whole cyclist mentality and has invested in creating a well run and complex infrastructure to accommodate the casual biker, which falls neatly in line with their overarching concern for the environment. In many places there are just as many bike paths as streets, and most intersections have traffic lights not just for cars, but also little ones to the side for bikes. Cute.

One of the coolest things about the biking culture here is the pervasiveness of the act. As Husband and I sat outside our favorite sushi place enjoying the lunch special, no less than 10 senior citizens came peddling by, most of whom were clearly returning from the grocery store, as evidenced by their heaping cloth baskets affixed to the back overflowing with prunes and danish and all other manner of old-lady food. During rush hour it's not uncommon to find about half as many commuters using the bike lanes as the highway, and kids of all ages ride bikes to and from school (have I mentioned that German parents haven't yet succumbed to the "culture of fear" in raising their children, and it's awesome to see kids given free range to have fun and learn on their own).

So, if Granny From the Block can ride her 6 speed all over town, surely I, a capable, relatively fit 20-something of robust health can manage a trek on my own two-wheeler. After all, riding a bike is like...riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget.


Well, kinda. I was doing great and having a blast with my new-found freedom of transportation until I rounded the corner approaching homestead Guten Strudel, and attempted to transition from the street to the sidewalk, via curb. This was a small curb, a rounded curb, one might say a gentle curb. A curb that seemed at first no more dangerous than a piece of cheese or a wool sock. No problem. The bike, however, saw things differently. To the bike, this curb represented all that was wrong in the world: insurmountable troubles, constant struggle, certain death. I think it was aiming for certain death. So down I went as the front tire refused to proceed forward of the curb line, but my own inertia required additional movement in that general direction. I toppled, sideways and awkwardly, to the ground, luckily in the direction of the sidewalk (and not into oncoming traffic).


I managed to break my fall with the cunning use of my bare hands and ample amount of natural padding, and escaped the incident with nothing more than a small bruise on my leg and permanent shame. Seriously, who falls off their bike? I didn't even crash into anything, I literally just fell.

How embarrassing.


Johi said...

Are we related? I have too many similar stories to post here, so you may be seeing my own post about such displays of athleticism... Thanks for making me laugh!

Johi said...

P.S. My favorite bikers are the ones with the cigarette hanging out of their lips. That little cancer stick usually is a sure sign that they lost their license and aren't just getting exercise.

Allie said...

Johi- I've definitely noticed increase in the number of smoking while biking incidents as the weather has warmed up. Their balance and ability to take in enough oxygen to fuel those little peddlin' legs still astounds me.

Canis Majoris said...

Question is...did anyone point and laugh?

I'm going to totally read your story to my husband. He was riding to work one day right before Labor Day. He thought it was taking him too long so he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket to check the time and hit a patch of gravel or something and by reflex grabbed his brake. His front brake. He went end over tea kettle. He called me at work to come get him and his message on my voice mail was, "I'm not going to die, but I'm hurt pretty bad." Nice. He busted his hand in two different places, broke a tooth, scraped up his cheek bone and split his lip open. We spent all Labor Day weekend in front of the TV with his hand elevated instead of out on the river on our waverunners!

Allie said...

Oh Canis, misery loves company! I'm glad your husband survived his bucking bike incident- did he too suffer permanent shame. Seriously, not since training wheels have I fallen off my bike.

spokeit said...

Oh you make it sound so romantic! (in a good way!) I wish we could ride our bikes around like that- I'd get hit by a small child walking to school in under 15 seconds...

Anonymous said...

Where I live, bikers are militant. Once a month they do this thing called "Critical Mass" where they all get together and bike through the main streets, the goal being to achieve so many bikers that traffic is totally held up.