northwestern university archives2

The kiss of spring is in the air and once again, I am yearning to ride my bicycle. Even if it is raining today, I’ll fill up the tires and take it for a spin. There is something wonderful about sitting high in saddle and feeling the wind against your cheek.

In the coming months, I’ll be pedaling off to local farmers market or the grocers every few days. The chore of shopping will transform itself into an adventure, an opportunity to interact with people and the outdoors. Is there anything more romantic than a baguette and a bouquet peering out from beneath the corner of a pannier?

I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of carrying awkwardly shaped items that must be balanced and tethered to the carrying rack — a large bag of planting soil, a pair of watering cans and garden tools.


You won’t see me wearing any fancy schmancy outfits. There’ll be no spandex biking shorts or neon t-shirts with bold graphics. Nor will I be wearing sport specific footwear, futuristic looking sunglasses or one of those short billed riding caps. I don’t knock it. It’s just not for me, at least not yet. I’ll be riding, as I usually do, in yoga wear or some shorts that are conservative in length.

I like to wear skirts when I cycle as well. It is a romantic notion, I suppose, carried forward from vacationing in the Netherlands. I still carry visions of scarves and hems fluttering on the wind. I will caution you, however, about wearing a silk wraparound skirt when you are pedaling into the wind. Wear shorts underneath or keep one hand free because your skirt will become a kite at some point in the ride.

20th April 1891: Victorian trick cyclists performing a balancing act. ‘Auckland’ (Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images)

You’ll not find me performing bike tricks or risky maneuvers either. Even as a kid, I wouldn’t pop a wheelie or ride on a friend’s handlebars. I fell off my bike by accident often enough when I learned to ride it on the gravel laneway at my grandparent’s farm. At least once, I couldn’t stop myself before colliding with a set of cedar trees by the milk house. It hurt. I’m reluctant to do anything to increase the odds of repeating that sensation.

Last summer, I had a close call, rolling off the side walk and onto the street. My new bicycle requires that I back pedal to brake. When the bike eased forward, I continued to squeeze my handle bars.  Oops, no more hand brake. Now I dismount at major intersections and walk my bike across the road.

Library of Congress
Photo credit: Library of Congress

Here’s something else you won’t find me doing. I generally refrain from tooting my own horn and the neighbours are unlikely to enjoy my trumpeting each return home. I do have a wonderful bell, one of those retro kind that issues forth a melodic warble. It’s not too intrusive, but it let’s people know I’m coming up on them.

There is one thing I’d like to master — the elegant side mount.  I just throw my leg over the bicycle like I’m scrambling over a fence, then I tromp down on the pedal to get moving — effective but not picturesque.

Oh well, it’s good to have a goal. Perhaps if I had a pair of these …


                                         Lead photo courtesy of: Northwestern University Archives

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