I'm in LOVE!!!! (with a Dutch Bike)
It's been a while since I've fallen in love. To be honest, I wasn't expecting it to happen again. It's over 20 year since I met Chris, and since then I've had two kids of my own, plus two nieces, so that's precisely 5 times I've fallen in love.
I certainly didn't expect to fall in love with a bike. I'm not the kind of person whose into possessions - for me life is more about experiences. Shoes are for walking, not collecting. Bikes are for getting from A to B - not works of art.
For Chris, and my boys, it's very different. They love cars, bikes, aeroplanes, motorbikes. They have an opinion on the styling, components and other such attributes that leaves me truly baffled. I'm sure the only reason Chris and I have survived over 20 years together is my ability to blank out of the number of bikes, cars, wheels, tyres etc that are stored in and around our house (standard mid-war semi - no rambling old house to hide it all in!)
For me, cycling has always been about the experience - be it for sport, commuting or leisure, the pleasure has always been getting out on the road or the trail and feeling the exhilaration of the ride.
Chris has always sourced, restored and maintained my bikes (I know - I'm spoilt!) and whilst I appreciate my Bianchi is really fast, and my Specialized Mountain Bike is great for off roading, that's been about the limit of my appreciation.
All this changed last week. I was lucky enough to go to Paris with Chris for the weekend, to celebrate my 40th birthday. We left the boys with Granny and Grandpa and we had the luxury of sitting in cafes and watching the world go by for the first time in almost 7 years.
Within minutes of arriving at Gare de Nord, it was obvious that things had changed in Paris since our last visit a decade before. There were bikes and cycle paths everywhere, and chic Parisians were gracefully cycling around without a hint of lycra, drop handlebar or helmet. What was missing was the aggression between drivers and cyclists that I see regularly when I'm in London. And almost ubiquitously all the women and girls were riding solid traditional step through bikes - more commonly known as Dutch Bikes in this country.
I expressed an interest in having a Dutch Bike, and quicker than you can say "ebay" Chris was in his element - like a hunter stalking his prey, he swiftly and deftly pounced on what he deemed a "classic", that would need a bit of work to get it into perfect working order.
My Dutch Bike arrives......
Fast forward a few days, and he arrived back from a 3 hour round trip to Sheffield with my Dutch Bike on the car roof, I was excited, but not prepared for my reaction when I saw the bike, and rode it for the first time.
It really is a thing of beauty. I want to look at it. I want to ride it. I want to adorn it with a basket and a gorgeous set of panniers. I want to wear floaty skirts and straw hats, and waft around ancient cities on warm summer evenings. I love it! Damm it - I'm even tempted to call it a she.....
Of course the reality is slightly different. Now Chris has got her roadworthy, I've ridden her to the Scout Hut, to school and to pre-school. What did I expect - a life transplant?
But, regardless of my mundane surroundings, she felt wonderful. The upright position, the slow leisurely pace, the comfy saddle, the enclosed chain. Life takes on a new perspective - I feel regal, calm and relaxed - not words I usually associate with myself!
So, is it the bike I've fallen in love with? Or am I getting confused with a passion for a new way of cycling? One that doesn't necessitate me turning up at the school gate in lycra cycling leggings, with a rucksac on my back. One where I can arrive in town for a coffee with a friend and not look like I should be out in the countryside, or down the gym.
Only time will tell. And I'm going to be able to do a scientific experiment on it very soon, because in true Chris style, he's now sourced another 2 bikes to restore to their former glory - another ladies Dutch bike and a mens 1950's Raleigh, so watch this space!
It's taken years, but I've finally discovered that I'm not actually weird, I've just been living in the wrong place!
What if...... we follow our dreams?
The Highland 550 is one of the most grueling MTB rides in the UK - follow the progress of a 13 year old and his dad
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