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Following my last post about food, you may be wondering how we manage to focus so many calories into one (two) body (ies). Perhaps this post will explain: we bike.

I mentioned before that last fall we bought Brompton folding bikes. We’ve cycled around Portland vicinity on them, but our trip to Canada gave us the first international travel experience. My, how much I learned. And yes, I’m as in love with it as ever.

The bikes traveled north in our car, and on Saturday we pulled them out to explore the city. We were staying in White Rock, about 45 miles– excuse me, 72 km– outside of Vancouver, requiring a bus and train ride into the city. As soon as we got to the bus stop, people started eyeing the folded contraptions and striking up conversations. This didn’t stop until we got home that night. It was weird. Is this just friendly Canadians, or will this happen anytime we travel with the Bromptons?

Bromptons on a train

We took the train into the city, ate our way through a few neighborhoods, then headed to Stanley Park to work off some of that waffle.

The park is a huge forested area at the tip of Vancouver. A bike path runs around the entire coast, full of families, couples, serious road bikers, tourists, and vagabonds out to enjoy the day. It’s only counter-clockwise: I found out why while squeezing myself between jutting rocks and a sandy beach on a wet, twisty road. It’s an absolutely beautiful park, even with the hazards; the perfect antidote to city high-rises. An inner forest of pines ringed by sandy beaches and cloudy water–take away a few of the joggers and I’d be in a tiny paradise!

An off-the-bike moment

After Stanley Park we meandered back through downtown to find more food. Vancouver is a great biking city as it’s full of slow residential streets, bike signs, and gorgeous cherry trees. We easily found our way around. The busiest parts of the city have separate bike lanes buffered from the traffic. There are arguments against this, of course (it causes cars to pay even less attention to bikers), but I loved it. Though I found the cars weren’t the problem.

Katrina: I love these bike lanes! [swerve to avoid a pedestrian]

Jesse: What? Can’t hear you.

Katrina: I said I love these bike—Aah, [ding ding] watch out!

[clueless couple jumps out of bike lane]

Jesse: What was that?

Katrina: Nevermind. Let’s get coffee.

Helmets are required, since the government doesn't want to pay for your squished melon.

The rest of the day was full of eating, wandering, sitting in a coffeeshop, more eating, and more wandering. Eventually we exhausted ourselves and had to head home.

 Here are some things I learned about the Brompton.

  • It really is compact. It was easy to find space on the train for us and our bikes, and we even carried them into a coffeeshop with no problem. Bike rack is full? Take it inside! That said…
  • It’s heavy.  When folded, it’s not the easiest thing to cart around a train station or bus stop. Especially for my piddly little arm muscles. And a weird quirk with the way it’s folded means it’s not easy to switch arms so my right side felt the burn.
  • We ended up wheeling the unfolded bikes around and locking/unlocking them a lot. They were great to ride in Stanley Park, and great to get from A to B, but cities are best explored by wandering, and it was tough to get the right flow. Anytime we wanted to pop in a store we either had to fold the bikes up and carry them in, or find somewhere to lock them. A block later, and we’d do it once again. Next time I’d rather do a day of only riding or only wandering–or find somewhere secure to drop them off at in between.

 

I’m getting better at folding it, and getting more accustomed to the stares, though it still makes me uncomfortable. Nothing sticks out quite like a bright green funny-looking bike. They did prove to be great conversation starters, but I always dreaded the “How much do they cost?” question. And it always came up.

This is where it gets real. Let me be clear: these are not cheap bikes. They are more than $200. They are more than $900. But no one wants to hear that on the street, and I certainly don’t want to admit to Chatty Cathy that I shelled out that much for a dumb bike. I’m embarrased that I can afford it, and I’m embarrased that I’m privileged enough to buy it. I could list twenty reasons why it’s a good investment for me and my lifestyle, but defending my choices to a stranger on a street corner isn’t why I wanted to visit Vancouver. So… I’m still figuring that one out.

That said, I really do love this bike, green color and all.

I still need to find a name for it…

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