When I moved to San Francisco, I gave up my car. Not an uncommon story, despite a love of driving; let’s face it, parking is tough, gas prices are only going up, and public transportation is alive and well. If ever in a pinch, there’s always Zipcar and City CarShare to get you where you need to go.
My first year here, I walked everywhere, rather than take a train or bus. If Google maps said it was under three miles, it was do-able. I’d pack up my large hip bag, throw on a scarf and step-to. Work was two miles each way, four miles a day, at least twenty miles a week. It sounds like a lot, except it isn’t, not really. It’s knowing the routes enough to avoid the larger hills, and being willing to invest the time. It’s also great for your legs. ;)
Enter 2012, and I’m ready for an upgrade of my treads… a bicycle!
Bike culture is well established in SF; from the commuter to the athletic roadster to the occasional cruiser, it’s a growing form of transportation, with active laws in place to protect the rider and encourage acceptance with employers and businesses.
But, it’s been about eighteen years since I’ve actively ridden a bike; I’m going to need a little help.
Welcome Mike’s Bikes and my new friend Adam, who over the course of an afternoon, proceed to show me just how far bikes have come – what, no kickstands anymore? – and how much I have to learn.
He was very patient, calmly explaining the differences between carbon and aluminum frames, how to gauge a bike’s speed or performance, the importance of checking tire pressure, and how real biker’s carry their groceries home.
Aside from knowing which fancy gearboxes, type of shifters, handlebars, and frame material fits my needs (mind blown) it’s all about “smiles or frowns”, Adam says as he handpicks three bikes for me to try out. I was to learn through experience. Eep.
I wobbled on my first take off but a few pedals sweeps and I was back in stride…. And suddenly in traffic, desperately looking for a bike lane or an alleyway! It was great fun and I was all smiles.
The bike I fell in love with is a bit more than I’d anticipated spending (despite a bada$$ gift certificate from my one and only), but I’m in no rush. I’ve been walking this long, what’s another month or so?
Any advice for a new rider, SF?