Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Sweet Ride, alternately titled, Jessica the Occasional Menace to Society

One of the great things about working at the Atelier is that there is a Studio Bicycle!  Yes!  Easy mode of transportation about Amsterdam!

This beaut is currently My Sweet Ride.

It may appear to be the color of a John Deere, but it is actually a  green apple color.  It also has a little bell on the handlebar, to ring when you are about to flatten an unwary pedestrian.

The bike had two locks: a huge steel chain (shown encapsulated in a red cloth) and a more subtle pin-lock that prevents the back tired from moving.  These are necessary to prevent bike theft, which the guidebooks refer to as Holland's number one sport.  Two locks are good, and it really is best to wrap the chain all around the bike, through the frame, around some immovable object such as a house, and back through the spokes of the wheel.  

A mentioned previously, Dutch people are extraordinarily tall.  (The other day on my way home from work, I saw a man jogging, and he was taller than the bus on the other side of the street!  I kid you not!

The tendency to be eight bazillion feet tall can make life trickier for the shorter people attempting to exist in Holland.  I have no problems reaching the pedals of the Dutch bicycle.  I just can't touch the earth with any part of my feet while sitting on the seat.  It is as though the whole apparatus is higher up than an American bike.  A bike designed by and for the enormously tall.  And yes, the seat is the whole way down, as low as it can get.  This is fine when riding around.  It took a little getting used to at first, sitting higher up than I am tall.  

It is a little hard to get on the seat.  I have to step on a pedal and then launch myself onto the seat.

Attempting to stop is always a harrowing experience.  Sure, I can stop, but I can't put a foot down in order to prevent myself from crashing to the ground.  I've tried many techniques.  The best is to move close to a curb, using the height of the curb to make up for my lack of leg length.  
When getting off the bicycle, everyday is a new adventure.  Yesterday I slid, rather jarringly, off the seat to the side.  Just this morning, I somehow slide off the back of the bike, still desparately clutching the handlebars.  It was like I slid off the back of a still-moving pony.  Yee-haw!

I took the bicycle out for a spin after work today, for two reasons:
1). To practice stopping, and to stop freaking out about being on a tall bike
2). It was a lovely day, and it seemed like a good idea to see more of the Jordaan neighborhood

All very well.  I was doing very good.  Riding with no problems, enjoying the pretty neighborhood, feeling confident, then...  an oncoming car approached!  There was no danger of an accident, the car was going slow, room on the street.  But my brain goes, "Ahhh!  Car!  Loose all sense of balance and motor control!" and I careened around the road (luckily empty, so nobody could observe my inane bicycle antics) and somehow slid off the bike and ended up standing next to it, no doubt looking like a total wild-haired manic.  I got back on and wavered around and ended up standing next to the bike again.  Then the next try worked out, and I continued on my way - though I did quickly decide to go home.

Apparently I cannot fall off a bike, I just end up standing next to it.  Does this mean I'm not a squib, and I can go to Hogwarts now?  It seems awfully Neville Longbottom-ish.

Me and the bike, post harrowing after-work ride.

I therefore try to stop as little as possible.  I'm like a startled-girl-green-bicycle-avalanche.

I also don't really ring the bell, as I equate it with honking the car horn, which I think is very rude.  So I'm also a menace to society as well as an occasional danger to myself.

Since having received the bicycle, I have been closely observing Dutch people and their bicycles.  I was always taught that you should be able to touch the ground with the front part of your feet while sitting on the seat.  Apparently this precaution is unknown in Holland, as I have seen many many people riding bikes much too large for them.  Once I realized this, I began observing their methods of stopping.  I need to practice.


Michael Sung said...

Hi Jess!

Liang and I love your blog! iAMsterdam is hilarious!

In Re getting off a bike that is much too tall for you - since it has a slanted top tube, I recommend swinging your non-dominant leg over to other side (while keeping your dominant leg on the pedal on the down stroke to support your weight).

Then you can simply step off the bike (while braking to a controlled stop).

Liang tells me to clarify that the usual right handed person's dominant leg = their left leg.

Liang asks "can you bring some stoopwafels?" =D

Anonymous said...

Proof of tallness:

Good luck with that bike. I bet it will fit Frank.

Mum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mum said...

Oh My Gosh! Jessica, I have chuckled over different things you have written in past blogs entries but this one had me laughing out loud. I can just imagine you careening through the streets of Amsterdam. I felt I must tell you how much I enjoyed the posting but please be careful.

Anonymous said...

If art conservation doesn't work out for you, comedy certainly will! Your bike escapades are hysterical! I am still laughing. I agree with your careful!

Ynn said...

I remember an episode with a bike here at home that ended up with both you and your mom in the ER! I am really enjoying every posting-I giggle and laugh and delight in the knowledge that you are certainly enjoying exploring the world and you are a gifted storyteller!
Love, Ynn

Liang said...

what michael also meant to say (which he has said on several occasions while reading your blog and actually he reads it more religiously than I do) is that if your career in art conservation fails, you can do one of the following:

1) travel the world and write hilarious travel guides

2) write hilarious books in general

I'm currently sitting in the Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill, enjoying the free Wi-fi and 180 degree panoramic view of the community--should be studying for my Internal Medicine test tomorrow...haha. Start research again on Monday! wee!

Mercedes said...

oh no!!! how do you ride that thing?? i am sure i could not even get onto it

Dara said...

that is definitely a Neville Longbottomish type move!!! Miss you hun! I can't believe you didn't even e-mail me this link!!!!

PS. my new e-mail is