Some people simply cannot abide any toe-clip overlap. Me, I can stand a little, depending on the bike and how I'm riding it. But this is, shall we say, a bit out of my range.
What's worse is the way it was achieved, if you will:
I'm thinking now of Rigi bikes from about 40 years ago. Its creators made the wheelbase shorter by splitting the seat tube in two--rather like the top tube on a mixte frame--and running the wheel between the smaller tubes:
I've heard of a bike that does the same thing with the down tube: The front wheel runs through it. I don't know how one steer such a machine. The only possible use I can see for it is a motor-paced time trial.
Now I'll dispense with the levity: As you probably have surmised, I didn't try to alter Arielle's geometry. Rather, it happened--in front of a nondescript tenement on Bonnefoy Avenue in New Rochelle.
I was pedaling, at a pretty good pace, home from Connecticut. Well, I thought I was going home: I hit something and, the next thing I knew, I was getting stitched up. Then someone in the New Rochelle hospital decided I should be observed in a trauma unit, to which I was sent.
Poor Arielle. As for me, I still feel pain on the sides of my neck down to my shoulders. Oh, and I have a headache and have been tired. A trip to the drugstore felt like a century or a marathon.
When I got home, my face looked as if someone had superimposed a railroad map over a satellite image of the Martian surface. It's a little better now, but I don't think I'll be modeling for Raphia any time soon.
I hate asking for money, but I think the real pain will begin when I see what my insurance doesn't cover. So, I've set up a GoFundMe page.
I hope, more than anything, to be back in the saddle soon. Until then, I'm going to catch up on some reading, writing and a project. And Marlee is going to catch up with, well, the cuddles she misses when I'm out of the house!
I suppose that most of us can say we are privileged in some ways but not in others.
If you are reading this blog, you have the privilege of my unparalleled adventures, timeless insights and deathless prose. All right, I'm kidding. The privilege you have, though, is the time for, and choice of spending time with me. You could be doing other things, after all.
On the other hand, even if you love my blog more than anything else in the world, you probably have other things tugging at your sleeve, so to speak. In short, you don't have all day to read this.
Also, I suspect that most of you who are reading this are cyclists by choice. That is a privilege, certainly. If you are cycling because you have no other choice but your unaided feet, I feel extremely honored by your presence.
I have long had awareness of who has privilege and choice, and to what degree. But I may not have ever been so cognizant of my own privilege as I was the day took a bike trip into the Cambodian countryside with You Sert, who lives in that milieu. During that ride, I spent some time with a farmer who is a traditional healer and played with her children, who didn't speak any language I speak but who understood, perhaps better than I ever will, the ways we communicate through motion, through touch and toward the heart. Also, I went with You Sert to a market, where we picked up the ingredients for a lunch we shared with a family. And, before the end of that ride, a woman showed me how she weaves her grass roof and led me through weaving a row of it. (I hope she stayed dry through the rainy season!)
I mention that day because, as rewarding as it was (I've stayed in touch with You Sert as well as other people I met there), at the end of it, I returned to my room in the inn which, although it wasn't the Ritz, was nonetheless palatial--with its air conditioning and cable channels beamed in from France, England and Australia--compared to the conditions I only glimpsed.
That day, as it turned out, was emblematic of my understanding of being black, or anyone not white, in America. While riding my bike, I have been stopped and frisked for no discernible reason--other than, perhaps, my gender identity or the fact that I am cycling in a car-centric culture. One incident in particular was scary: One of the officers who stopped me was clearly afflicted with "'roid rage." Still, even then--on a hot day early in my gender transition, when I was riding home from work in the skirt and blouse I wore on the job--I felt at least somewhat certain that I would soon be home and riding my bike the next day.
I didn't think, then, that I would meet the same fate as George Floyd. Or Breonna Taylor. Or Sandra Bland. Or Tamir Rice. Or Eric Garner. Or Freddie Gray. Or Amadou Diallo. I didn't even expect that I would be stopped, again, by some other police officer for "riding while trans" or whatever they call it in legal lexicon or cop argot. And, so far, I haven't.
Unfortunately, though, I have met a few riders who were stopped for no apparent reason other than "cycling while Black" or Hispanic or fill-in-the-blank. And even if they managed not to get summonsed, or worse, I could understand if they felt even more anxiety than I did about having to deal with the police. After all, the only people who have a greater chance of being murdered, by police officers or anyone else, than transgenders are African-Americans, particularly the young.
And, let's face it, as a white woman, I can be seen, at least by some, as an educated creative person and educator who likes to ride her bike. It seems that my professional pursuits and passions--or even being an honest, law-abiding person trying to make a living and help others--are enough to for folks like Ms. Bland to escape whatever biases accrue to them on account of the color of their skin.
In short, even as a member of one "minority", going for a bike ride or a walk is something I can do, on most days, without thinking. That is a privilege Ms. Bland, George Floyd and others did not have. I try not to forget that.
Ten years ago today, I wrote my first post on this blog.
Back then, I was less than a year removed from my gender-affirmation surgery. I had just returned to cycling a couple of months earlier; if you look at the photos in some of my early posts, you'll see that I gained weight during those months off my bike. After a summer and fall of riding, I'd lost most of the weight, though I don't (and probably will never again have) the surfboard-shaped body of my racing and long-tour days.
What is the point of that story? Well, a point might be that, as the Tao Te Ching teaches, life is change. That is what makes life a journey: If we always know what's next, we are just passing through the same moment over and over again.
Like most people, I learned to ride a bike when I was a toddler. Unlike most Americans of my generation (or the previous couple of generations), I didn't stop when I was old enough to drive. Cycling has been one of the few constants in my life: I have continued to pedal beyond jobs (careers, even) I no longer work or even think much about, through places and people I've moved away from whether by choice or circumstance and, literally, from one life to another.
Of course, there are people and other living beings I miss: my mother (who passed a few months ago), my friends Janine and Michelle and my cuddle-buddies Charlie and Max. (Yay cats!) Now I have Marlee and friends I didn't have in my youth, as well as a few who've been with me through my journey. Marlee doesn't replace Max or Charlie any more than current friends take the place of Janine or Michelle. But they hold places in my life that I discovered as I've continued on my journey.
Likewise, the ways I ride today aren't substitutes or consolations for the way I pedaled when I was younger. The journey changed me; I changed with the journey. And it changed, just as the sights around you change as you ride from a city to the country, from a village to farmland, from the seaside to a forest or mountains to flatlands.
And, well, the world is different from the world of a decade ago. This day began with my hometown, New York, under curfew for the first time since the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011. The latest curfew began at 11 pm last night; tonight it will re-commence at 8 pm. Those restrictions come as schools and businesses deemed "non-essential" have been closed for nearly two months and social distancing has been mandated.
Who could have foreseen any of those things--or, for that matter, our political situation? If life is a journey and a journey is, by definition, a procession of change, we can at least hope that the curfews, the pandemic and the current administration won't last. And, as long as I continue to ride, I am on the journey. As long as I don't know where it ends, I am in the middle of it. So, even at my age, I am a mid-life cylist.
Today included a trip to Dollar Tree so I could stock up for the apocalypse. No, as bad as some things are, we're not in it. At least, not in this part of the world and not yet.
Anyway, as I left--with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, among other things--I spotted this:
Its owner had left the store just before me. She didn't speak English well and I don't know what, if any, other languages we might have had in common. But at least she understood that I was looking at her bike and not trying to scam her--out of it or anything else.
After a bit of fumbling, I managed to ask whether the bike came with that finish. An artist friend did it, she said. And that friend is going to "fix" it for her soon.
As I write this, I'm thinking of that debate of whether a work of art should be hermetically sealed, as many museum pieces are, or left to public contact. I rather liked that paint finish as it is, but I can understand why she'd want her friend to restore it. I mean, I like bikes with patina and ones with shine.