It’s been 40 years since I last rode a bike. Living in Toronto, I decided long ago that two wheels were just too dangerous. If I ever moved somewhere with safe, scenic cycling, I said, I’d like to ride again. So here I am, nearly 80 and living in bike-friendly Kingston. There are paths everywhere and more are being added all the time. Pedestrian and bicycle paths run for miles all along the waterfront. It’s a cyclist’s paradise. Could I manage to ride a bike again at my advanced age? I decided to find out. Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and sailboats are for rent across the street from my apartment. Turns out they also rent bicycles. That was it! I’d rent a bike and find out whether I was up to this new challenge. The man at Ahoy Rentals fixed me up with a 24-hour rental, a pale blue step-through model, plus a helmet and a lock. I straddled the step-through frame, took a deep breath and pushed off. Wobble, wobble I went, scaring young parents with strollers and senior citizens with walkers and canes. “Look out, here I come. Haven’t ridden a bike for forty years.” As if by magic, the sea of humans parted like the Red Sea.
I credit a young woman called Maggie for my cycling adventure. I met her socially and she told me about her passion for cycling. I heard her out and decided to tell her my story: that I too had been a cyclist, gave it up as being too dangerous, and was considering riding again now that I lived in Kingston. Turns out that Maggie belongs to the Kingston Velo Club, a group devoted to helping others enjoy the pleasure of riding on two wheels. I agreed to meet Maggie and her fellow enthusiasts one evening at the local Martello Tower (one of Kingston’s historic monuments to threatened invasions from south of the border.)
There were four of us shaky people and four Kingston Velo Club members whose job it was to take good care of us for the next two hours. Maggie talked about ensuring our bikes were road worthy and we set off with frequent stops around the university and the lakeshore. By the end of the evening I decided I definitely wanted to own a bike. That meant persuading son Frank, an avid cyclist to be my mentor in choosing the perfect bike. Husband Harvey suggested a battery-assisted model. Yes, that was just what I needed, an assist for tired legs.
Frank took me to Princess Street where Jay A Tonic sells mostly scooters. Jay ordered me an electric bike. Here was the perfect answer. A street bike with a detachable battery on the frame. The battery comes off for charging and the bike looks like any other bike with a screen on the handlebars for engaging the electronic assist.
Frank tells me my bike will be stolen if I store it in the outside racks provided by my building. I must store it inside. But where? It could go in the hall, but I’d have to squeeze by it any time I went from room to room. And so, the bedroom, at the foot of my bed is where it will reside.
I get my bike in a few days. It’s being shipped from Vancouver. The dealer will put it together for me. Who knows? Maybe, if you’re in Kingston, you’ll see an older woman riding with a pack of yellow-shirted cyclists, smiling and pumping happily up hills with her power assist.