I feel like a little kid again.
On August 15, I won a bike.
I was at the Ottawa Folk Festival and I bought three raffle tickets for five dollars. I told several people that I planned to win the third prize - a Kona Africabike 3, donated by McCrank's Cycles.
And then I did!
And here's the interesting part. I really, really wanted a new bike. I've been riding the same diamond frame (commonly called a men's bike) hybrid for almost twenty years. It's probably the wrong size for me and had started causing me neck and shoulder pain when I rode for more than a few minutes.
Over the summer, I test rode at least a dozen bicycles from four different bike shops. I came close to buying three times but each time, something held me back.
Our finances are really tight right now and I would have to commit to any bike I bought for a long time. And although several bikes I tried seemed fine, I didn't really love any of them. I had begun to think that I was just being too picky. I had pretty much resigned myself to spending a bit of money to fix up my old bike when the week end of the Folk Festival came around.
And then I won a bike that was nothing like any of the bikes I'd test ridden. And I love it.
With it's heavy frame (42lbs!) and big tires, it feels solid and safe to ride. I love how the coaster brakes (the kind where you stop by pedalling backwards) allow me to slow down gradually (there's a hand brake that helps me to stop quickly when I need to). I really only ever used seven speeds on my old bike, so I haven't really minded that my new bike has only three. The step-through frame means I can wear whatever I want to go cycling (and means that I have fewer excuses not to ride). And the "sit up and beg" style of riding means no pain and whole new way of taking in the world.
It's so much fun to ride! As I did all those test rides this summer, I kept waiting to fall in love and it just didn't happen. It turns out that the bike I needed was one I had been refusing to even consider (and that some of the features I had rejected are the ones I love the best).
For the first few days after I brought my bike home I'd sneak out to the garage just to admire it. I've even named it Steel Horse (because it's such a beast and after the song "I Am An Excellent Steel Horse" by Rock Plaza Central, a band I heard for the first time at this year's folk festival).
I've noticed that people smile at me when I ride my bike. I think it's because I'm grinning like an idiot.
When I was seven years old, I had a red bike with a yellow banana seat. That was my first bike and I've never loved another bike as much. Until now.
For every two Africabikes that are purchased, Kona donates one to it's Basic Needs program in Africa (these bikes were designed to be virtually maintenance free and to be easily ridden on the most rugged of roads). These bikes have been used to help health care workers to deliver HIV/AIDS drugs and to enable girls to travel longer distances to get to school.
If you live near Ottawa and are thinking of getting an Africabike (or any Kona bicycle) for yourself, please go to McCrank's Cycles. Peter Conway is a really good guy (and very generous!), who provides great bike service. He deserves your support.