“Man, I missed this,” I thought as the firetruck siren wailed behind me and the patch of ice my front tire sniffed out like a bloodhound started skidding me toward a parked Nissan.
I got on a bike again.
It was my first time back on two wheels since before the polar vortices laid down the first foundations of massive ice piles just now melting months later. It was a slow, blue Divvy bike rented at the train station and pedaled heavily back home post-work.
As it had been so long since I’ve been on the bike and as for some reason Divvy bikes bring out the SEO-bait clickable listicle in me, here are five things I had forgotten about riding a bike in Chicago:
We operate in a middle zone
We get neither wide swaths of road or raised walky platforms to stride down, just a little strip in between where someone decided a line of paint would repel the tons-heavy motorized death machines.
And then they put that paint-protected strip between where the death machines race and where they sleep.
That all-important centimeter
There is a centimeter to the left of your head that must be kept clear of obstruction at all given points.
It’s a centimeter that my helmet leaves free, but my winter hat fills with long, warm ear flaps. It’s just a slip of fabric and fuzz, but just enough blockage to make sure I was always worried about a rogue car coming from nowhere and crushing me into a lifeless hull. Then John Kass writes a “little bike people” column in the Tribune about how terrible I was.
Fuck your pants
No matter how many fenders, gear shift covers, guards or other pieces of plastic and metal you put between the ground and your Heritage Collection by Bass flat-front chinos, on a slushy day the pants are going to look like a cross between a Jackson Pollock and the pig blood scene in “Carrie” by the time you go any distance that takes more than one revolution of the pedal.
Leg goes down, pants untouched. Leg comes back up, it look like you fell in Taco Bell meat.
Fuck driving, fuck the ‘L’ and, although not quite as germane to this particular thought-stream, fuck John Kass. (Seriously, dude has like a thousand people’s dream job and he spends it ragging on bikes? Fuck that guy.)
Biking is amazing. It’s free and fulfilling. It’s transit as enjoyment. It’s cheap, it’s clean (aside from the pants on slushy days) and it’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, which would not really be that fun considering monkeys would likely not enjoy being confined to barrels and opening the barrel would unleash a pooey hellstorm the likes of which have never been … where was I going with this? Biking’s fun.
Drivers, slow the hell down. Bikers, remember you can be dicks too. I’m not going to go out again without my helmet (it’s just dumb not to) and, Chicago Tribune editorial board, I am available for John Kass’ job. I’ll even ride my bike to work.
Past tales of bicycles: