A lazy girl’s guide to northerly bicycling

Earlier this month, I became a first-time adult cyclist. I am already a complete asshole about it.

Don’t get me wrong – I have been an asshole since the very beginning. I admit that searching Craigslist for a phrase like ‘vintage ladies cruiser’ constitutes, by any definition, a grave act of urban assholery. The bike’s aesthetic merits were of paramount concern. I was tickled by visions of riding a bike through a black and white photograph whilst carrying a baguette and a small puppy with a scarf around its neck in the front basket. Despite the fact that this fantasy was in grayscale, the puppy’s scarf was somehow red and blue. And in my vision, even though he was right next to it, the puppy never did eat the baguette (as, I imagine, a real-life puppy would likely do.)

In any event, I did find the bike I was looking for – it is a sweet little 1950s-60s Schwinn with a new lemon-yellow paint job and a wicker basket, albeit a puppy and baguette-less one. I swing the skirt of my dress over the frame while I ride. It’s just what I wanted.

What I didn’t plan for, however, is the fact that my quaint little bike is also burdened by its quaint little mechanisms. It is a single-speed cruiser. As a recently indoctrinated “bike person,” I don’t exactly know what that means. I do know that the force propelling my little bike forward comes from my own body and not from the bike’s…erm, power amulet? (Does that sound reasonable? What does make bikes go, anyway?)

This is a problem for two major reasons – for one, I have nothing in my entire body that could be even remotely construed as muscle tone. I could literally be used to make veal. Secondly, if my identity as a twenty-something bike owner made you guess that I live in Columbia Heights, you are right. Specifically, I live at 12th and Euclid – one of the sorry corners of town situated at the highest peak in the District of Columbia. The air is thinner there. We have less gravity. If you jump outside of my apartment, you levitate for ten whole seconds. And on a bike with no gears, trudging north up the wretched hill feels like being part of an underwater chain-gang.

13th St Hill 2
This is a photo of children sledding down the 13th St. hill during Snowpacalypse. They appear to be having fun, but they wouldn’t be enjoying themselves much if they had to sled back up.

13th Street isn’t even an option – the strip of 13th between Florida and Euclid is the steepest slice of the city. Eleventh is similarly pitched. Twelfth runs through Cardozo High, and 16th and Georgia are both generally out of my way – thus, I begrudgingly elect to labor up 14th street, with my calves working nearly as hard as my self-pity gland. By the time I scale the hill, I am demoralized and appear as if I have been submerged in a vat of sweat. My skin is the color of a stop sign. A pug on Mercury would pant less than I do by the time I reach Euclid.

I have paid the price for my pretty bike. Potential cannibals, take note– pretty soon, I think you’ll find the meat in my arms, belly and chest to be far more savory than that in my legs. Unless, of course, I break down and move to Bloomingdale. Then the feast will really be on.

– Natalie

About Natalie Shure

literature, life and latte lady


  1. Columbia Heights Greatest Hits | broadsofthebeltway - 2011/07/25

    […] to cycling: Although riding up the hill to reach Columbia Heightsis a surefire way to ruin your life, once you get there, it is probably the best neighborhood for cycling in the city. And, as a […]

  2. A Girly Girl’s Guide to Bike Commuting | broadsofthebeltway - 2011/09/15

    […] an irresponsible weight to aesthetics when selecting your bicycle As I have divulged, my bike is a vintage fixed-gear Schwinn. It is somewhat inconvenient. It will never recognize […]

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