Friday, March 12, 2010

Anxiety rides a bicycle

I'm nervous.

I've decided to go ahead with this personal project. It's going to be daunting. It's going to be frustrating. I'll probably cry a bit. Or a lot.

I'm going to try and build a bicycle.

There, I said it. No big deal, right? Right? Wrong. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, and it's been causing me a great deal of anxiety. I've devoted countless number of hours and mental energy fretting about it. I've even woken up from dreams in a sweaty, sweaty mess with my hair matted to my forehead.

As it stands, I've got this rusting frame that's stripped down, one rear wheel, one-half of a rear basket, parts of brakes, a rusty chain, handlebars, a chain guard and bike guts all over my storage area floor. The thought of somehow assembling all those guts into a functional bicycle scares me to no end.

But, why?! Anyone who knows me knows I adore bicycles. I spend hours ogling bicycles and cyclists. Anytime a fine bicycle goes by, I turn my head. Anytime a fine cyclist goes by, I turn my head. Yet, there's this debilitating fear that is eating away at me.

And I've finally figured out why. It's not the fear of failure. It's not fact that I'm a lady diving into a "male-dominated" realm. It's not even the jumping into the unknown. Far from it. In fact, it's the jumping into the all-too-familiar. For me, bike repair has certain connotations, certain memories and associations to a past I don't necessarily need to revisit.

Hence the anxiety. Hence the fear.

Bike repair was never my area of expertise. I simply rode the bicycles that were built for me, no questions asked. But my curiosity has finally gotten the better of me. And that curiosity eventually won the arm-wrestling match with fear. The very essence of a bicycle screams self-sufficiency, so I want to learn how the machine works.

For me, the bicycle is a symbol of freedom. No waiting around for public transportation, no overcrowding into someone else's personal space. Biking is about five times as fast as walking. The wind goes through your hair. You feel every wind gust, every rain drop. There's a connectivity to the outside world that a four-wheeled shell can never provide. You are accountable for your speed and to a certain extent, your safety. It's taking transportation into your own hands (or feet, rather).

Do you ever have moments where you know you're on the verge of something big? Like once you cannon-ball into the unknown, there's no going back. It's like you can smell some kind of change in the air. The sweet scent of familiarity yet there's the unknown is much more overpowering, intoxicating. It's subtle but strong. Maybe even dangerous. Despite initial fears and reservations, you have to find out what it is.

So I'm going to try and do it. I'm going on this ride. And hopefully I'll meet some friends along the way. Kind and patient friends. Toronto has a wonderful cycling culture complete with a number of community bicycle collectives:

*Bike Pirates on Bloor
*Bike Sauce (opening up on the east end in the spring)
*Bikechain at the University of Toronto
*Community Bicycle Network on Queen (CBN offers some great workshops)

And as a great resource, the Toronto Cyclists Union.

As well, my friend Jeremy was kind enough to lend me the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair. And while I was in Chicago, I picked up this little gem:

Wish me a bon voyage. I'll take photos and send a postcard when I arrive.

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