This afternoon, I finally buckled down and got a proper hybrid bike.
When I moved to Tokyo from Shizuoka, I relied on a miniature folding bike I'd won as a door prize at a friend's wedding. It lasted a few months, until one handlbar snapped off in my hand while I was 2 km from my apartment, and I still somehow managed to ride it home. After that I reverted to using my ex-girlfriend's old mama-chari (granny bike), which she'd left in my possession.
Back in Shizuoka, I always used to chide my ex for being so slow on those massive wheels as I churned like a hamster on the mini-bike (my own mama-chari had already been ripped off after being left unlocked outside a karaoke joint). Being forced to ride the beast myself, I finally understood that I'd been completely unfair. The thing weighed about two tonnes, and had only two gears: agonizingly slow, and flat tire. I gradually took to walking whenever possible.
The typical mama-chari is hooked up with integrated baskets and mud covers on everything, so when it gets a flat, changing the tire is a punishing affair involving half a dozen bolts of different sizes. When the old neanderthal burst yet another tube a few weeks ago, I finally decided I couldn't be bothered to change it any more, and today I finally clunked the old girl to the bike shop and changed her in.
I am now the proud owner of the cheapest rideable bike I could find. My old bike actually had its light ripped off—a rarity in Japan, where most bikes are taken only to be used—so I have no desire to put anything pretty out there to be nicked or abused. I even went for theft insurance and bought a seat lock and a cover that I immediately rubbed in the mud to make it look as beat-up as possible. We'll see if my precautions pan out.
Back when I lived in the Izu Peninsula, I used to ride my bike from Matsuzaki to Shimoda, then go bodyboarding for a few hours before riding back. My only existing scar come from a fall I took on the mountain road one day, which retired that bike for the remainder of my tenure. Since then, I have not had a decent bike. That makes about eight years.
When I took my new bike out of the shop and got on it, without the slightest forethought and even with a silly pump sticking awkwardly out of my backpack, the instant my feet hit the pedals, I just rode. Having spent so long away, I'd forgotten what it was like to fly.
The frame weighs about an ounce. The gears aren't particularly smooth, but they'll down-shift three at a time. The brake pads are cheap but they do the job. And the pedal grips dig right into my cheap sneakers and tell me my feet are exactly where they're supposed to be.
The temperature dropped about 10 degrees over the last 48 hours, and it was fantastic to feel the cool air whipping into my lungs. My legs felt used for the first time since I can't remember when. Until I got onto that bike, I had no idea how much I really enjoyed riding.
Now I just hope it's still there when I wake up tomorrow.