Stylocycle’s Blog

How I fell in love with the Blue Beauty. Why you might too.
November 13, 2008, 6:22 am
Filed under: comments around town, commute by bike


I am Morgan Holmes, a mid-career academic at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. That is to say, my days of grad school post-punk grunge-wear and cycling to and from campus or anywhere else on an old, 18-speed Trek hybrid are long over.

When I first moved to Waterloo back in 2000, I was a freshly minted PhD, and still wore big boots and plaid skirts with cycling shorts underneath and a big biker jacket on top. My helmet, emblazoned with skulls was ironic, and spooky, and worked for me at the time.

But… my taste in boots changed. The length of my skirts became longer. My need to appear professional became more central… and about 3 years ago I realised I was no longer riding daily, that, in fact, my Trek spent most of its days in the garage while I took buses or taxis to work. I figured my life of cycling to and from work was over, outmoded by new needs (among them: not to drop my laptop or stacks of student papers into the road if I should ever take a header over the handlebars [again]).

I’ve never learned to drive… well, not a car anyway. And now that I’m officially ‘middle aged’, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not invested in learning how to drive. I just always see that there are better things to do with my money than sink it into gasoline, and car payments. Of course, we do have a car in the family,  and I do help to pay for it… but in the past year both I and my dear spouse have given up the car for daily use and taken back to our bikes.

So what happened?

In a nutshell: I went on sabbatical last year, lived completely without access to a car in Dublin for a few months, and had the pleasure of taking a research trip to Amsterdam where my host, the very charming and generous MvH, insisted that I learn to ride as the Dutch do. I spent three blissful days peddling around Amsterdam… to and from museums and cafes and little bars… and somewhere in that trip I had a realisation: we’re doing it ‘all wrong’ here in Canada.

I know I’m not alone in saying what follows; the folks at Curbside Cycle in Toronto have made a fantastic business out of changing the habits of city cyclists. It was riding around in Amsterdam, on an ancient but fabulously comfortable and easy-to-handle ‘Amsterdam bicycle’, that I realised I didn’t need to dress any differently to ride than to live the rest of my life. Seeing businessmen in fabulous suits and Todd Baker dress-shoes, professional women in lovely dresses and heels, and all combinations of friends and families riding double or even triple on their bikes just blew my mind!

So… when I came home, I started looking around for an Amsterdam bike. The first thing I found was the Electra, but reviews on it quickly convinced me that those bikes only looked like what I wanted, but were not actually what I needed. In short order, I discovered the Batavus, and a dealer not far away where I could get one. In to Toronto I went, and in early April of 2008, I picked up my small size Batavus ‘Old Dutch’ bike. I paid a little extra to get the three speed model with a front handbrake as well as the integrated pedal brake. That’s my very own ‘Blue Beauty’ in the header for the blog. When the weather isn’t too wet I carry the panier that you see on the back rack. I take that panier into work, and also into the grocery store; if I can’t fit the groceries in that panier, the likelihood is that I don’t really need them. Now, that particular basket is designed to hang on the front handlebars, but because I’m very short, I have my bars in the lowest position, so the basket interferes with the integrated headlamp. I find it works just fine to have it secured on the back rack. For the winter I bought a Basil brand saddle-bag that carries up to 35 litres of stuff — that’s a lot os student papers, plus my laptop and whatever else I want to throw in.

I’ve ridden at least 3 days a week since I got the bike, usually 4, and if work demands it, 5. Since April I’ve used only 5 bus tickets and taken a taxi only once.

This past week-end we had an unusually generous and early dump os snow. You can see some of it evidenced in the header. Today I rode the bike in the snow for the first time, and as promised, the weight of it cut right through the snow, no problem! Today is also the first time that I went out on the Blue Beauty looking more like my old-style cyclist and less like an everyday commuter who just happens to ride a bike. However, today I only had to go to the gym, so it didn’t seem to make sense to ‘dress up’ justto make a point. Besides, I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t fall over, so I wanted a little ‘extra’ padding on. For the most part, though, I’m going to try to keep riding in winter in the clothes that I would wear if I were going to ride the bus, perhaps even a little lighter as I know I won’t have to wait an extra 10 minutes in the freezing cold because the bus is late *again*.

I hope this blog may inspire others to join me in the effort to reintegrate the bicycle as an everyday mode of transportation for the first time since we were kids.

Winter riding conditions for today.

Winter riding conditions for today.

Now, I’m going to go make myself a hot drink, and finish some reading for my graduate class tomorrow.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

When you had your accident the other day, was it on this bike? If yes, is your assessment any different post accident?

Comment by BJ

My accident was not on the bike; no. I fell while *walking* and simply pulled one of those spectacular flips in the air. I haven’t fallen off a bike on over a decade. Last time I fell off a bike was when I was cut-off in a hailstorm by a speeding BMW in a residential neighbourhood.

Comment by stylocycle

I have the same panniers for my bike, or similar, rather. I have the Basil Red Blossom Twig bag. I am amazed how much food I can carry in it! And you are right, if I can’t fit all the food that I need in it, I bought too much food! LOL!!!

Here’s a pic of the bags on my bike.

Comment by Carolyn

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