When I got my first “big girl” job out of college, I had to start taking public transportation each morning and I swear to you, at first I thought it was so cool. Look at me! Riding the train AND bus across town each day just like these cool hard-working adults of Manhattan. I would cue up my iPod Nano, likely to Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson and squeeze in with masses all partaking in the daily morning rush. That thrill probably lasted all of about 3 months, maybe less. What a pain in the ass it was to schlep to the bus, wait in the cold, transfer to the train and then fight the crowds to squeeze on the train like fat into a girdle. About six months in I decided I could only half handle it so I would take public transit to work and run home. Barely 3 miles door to door running and yet public transportation took me at times almost an hour. By spring I started walking to work. It took me just as long and the park in the morning is beautiful, especially in the spring. Walking and not dealing with other angry commuters changed my quality life. Unfortunately, the following year I got a job nannying in Battery Park City and I had no choice to take the train. Ugh, back at it but worse. I’ll spare you the details but the shitastic early morning commute on the 4 or 5 train had me worn out. A few years later I got a job teaching in a classroom but the commute was even further on that damn green line. After five years dealing with that nonsense, I had had enough. A friend of mine lived further uptown than I did and she rode her bike everyday to the same destination. A bike? It was a long ride fron the Upper East Side to Tribeca but it sounded like a good solution to my subway rage. I knew nothing about bikes but I knew I wanted a pink bike and I knew they made collapsable bikes now that could easily be stored in a small NYC apartment. My google search lead me to what I thought was perfection and for $180 overstock.com sent me my pink ride. Who knew bikes could come with assembly instructions and so many pieces? Tom sat in his underwear in our kitchen and put it together the best he could with the Chinese instructions. When it was finally ready I was SO excited to ride to work with my pink helmet to match.
I gave myself a significant amount of time that first day, knowing I had a lot to figure out. Super fearful of the crazy drivers in this city, I walked it off and on trying to get a feel for it. Once I had made it all the way across town to the west side bike path, I was cruisin! It felt great! Nobody with bad morning breath pushing me. Nobody farting in the enclosed space of the subway car. Freedom! This was of course until my pedal fell off. Have you ever tried to ride a bike with only one pedal? It doesn’t work FYI. I got halfway to work. Luckily the bike folded up and fit nicely in the back of a yellow cab. Still better than the train.
After a few repairs I gave that little pink POS another shot but it was one ride home in which I was pedaling like a maniac but going nowhere fast that I knew I needed an upgrade. The tiny wheels that come with a fold up bike were holding me back. In that moment, I got passed by a man probably three times my age leisurely pedaling. His normal sized wheels had him flying up the westside highway with ease. I went to Danny’s Cycles close to home a few months later and very matter of factly said to the sales guy “I want a pink bike.” He looked at me like I was crazy and asked what kind of bike. Pink. Duh. He searched his database and found exactly what I needed; a single speed Schwinn in a light pink. The perfect commuter bike, the right color, normal sized wheels and pedals attached. This bike was obviously more expensive than my assembly-required piece of crap but she was worth every penny.
After that purchase I refused to ride the subway. I got over my fear of the cars and owned the road like a true New Yorker. For several years I rode my bike to Tribeca and back every day, through triple digit heat waves and below zero windchills. It took me a few seasons to work out the right gear that was both functional and easily removable. Face masks in the winter, paper towels under my helmet to catch the sweat in the summer. When it would rain I would wear a gigantic pink poncho over my backpack, looking like Quasimodo in a pink tarp riding through the streets of Manhattan.I looked absolutely ridiculous but I REFUSED to take the train.
After about a year with my bike, a friend asked me what I had named it. Hmmm… I hadn’t thought about a name. We worked out that my bike was a girl so I needed a name that was feminine but fierce. The same friend suggested Chablis. Chablis is a type of pink rose wine. I love wine so maybe that fits! For a few days I’d greet Chablis at whatever bike rack or street sign she was locked up at it but it didn’t feel right. When I rode the bike through New York, I felt powerful, confident and above all; Sassy. That was it! The perfect name for my beautiful baby girl was Sassy Chablis!
You’re probably thinking, “Am I seriously reading a blog about a bike?” Yes. Because Sassy is more than a bike. She’s my girl! Learning to navigate your way through NYC on a bike will change you. It will teach you to respect the road, to be defensive and aware. I had heard it said once that if you can drive in NYC you can drive anywhere. I believe that statement to be more true about biking.
My first year in NYC I was so timid. I’d ride the train and say “excuse me” and get cutoff and pushed by strangers. Sassy taught me to own my path with determination in a way that wasn’t rude but fair. You may think this all sounds a little too spiritual for a mode of transportation but if you’ve ridden your bike through NYC you understand.
To ride Sassy everyday was a commitment but worth it. I’d carry her down five flights every morning and back up every night. She’s been through a lot but stood strong through it all. Over the years she’s had her wheels, bike bell, seat, and breaks stolen from her. Her bike seat has been cut and the bike basket bent by vandals. Sassy and I have been through two very near death experiences together. One involved a bus and the other causing me to chase a car down the street and then throw Sassy against his hood while I screamed at him for being a clueless piece of shit driver. We’ve yelled at pedestrians glued to their phones both by voice and with the air horn I bought and attached with zip ties. But for all of those road rage incidents, I’ve had moments of freedom cruising through my town listening to songs that gives me all the feels while reminiscing of memories made on these city blocks as I pass them.
Last January the second avenue subway finally opened and I thought for sure I’d still ride Sassy daily regardless but my work schedule made for 4:45 am departures and that Q train just got to be so convenient. Also in the last 9 months I’ve had so much work to do, I needed subway time to respond to emails, make playlists, and write this blog. Sassy has been out and about a few times this spring and summer but for the most part she sits comfortably in our hallway locked to the rail, a fire hazard my husband reminds me about regularly. I greet her every morning when I leave and every night when I return. My little pink bike sits as a reminder of the woman I’ve become and the city that has changed me. Because of her I am more confident and more determined. I think Sassy and I will have a lot of fun in the burbs with open bike paths and long trails. Regardless of where we ride though, one thing is for sure, she makes me feel sassy, not too classy but most definitely bad assy.