Un peu de détente

Posted in Cycling, La France at 21:21

Cagnes in the morning sun

Another long weekend ahead of us here, this time for commemorations of the 1918 Armistice on Monday the 11th.

As I continue commuting to work by bike, a distinct pattern of experiences has emerged, one I never expected, and yet that is a wonderful balm for the soul. Children. I’ve always loved kids, and apparently have a face that shows it, since babies spontaneously coo at me even when I haven’t looked at them. It makes for fun surprises at parks and in public transportation: there’s nothing like getting on a crowded tramway, hearing “wheee! gaaa! heee!” then looking in the voice’s direction to find a giggly-eyed, happily-squirming infant meeting your gaze, who punctuates your eye contact with that pleased flop-the-arms-and-legs motion and a bubbly “daaaa!”

My commutes usually have some overlap with school opening and closing hours; I cross toddlers with their parents, grandparents, or friends’ parents. Without fail, little girls are delighted to see my bike. Boys love bikes too, many will make eye contact and share a smile. I nod and return the smile, and they turn back to their playing. Little girls, though… I’m a woman, I remember being a little girl and noticing early on that you don’t see many women on bikes. Even the cycling competitions that get broadcasted are overwhelmingly those with men. I remember being excited at Jeannie Longo‘s feats: here was a woman being awesome on a bicycle, something I too loved. And so, today, when little girls look at me, stop in their tracks, and stare, I get it. The little girl in me who grew up riding around her valley hills also smiles. I nod at them, as I do with all the kids.

The girls almost always widen their smiles into elated grins and respond excitedly:
“Le vélo ! Le vélo, le vélo !”
“Coucou ! Tu fais du vélo !! Du vélo !!”
“Ouaaaaaa ! Le vélooo !”
“C’est… v’zêtes sur un… un vélo !!!”
“Mamie ! Le vélo ! Le vélo !” This little girl yesterday paused for several seconds, taking in everything about my bike, until adding, entranced: “il a un CLIGNOTANT !” which means, “it has a BLINKER!” I do indeed turn on my blinky lights as soon as twilight falls. I call them my blinky-blinks. “Faut penser à mettre en route les blinky-blinks,” I remind myself before starting out on dark rides.

Another little girl yesterday evening, riding on her father’s shoulders, made an already fun commute even more so. I had just turned onto the last street before reaching my place and slowed for a yellow light. Next to me was a souped-up Citroën Saxo with windows open, blaring Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky“. I started whistling along, bopping on my bike at the red light, happy for the evening ride. I heard a tiny whistle nearby. I whistled again, and heard another whistle response; definitely a kid. I looked towards the whistling’s source: there she was, a little girl cozy in her puffy white winter coat, who bounced her arms and giggled as our eyes met. “Vélooo !” she said. I grinned, whistled a bit more, and father and daughter both smiled. The light turned green, I nodded to them and rode home.

Petite promenade

Posted in Cats, Cycling, Nice at 17:04

Prom, looking east

This morning I rode down to the Promenade, following two veteran cyclists. It wasn’t planned that I ride behind them, but it was nice to be able to watch experienced cyclists, since I was able to see how they managed traffic. They had a very similar approach to my own, namely assertiveness in the name of safety, as opposed to a more reckless aggressivity. Drivers have become much more aware of cyclists in Nice since the bikeshare programme began a few years ago; I have yet to run into any scary situations in traffic. So far drivers have always been more or less aware of my presence, and taken hand signals into account. I could hardly ask for better conditions to ease into road cycling.

I took these photos with my handheld Kodak, which isn’t as nice as my Nikon DSLR. However, the handheld fits into a back jersey pocket, where the Nikon definitely wouldn’t! I probably won’t take any photos on my weekday commutes, but do hope to enjoy some weekend rides with photo stops, like today’s.

Prom, looking west

Two weeks ago, Susu wanted to show off her matte black coat in front of my glossy bike. This one is with my Nikon, you can tell the difference in color range and quality!

Matte and gloss black

Sunny autumn

Posted in Cats, Cycling at 20:21

2004 GT i-drive XC 2.0

We’re having gorgeous weather here in southeastern France this autumn, with noon temperatures so balmy that I need neither a coat nor a long-sleeved top! It’s been beautiful for mountain biking. I still have the GT I bought almost 6 years ago. Here you see it in my entry, set against the bedroom door, also showing off those floors I worked so hard to restore! Recently I bought new shoes, a pair of Mavic ‘Chasm’, which were recommended by the same shop where I found my bike. The two guys there have always been great. They don’t know I have a website, so this plug for their shop is entirely my own decision: drop by Vélo Concept if you’re ever in Nice and need anything road- or mountain-bike-related, even if it’s “just” for a city bike (they carry those too!). They’ve always listened to me, their recommendations have always been reliable, and they have great senses of humor, to boot.

I love my new shoes. It’s like having a new bike. The difference with my previous mid-range lace-up shoes truly surprised me. When I stand on my (clipless) pedals, it feels like I’m standing on solid ground. I already loved climbs before; now they’re even better, because there’s no loss of muscle power in any corrections due to unstable shoes – my feet stay where I put them, moving the pedals.

In other news, I haven’t updated recently because I started a new project at work a few weeks ago. It’s enjoyable as well – all in all, life is good. Kanoko and Susu are still like two peas in a pod (very bouncy peas in a constantly-moving pod), and Susu is as much of a sweetheart as Kanoko, so I’ve been feeling very spoiled by two adorable, well-behaved cats who gleefully share their time together and with me.

Susu, 3 months old