After reexamining my near-two years of motley New Jersey life, I can write with some assurance that my most traumatic Princetonian experience took place in transit, one December at seven-thirty in the company of a bike named Jen. I had been buying books at Micawber and, feeling a need for a bit of Motown, closed in upon Mendel Music Library. When I buy books, especially in droves, I get a sort of happy feeling, not unlike, I imagine, the sensation of mild intoxication. Under such book-induced cheer, pedaling towards Prospect House, I jollily thought: “I really need to expand my bike trick-repertory. Like biking with no hands on the handlebars.” So, buoyantly, I took both hands from their bars.
You understand that this was traumatic, so you know where this story ends: on the Prospect House driveway concrete. I hadn’t processed, as I stood and pedaled, that one usually sits while doing the “look Mom, no hands” thing. I’m wearing the jeans now that I wore that evening, and I’m feeling rather badass about the large and scruffy hole in the left leg (post-grunge, I was told by a literary scholar).
But I am describing all the trauma as mere build-up for what came afterwards. You see, bikes are worth it, worth the nonsense of ripping one’s jeans and injuring one’s knees and pride. Shaken, I didn’t ride the rest of that that evening, but I was not deterred from riding, nor from bike-proselytizing.
In fact, I’m in the process of teaching a friend, whom we will refer to as “Lucas Barron,” to ride a bike, and in a large sense that experience is the impetus for this written ramble (he’s doing well). In content, the message is that: Bikes are wonderful. So let us think of the rest of this bundle of words as a package I’m sending to you full of clippings that fall under the thematic unifier of that message. A sort of bikey care package, if you like.
Barring Vespas, enough already with these motorized two-wheelers and what is it, Zen? Bikes are all you need. Sophomore, super-chill Christian Millian is living proof that bike riding is good for taking care of your self.
Christian told me a charming story of his bike-riding learning: his family added little-kid attachments, sort of tandem set-ups to the parental bikes as new little-kids started showing up.
CM: To get anywhere out of this town, if you want to go for a good bike ride, you need to leave Princeton proper, Princeton borough. Meaning you have to go down Witherspoon street, turn left and go out towards Hopewell.
PW: So that’s a good place to go?
CM: It’s…amazing. Rolling hills, very few people, there are back roads that cut out through there. It’s a good afternoon, three or four hours to do a good thirty five, forty mile ride comfortably, without rushing.
Jenny Zhang, Communal Bikes
I also recently Murray-Dodged with Jenny Zhang, sophomore cyclist, whose stylish little white bike basket I thought deserved further inquiry. Alas, though, Jenny’s bike – a blue/green Walmart special – went missing round about the 7th of May.
PW: Actually, I was showing around [Princeton], randomly, a group of Buddhist monks, and one question they had for me was, “Why do people lock their bikes?”
JZ: Someone told me a story about that in China…there’s a whole city where all the bikes are the same and painted the same color and no one locks them…and so you just grab one…We should just have communal bikes at Princeton.
PW: They could be orange.
JZ: And black. Striped. Stripéd.
The Love Letter
I am a fan and friend of the Jen, my own two-wheeled-vehicle. She’s blue, a smallish bike. I’m not sure why she’s called Jen, nor am I sure why she’s female. It all just seemed right in the fall, when she joined me at campus and apparently needed a name –though acquainted, we hadn’t really become pals before this year.
But Jen understands that I have my infatuations. There’s this pink bike, you see. It spends most of its nights, I think, in the archway between Joline and Blair. I dare you to go pay respects and understand: its shining not-quite magenta-ness, its mirrors that laugh at all motorcycles everywhere, its white Hawaiian flowers printed on the cruiser seat, its matching meshed white basket.
Whoa there. I advise mere chaste admiration of the pink bike. And lots of summer bike riding. Have a nice time of it.