Finally recovered from my murderous rendezvous with the Croatian Hammer, I rolled out the door at 6:40, planning to do a quick two-hour spin.
The weather was as magnificent as it has been since we got to Vienna, and somehow I simply couldn’t make myself put on my helmet. I keep telling myself that it’s because slow speeds riding solo or with one other person are safe, and therefore no helmet is required, but the fact is that riding without a head cage transports me back to the beginning of my #fake #cycling career, when no helmet was as natural then as wearing one is natural now.
The fact is simple. Riding a bike with no helmet, and being fortunate at age 54 to still have hair for the wind to blow through, is life’s second most extraordinary unprotected feeling.
This morning was a recon morning, a quick ride to learn a bit more of the streets near my apartment, find the bike shop so I could bring my bike back to get the bars wrapped (the tape had come undone), find my way to the Arena bakery, find my way to the Donau Canal bike path, confirm how long it takes to reach the Lion’s Bridge, starting point of the Sat/Sun beatdown ride, and also do a quick tour of the city and refamiliarize myself with streets I’d forgotten.
I did all this, as much as possible, using only bike paths.
The bike paths in Vienna are often, if not always connected, and all you have to do is follow the blue markers painted on the street. It seems like the speed they were designed for is about 10-12 mph. More than that and you will hit shit or miss turns or hit shit. Especially, you will hit shit. This doesn’t stop cyclists from racing along them at Mad Max speeds of 15-20, but it stopped me.
As I crossed the bridge on my way to recon the bike shop, an angry lady walking her dogs shouted at me. “This is not for bikes!’
She was livid. And the dogs didn’t look happy, either.
Sensing a prime moment to practice German with an angry native, I stopped.
“You are on the wrong side of the bridge, as you know!”
“I’m sorry, I’m not from here. I didn’t know.”
“I don’t care where you are from! There is a giant ‘pedestrians only’ sign at the entrance!”
“There is?” I was genuinely concerned and speaking humbly and with interest, and her anger totally evaporated, but she couldn’t suddenly be nice without looking like a total psycho, so she kept yelling, only #fake #angrily.
“Of course there is! You must pay attention! You will hurt someone and yourself! Where’s your helmet?”
“At home. It is such a beautiful day. I’m sorry I took the wrong path. I won’t do it again.”
She almost smiled, but yelled a bit more. “Well, that’s the least you can do!”
“And thank you for telling me.”
She completely caved. “Of course,” she said gently.
“Have a wonderful day!” I said as I pedaled off.
“You as well!”
And she gave me a little wave.
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