Friday, March 8, 2013

An Ode to the Israeli Bicycle Pump

Shalom, chaverim! When I was growing up, a standing joke in our family was whenever someone was trying to guess the contents of a wrapped gift, we would be sure to ask, "is it a bicycle pump?" Looking back, exactly why that seemed to be terribly funny to us, I really can't say. Sometimes it's the little things that stick in our minds, though, more than the Major Life Lessons or the "teachable moments (eww!)."

Dedicated followers of this blog (and you know who you are) will know that Elul and I bought bicycles soon after we made Aliyah in December of 2011. While we are now a one-car family (we bought a second-hand Citroen C4 about six months ago), Elul uses the car on a daily basis to commute back and forth to work. This leaves me with the use of my feet and my bicycle with which to do my own errands, to commute to work, and to get to evening lessons in my private students' homes. Since I'm so busy these days, biking is also about the only exercise I get now, so it also performs that function in my life.

I had to address safety and practicality with my bike right away. As is true with all cycling, readers, repeat this mantra after me: "Visibility is my friend!" I got a bright white light for my handlebars (because I want to be seen, rather than go into it), and a flashing red light for the back of the seat. In addition to my protective helmet, I also acquired an abandoned road safety reflector vest that someone wadded up and threw into a bush. (After a few rounds in the washing machine, it came out just fine; not pretty, of course, but very functional.)

A friend had upgraded his bike and had a leftover white wire carrying rack for the bike, which he kindly offered to me; with a handful of zip ties, Elul fastened it to the back of my bike in no time. My bike started out as a sophisticated little Italian number,  perfect for Euro-posing with a fragrant bouquet of wildflowers and a round of Camembert in its elegant wicker basket. But now, between the front basket, the back rack, the lights, the vest, the helmet, and my wonderful "Big Student" Jansport backpack firmly strapped to my ever-broadening middle-aged back, any hope I had of  being mistaken for a willowy extra from the central casting agency of France has been dashed like the dreams of an avante-garde poet who has received his first (and last) royalty check.

Once I started truly relying on my bicycle for efficiency, convenience, and the shared responsibility of getting my behind to the classroom on time, however, I realized I had to start paying a little more attention to those little things that make cycle commuting so much easier. For example, I need to keep my tires properly inflated. With my bike, I quickly learned, even a small drop in tire pressure can make riding about as pleasurable as trying to pull a tank down the road with your knees.

Shamelessly playing "the girl card" with Elul, a la "honey, would you be so sweet and go down to the storage room and put some air in my tires for this week, flutter flutter," led him to use the hand pump to pump up my tires a few times. However, this was tedious and difficult for him since a hand pump (which I had sneakily given to him as a "Hanukkah present," which was all part of my evil plot) wasn't really strong enough to do the job easily. On to me, he used his high skill in marital jiu-jitsu by quickly presenting me with the solution. "You want your tires pumped up? Ride down to the grocery store gas station yourself and use the pump there! I'm not going to be seen riding a girls' bike!" Game, set, and match. Well played, Elul, well played.

So I did, and oh! What a pleasant surprise and wonderful use of technology! On the air machine, which everyone can use for free, you can actually program in the exact air pressure you want for your tires. I needed 90 psi, so that's what I put in, and when I began adding air to my tires, the built-in, real-time digital gauge said I only had 64 psi in them. No wonder I felt so out of shape and cycling was so hard! Not only that, but when the air pressure in your tires hits the desired level, the machine lets out a rousing and satisfyingly long and loud "beep" to let you know it's time to stop.

One does not simply...roll around town with 25 psi in one's bicycle tires.

I bend my knees in respect to the power of the Great and Wonderful Electronic High Speed Bicycle Pump.

Oh, you Israelis, whatever will you think of next? This is the most wonderful machine I've come across in a long time. Whether you invented it or not, I thank you from the bottom of my heart to have the generosity and intelligence to make it available to the public. Now my bicycle floats along the speed bump-filled roads of Nahariya like a beautiful black butterfly...ridden by a dork.

Shabbat shalom, everyone!