Today, I woke up with intention – I want to buy a bicycle.
I’ve had this idea in mind for quite some time. Every day, I drive past a bike shop on my way to and from work, a white building with bright red neon lighting advertising its wares right on the corner of the old town and the ramp to the highway. How can such a building escape one’s attention? It’s hardly subliminal marketing.
Further, living where I do, it’s a solid two kilometer walk to the center of the Aldstadt, the historic center of Amberg, if I want to join my friends for dinner or a drink. I don’t mind this walk, as it’s a great time to practice walking meditation, let my mind unwind, or listen to a podcast, but it does require that I factor an extra 20 minutes (30 if I don’t feel like breaking a sweat) into my travel time each way. I have a budding reluctance to drive my car such a short distance when I can travel the same distance cleaner by taking an alternative form of transportation. Plus, there’s a really awesome hill that I can get some sweet air on as I travel into town on two wheels.
That penultimate sentence – the bit about a budding reluctance – that’s really why I sought a bicycle. If I must drive, I’ll drive. But for anything I do around my town, I simply don’t need a car. Consider it a conscious step toward reducing my impact on the environment. Bavaria is one of the most beautiful places on earth – its forests are lush and green, its pastoral landscapes dotted with cattle, sheep, or horses, its cities both surrounded by and filled with gardens and greenery. The people here revere nature. I revere nature. It is our collective treasure, and what what we do to it in our lifetime is the inheritance that we pass off to our children. I’d prefer that that be a gift, that we be able to instill in our children an equally rich appreciation for nature and the gifts she so continually bestows upon us, whether or not we merit them.
Anyway, I woke up at 0730 – about normal for a Saturday – and had a vision of a bicycle in that shop on my mind. So, I went online to search for its hours. In doing so, I learned that Germans hold the place in low regard. Such abysmal customer service! And, well, it’s a shop that sells all sorts of vehicles with two wheels, not a specialty bike shop. So I queried further. In doing so, I discovered a specialty bike shop just one kilometer from my house! Perks of living beyond the Ring. I learned that it is open from 0900-1230, so I ate a breakfast of sliced apples, bread, and cheese (Brie!), dressed, and stepped off a bit before 0900.
I arrived fifteen minutes later to find the place open and inviting. I went inside, gave my best “Sprechen-Sie Englisch?”, was greeted warmly in English, and invited to view the shop’s bicycles. The sales rep and I honed in on one bicycle pretty quickly – size and simplicity, check! It helped that it’s the end of the season (news to me) and there was only one bicycle in my price bracket (actually, quite below it) on the floor. It’s a beauty, a sleek black and chrome thing with all of the trappings of German law – a powerful little bell, and a mechanically powered headlamp mounted over the front wheel. It also has a saddle on the back wheel for whatever saddlebag or basket I may eventually acquire! And it has 21 speeds. Super spiffy.
I got to take said bicycle, Victoria emblazoned on the fork and frame (victory!), on a test ride. It was exhilarating. A little bit of exertion, a little bit of speed, a little bit of playing with uneven terrain and the (quite effective) shocks. For an A to B bike, it performed exactly as I hoped. So, with elation, I wheeled on back to the bike shop, and initiated the purchase. Before I could ask if they accepted VAT (Value Added Tax, a 19% sales tax on all purchases in Germany) forms (these exempt the bearer of the aforementioned tax), the attendant asked me if I had a VAT form. Win! I produced the form, and we prepared all of the necessary paperwork – my bike sitting right outside the shop window, waiting. When the time to pay came, I produced a credit card with the required chip, and was told that they only accept cash. So I asked to take my bicycle, and I rode over to the bank on my street. Five minutes later, I was back at the shop, cash in hand. The attendant counted out the money, we signed the receipt, and the purchase was final! I even have a 10 year service guarantee at my little neighborhood bike shop.
I rode away victorious at 0930, full of life and ready to start my day. And with just me, my ultralight little red backpack, and my new bicycle, it’s been grand.