Confirmation bias in bike and DIY land

Bussum – A dark winter’s evening. Almost home from a run session on the track, I turn right to enter my street. In the distance there is a vague shadow of someone in the middle of the road. He seems to carry a long leash-like thing, but I don’t see a dog. Perhaps it is a chain lock. Or a weapon…

Come on, Hooijman. This is Bussum, not Baltimore. I should stop watching all those crime series on Netflix.

I decide not to take a detour, to be brave, and continue on my way. When I pass the shadow, I see a man struggling with his bike. I stop and ask whether he is okay. He replies: “Yeah, I’m fine thanks. I just have a broken bike chain”. He explains he had just returned the car he borrowed, and wanted to bike home to Hilversum. He says he will ask if he can borrow the car again, in order to get home now. I smile and say: “I see. But that is not a very efficient way of returning a car”.

Then I ask him – in my opinion a very logical question – whether he happens to have 10 or 11 speed on his bike*. He seems very confused with this question so I continue: “Since I may have some spare chains, or quick-links at home”.

I’m afraid he doesn’t know what 10 or 11 speed is, so I just offer my help again to have a look at my place to see how we can fix it. He hesitates, but two minutes later we stand in my hallway repairing his chain. It turns out he is also a triathlete and that we have some mutual friends. Once we have the chain replaced, he admits that he was utterly surprised to be offered help by a woman to replace his chain.

After he has gone, I’m confused. His own wife used to be a professional triathlete. She must have known how to replace a chain? Or am I a super McGyver here?

The next day I’m enjoying a bike ride in my new cycle area (we just moved out of Amsterdam). It is fantastic. Within three minutes you’re out of the village and have empty, bike-friendly roads all for yourself.

When I start climbing the Stichtse Brug (a big bridge) I see a cyclist in front of me. I like his red Cervelo P5 a lot. I approach him with a speed difference of 5km/h. By the time I pass him, I kindly greet him and compliment him on his bike, while he shifts up and goes bananas on his pedals (I think to keep up). By the time we nearly reach the top of the bridge he pulls out a sprint and passes me while screaming: “I’m sorry but I cannot allow myself to be taken over by someone like you”. Again I’m confused. What does he mean by ‘someone like you’. A girl? Or by someone on a time trial bike? Or by someone cycling in zone 1? Or by a wildlife watcher enjoying the scenery? Knowing it is the first option, I let it go and continue to look out for eagles and deer, which happen to spend a considerable amount of time at this area in Flevoland.

Arriving home from my ride my new neighbor greets me and says: “Ow wow, I didn’t expect to see a woman underneath a helmet!”. I remember I heard this before (see this French Alpes blog), but this time I’m not worried about my looks, but rather by the thought of under which stone she has been laying the past century.


The rest of the afternoon I have reserved for DIY’ing. I need to replace a few electric wires, lamp fittings and the lock of the back door. Also the toilet seat needs to be replaced. And so I go to the Karwei. The toilet seat collection is more diverse than the supermarket’s shampoo collection, so I cannot make up my mind and I ask for a bit of help. “Ma’am, they all fit on any type of toilet”, and the clerk walks away. This doesn’t only make the choice even harder – it would have been nicer if he said “Deze hier, die heb ik zelf ook”**- but I also think his assumption is wrong.

With the Post-It in my hand on which I’ve written all my toilet’s dimensions I scan the labels of the 40 toilet seats. There is only one that fits exactly. I consider walking back to the clerk to provide him with my latest insights, but I choose to keep this valuable information to myself.

Perhaps it was because my parents only had four daughters and no sons, but I’m very grateful my dad taught us some basic skills and that I can do a sport I feel like doing – whether it is a man thing or not.

* This concerns number of sprockets located on the rear hub of your bike.

** Quote of an old Gamma commercial.

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