I've got a calendar reminder every where to remind me of when I bought a Fuji bike and started riding my bike everywhere. Why? Because things have been this great crazy adventure, ever since. It was one of those decisions that had long-lasting impact forwards, so much so that I divide life into "before bikes" and "after bikes". And yesterday was the bikeaversary.
I wasn't born yet, but I tend to buy the argument that the 70s boom was largely to do with the boomers having disposable income, with the oil crisis being a minor side-attraction. The booms of the 80s and beyond were all about the pursuit of sport, not transportation. So, at least as the American cycling experience is concerned, we are in the midst of the first post-car bike boom that's really about transportation instead of sport... about taking the car-friendly landscape and turning it into a bike-friendly landscape.
Most of America has a bike. And, expensive or cheap, it usually lives in the garage on rubber-coated hooks and gets pulled out on random sunny days and then forgotten about the rest of the time. But then there's a small percentage of the population out there, which I'm part of, that rides their bikes all the time, rain or shine, and gets real stuff done on their bikes, like commuting to work and buying groceries. To do this safely requires a few pieces of electronic hardware. Some people, like myself, ride a bit more than that. And, at least for me, I've found something really annoying in all of the biking gear I've owned...
One of my coworkers asked me the other day, immediately before tea-time, if I had always been bike-obsessed like this or if it was a new thing. And, given that I was fetching the teacups for teatime, I had to say that no, there's a bike-a-versary, it's coming up, and I'll explain the long story later, but it's just about time for tea and my response wouldn't fit in the time allotted. And I thought about that and realized it's quite a long story and that I might as well write it down.
Frankly, I'm not especially interested in pro-level cycling. In the real
world, you have to consider details like flat tires and chain life and
can't toss your bike at someone to have the bar tape re-done. You can't
have a follow-car trailing you with spare bits and pieces or switch bikes
as needed. And it takes something that is a beautiful participatory activity
that is both transportation and recreation and turns it into a spectator sport
for people getting fat watching on TV. It also means that people tend to
want to buy whatever bike the tour de france riders are riding instead of
a more rational and comfortable and sturdy bike.
If I stop biking for more than 2 days, I can feel it. I don't feel right. After more than a few days without exercise, the full brunt of depression starts to weigh on me. There's probably a rebound effect involved because I end up with the scary sort of depression that psychologists call Major or Clinical depression, not just a depressed mood...
Cyclists do run red lights. And, as if I'm some duly elected representative of cyclists everywhere, people will point this out to me and suggest that they'd actually feel bad for all those cyclists who get killed by motorists every year and support my cause if we'd all just behave and start obeying stop signs, all the time without realizing how incredibly stupid they sound. On the scale of stupid-and-annoying, it's only slightly less annoying, but possessing the same tone, as if you were to tell a woman with an abusive boyfriend that everything will be fine if you just don't piss him off so frequently.
One of my coworkers had a bit of a bike accident. Pretty much exactly the same one I had a few years prior. Riding along, front wheel stops instantly, bike pivots around your front axle, and any residual energy is dissipated between the rider's head and the ground. So he walked in with a scraped up face. And one of my coworkers mentions that he's suddenly a lot less interested in biking. And so I told him that if biking scares you, you can always die on your couch of a massive heart attack at age 40 instead...
I hear this frequently: "I can't wait for the weather to get better so I can cycle outside". And, as somebody who lives in California, it's hard for me to give an answer without relying on the experience of others because our weather is fairly nice out here... although most people think of San Diego weather when I talk about living in California.. and Silicon Valley is very much not like that. Furthermore, I was hoping that my awesome coworker Chris who is at least as insane as I in many ways wouldn't have broken his ribs at the beginning of winter. Because he got a Surly Pugsley to bike in all winter but he's presently laid up.
We have a mailing list for my neighborhood. And we have a problem with cars in my neighborhood. See, we've got a grade school near the park.. and the park has a crossing guard. And so a few months ago the crossing guard was hit and injured by a car while trying to ensure that things were safe. And then a month or two later, a six year old got buzzed by a speeding car. Yesterday morning, a pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
I was biking home from work. Behind me, two other cyclists were helping a third one, who was a bit lost and trying to get to Santa Clara, one town over. So, eventually, I offered to ride with her to get her un-lost and closer to her destination.. because it was pretty much on the way home for me.