Note to Self:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

How To Ride A Bike


OK, first a couple things. The title of this post is a bit incorrect...it should read how I ride a bike, but I didn't want it to sound too self-centric (but isn't that what everyone's blogs are about...themselves). And the photo above is not recent; it is one I took last spring when I had to move my bikes from my living room for spring cleaning (yes I keep my bikes off to the side in the main living space of my house...don't you). But they are still the same bikes I ride; from back-to-front...the Yuba Mundo (a cargo bike and still my favorite everyday bike), my winter bike (an old Trek which I bought at a flea market and fixed up and outfitted with fenders and racks), and a Dahon folder (which I use for quick zips around town and bring on day trips to Toronto).

I guess that the main reason for this post is the current topic of gas prices. In my neck of the woods it has hit about $4/gal and is expected to go higher and there are many areas of the country where it is already higher. And yes, to my European friends reading this, I am aware that it is twice that already (so why do we Americans whine about it...because we are spoiled). Anyhow, why you may ask, am I writing about the price of gas on a simple-living/pro-bicycle blog...well the answer is obvious isn't it. One of the solutions, I really believe, is to hop on a bike (just one of the solutions). I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I don't mind the price of gas going up, but also that it didn't effect me (a little). For the first time ever this past week I filled up the tank in my truck (or nearly filled it up). I've owned this particular vehicle for nearly 4 years and have never filled it from empty to full...well you can imaging how surprised I was when I stopped filling at $65 (US) and there was still room for more. The reason I put gas in it was that I am planning a couple-hundred-mile trip next week...otherwise a tank full of gas like this would last me at least a month, likely longer.

Anyhow, I'm assuming that if you are a regular visitor to this blog you already support green/human-powered propulsion...but if not, this post is for you. Here's how to ride a bike (or at least how I do it)...a few suggestions.

Firstly--and this may sound obvious but it's not necessarily the case--get a bike that fits you well and is comfortable to ride in ordinary clothing...get a bike that is fun to ride and one you enjoy riding. When I see people riding hunched over or with seats that are way too low it makes me cringe, and racing bikes that require spandex clothing are fine for the weekend warrior but to ride every day and in all conditions a bike where you sit up straight--and with fenders and racks to carry your stuff--is not only more comfortable but also way more fun (just my humble opinion).

Next--and this may be the most difficult part--change your mindset. Don't think of riding a bike as just a weekend adventure--or even worse, a chore--think of it as a viable means of transportation, especially if you live in a city or town. This is actually what inspired me to start this blog more than four years ago...to ride a bike (rather than use a car) anywhere within a two mile radius of my house (click here for my original post). Do I keep this commitment religiously? Mostly, but not always. I use my truck about once a week, less in the summer months.

Living in a condensed area really is key to riding a bike as everyday transportation, I think (this would be much more difficult in a rural or suburban setting). I am fortunate to live in a closely populated neighborhood that has a score of 98 (out of 100) from Walkscore.com...meaning there are plenty basic--and not-so-basic--needs and necessities within walking/biking distance.

I of course could go on and on here, but I won't (ok, maybe I'll go on a bit longer)...the previous was the lecturing part, now here is where I get preachy.

Riding a bike to save gas money is just one of the many reasons an adult should ride a bike...for me it's more of a bi-product. The real reason I ride, and I've posted this too many times to count (click here to read one), is that I enjoy it on so many levels. It makes me feel free. When I pedal and coast through traffic and see people trapped in their metal boxes (which they work so hard to make payments on) I sometimes feel sorry for them...that I wish they knew the joy of what it feels like to be on a bike (again) and out in the elements (and by that I mean all elements).

Today, for example, it was really something to be on a bike. It was not that cold (32F/0C) but it was very windy...crazy windy, wind gusts up to 70mph/112kph. I'd be lying again if I said it wasn't difficult...but it certainly was exhilarating. At one point, when the wind was to my back, I was coasting and must have been doing more than 20mph/32kph. I was on a side street and weaved back and forth while I looked up to the sky and watched the tree tops sway in the wind.

Keep in mind that I am not a 20-something fixie kid...I turned 50 this past fall and still love to use a bike as my main transport. This may not be that uncommon to the Europeans reading this, but stateside it is a rarity...I know of only a few people my age in this city that choose to ride a bike when they can drive a car. This is not meant to be a braggart's statement, I'm simply stating a fact.

Here's an example of my day. I had a meeting at my church in the early after noon (2 miles each way), then after a quick lunch went to the health club for a steam-and-swim (1.5 miles). Then I rode and did some errands, shopping, stopped at a coffee shop, and for a couple beers (maybe 6 miles total). All the while I burned some calories, cleared my head, pedaled into and coasted with the wind, got the best parking spaces, and snickered as I passed petrol stations.

I really believe that if more adults would get on bikes they would remember how much fun they are to ride. Simple as that. Saving gas money is just a minor part in the bigger picture (for me).

I'll get off my little soapbox now.

I've posted the below video a few other times but I never tire of it. I came across it randomly a couple years ago. And in the event you've yet to see it I encourage you to take the 60 seconds to watch it. It could be me narrating it, but it's not.



Urban Simplicity.

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