Friday, February 22, 2008


I really love bikes. A lot.

It seems like lately anytime you hear the word "bike" the next thing you hear is some guilt trip about peak oil and climate change and jerks in cars. I will admit, those things matter to me, a guy yelled some not very nice words at me earlier this very day. But when it comes right down to it, I just like bikes. If a kitten died every time I rode a bike, I would probably still do it.

I spent a good amount of time on Saturday cleaning my Somec (thank you all again, by the way). Then I spent most of Monday cleaning/playing with myOschner. I rode home from campus on Tuesday thinking I would hop on a bus when I saw one, but I never saw one, so I rode home all the way. When I got to 33rd, I started riding faster because I didn't want to see a bus (granted, not a long, but it's winter so I haven't done any rides over a few miles since fall). Thursday I went to the Salt Lake Bike Collective with Logan and got some parts. I hope I will have time this weekend to put them on the Oscher I just spent all Monday loving. All in all I've spent at least a few hours everyday this week either on a bike or touching a bike, and a silly amount of hours thinking about bikes.

At our house we have almost a dozen bikes. Tasha and I each have road bikes. We have matching English three speeds, Tasha has an early 90s Schwinn Caliente, a Schwinn hybrid something or other, and an awesome ladies cruiser we found at the dump in Colorado. Then I have my Marin rigid mountain bike, the bike that started it all. Then myBianchi mountain bike, which I bought as a high school student for $900.00, more money than I had ever spent on anything ever in my life. Finally, I think, my Somec commuter.

I can't really explain what it is that I love so much about bikes. It might be that each of my bikes has a distinct personality. It might be because I started loving bikes at a time when I didn't have money to spend on shop services, so I learned how to do any maintenance I needed by myself. I still haven't ever taken a bike into a shop and paid for work, so I know bikes, especially my bikes, more intimately than some people know their family members.

It might be that they are nearly perfect vehicles, if you know them. Add a trailer and you can carry groceries from the store, or a cooler to the park for a picnic, or a presentation for work. Take off the trailer and you have an unrivaled exercise machine that isn't mean like running is. Flatten the bar, shrink the gears and widen the tires and you can go up a mountain. Curl the bars, narrow the tires, add some teeth to the gears and you can ride hundreds of miles a day. Change the geometry, attach some panniers and fenders, wrap a guard around the chain and you can get to work and get some exercise at the same time.

I might even be able to give some of the reason I love bikes to their fairness. Bikes are socially equitable, the people who ride them aren't always, but bikes themselves are. Everyone, regardless of circumstance, can afford a bike. And once a bike has been procured, the owner instantly has an increased mobility that, for the expense involved, has no rival.

It might be the feeling you get when you get to the top of one of our canyons and run out of road, or the thrill of seeing 55 on your computer on the way back down. Or the satisfaction of seeing 4 digits on the overall mileage tracker at the end of the summer.

Then there are specific rides. Rolling past the alfalfa fields of Cache County in the summer with your jersey unzipped to mid-torso. Riding a pace line with some kids you met in your USU cycling class, peeling off one by one, taking turns pulling each other towards the Idaho border and seeing "25.0 avg. mpg." on the computer.

Or my favorite - Climbing a canyon in the rain. The sound of rain on your windbreaker. Your helmet is off and wrapped around your bars. There is that perpetual drop of water racing from one side of your cap brim to the other with every pedal stroke before it finally gets too heavy and lets go, only to be quickly replaced by another. There isn't anything in the whole world except the breath leaving your lungs with the pressure of train steam before it dissipates into the air, and the sound of your wheels pulling up the water on the road. For some silly reason, you look over your shoulder. Maybe you are looking for Michael Rasmussen, or maybe you are making sure you did indeed drop Fausto Coppi. Then your head comes back around and you rise out of the saddle, your cadence picks up two, five more revolutions a minute and you see the numbers on your computer get bigger. You settle into your new cadence and get back on the saddle and start planning your strategy for the last km of the climb.

I can't say for sure exactly what it is about bikes, but I love them.