Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pondering the Pointless about Cycling (aka why we ride what we ride)

I know my posts have been very sporadic as of late, mainly due to baseball, but sometimes I need to take break from my mindless bantering…as well as you. So, working in a shop, I get to hear, see all sorts of things and conversations about, well…cycling and how it is a great way to stay in shape, fun with the family, good way to meet new people, but there is a dark side…a world seldom seen, just as real…but not as brightly lit…a dark side. Yes, I stole that from Dark Shadows, it works.

Yes, there are those of us walking and driving on this great sphere of potpourrious humankind (yes, I made that up) that feel bicycles are toys and serve no other purpose other than to provide entertainment for their kids. Now, there are those who can't afford a nice bike, I understand completely. As long as you ride a bike, I am happy, but don't question what we ride because you don't get it. This is for the population that doesn't get it; why we ride what we ride.

I have had a few conversations with said population and it usually starts with, "Why do you spend that kind of money on a bike?" or "I don't see the purpose when I can by a bike from a department store." Well, just like Pete Seeger said "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; and I think a time to ride your bike and have fun…not real sure about that last line, but it works. Ok, so back to my original thought.

What I find amazing is what people are willing to spend on cars. I often will throw that in the conversation. "Why do you drive a 60k vehicle?" The usual response is because it drives nice, it is safe or (the one I have most) because I can. Now, some of these people that are driving expensive vehicles that come into the shop are the most guilty, very nice, but guilty just the same. They want a safe vehicle for their children and family, but go to Wal-Mart or any other store that claims to sell bikes and get their child the biggest turd, let alone unsafe turd they could find. I do understand that buying a 200.00 bike for a three year old is a bit much, but these are parents with kids that are 7-11 years old and ride 3k+ bikes themselves. Now I am not saying it wrong to own an expensive vehicle, I am just making a point about the strange disconnect that people have with cycling.

So, here is what I tell those people why we ride what we ride.

Cycling to me is not just for fun, but a way of life. It is an expression of what makes us who we are. It is not just something to do when you are all out of things to do. Yes, it can be a fun "toy", but it is much more than that. I see them as a social and environmental tool. They are like the guy with the baby in the park…everyone gathers around and ogles over the baby. Bikes can be that way to (weird, I know, but true). When was the last time you were in your car and drove up next to someone else at a light and started a conversation about cars or anything else? Right, you don't even give the person in the car next to you the time of day. Gotta get to work or go to the store… I need to focus damn it now leave me be! Nowwwwwwww, ride up next to someone on a bicycle and watch what happens. See, that is it…people are afraid of human interaction anymore. I will text you this or I will email you that. People have lost the ability to communicate with each other.

This is what makes cycling so freakin' awesome. It doesn't really matter what type of bike it is, cycling brings people together in a positive way. It doesn't matter if you are a commuter, weekend warrior or racer, cycling is a positive mark in this day of sometimes negative change. You can ride up next to someone and you will always get a hello, or a smile and maybe even ride a little with them. Now there are some bike snobs that will look down on some that have lesser bikes, but I don't consider them cyclists at all. They are cyclings version of any of those stupid "reality" housewives shows…clueless.

Why do I ride a 5k road bike or a 4k mountain bike? Because I ride at a certain level and it requires a certain level of bike. Could I ride a 300.00 bike in a race? Sure, would I end up in the ER for a month, probably. Does that make me an elitist? No, it makes my an intelligent consumer that knows what is needed or required for a particular level of riding.  I always tell people who question what or why we ride "if you see bikes as just toys, you obviously spend too much time in a car." Now, I always have fun with these types of people, it is always in jest, but in truth as well.

Bikes are a thing of beauty. Simple, efficient vehicles that have changed in form and unfortunately function as well. I would challenge anyone to do a commute to work or ride with a bunch of other cyclists and see what happens. Visit your local bike shop and just stop in and talk a bit and get educated on this great sport of cycling. Heck, watch a bike race and say that it doesn't get a bit exciting.

So why do we ride what we ride? It is simple…bikes just make people happy. period.