Today we have our second guest post, as writers have graciously offered to fill in for me while I’m tied up with packing for my first move in 17 years. And let me tell you, after that long, there’s a lot to pack.
Another of my favorite writers steps in this time, offering his take on coming back to biking as an adult, and unexpectedly finding himself becoming an advocate for cycling. On his own blog, Zeke’s Great Smokies Two-Wheeled Adventures!, Zeke offers his uniquely entertaining take on riding in the countryside and mountains of North Carolina.
And be sure to come back tomorrow for my first ever bike review, just in time for the holidays.
I spent some time pondering Ross Del Duca’s post on Friday, December 3rd, regarding bike culture and whether the goal was to have a bike culture or not, which is perhaps an oversimplification of his thoughts. I thought of how my own evolution from a somewhat out of shape middle-aged man to an advocate for the development of a bike culture in my home community is almost at the other end of the spectrum that Del Duca was writing about.
My re-introduction, some would save first introduction, to the cycling world came about after a number of years being away from bicycles. In my youth, a bicycle was my unquestioned mode of transportation. I still recall my very first bike. It was a hand me down from my cousin, who was one year older than me. In my mind, it remains a thing of beauty. It sported fat black tires over a repainted red and black frame with coaster brakes and a full metal chain guard. I also still remember my first descent on our short asphalt driveway. It didn’t turn out well given that I took a header and landed on my right shoulder grinding it into the pavement.
I also recall my third instance of experimentation with “blind cycling” in which I rode along with my eyes closed. Why the third and not the first two? Apparently the first two were of short duration and successful, which led to the intense learning experience of the third experiment. I crashed into a neighbor’s wooden mailbox post. There was not a fourth attempt of riding with my eyes closed.
Were those instances written up in today’s papers, the reporters would surely report that I was not wearing a helmet. Helmet? What helmet? We knew not of such things in those days.
In those days, if I wanted to go to the public outdoor swimming pool, I rode my bicycle. The fence surrounding the pool was always garnished with bicycles belonging to other kids. When we had Little League baseball practice, I hung my glove on my handlebars and rode to the practice field some miles away. Clearly, this predated “soccer mom” existence. My parents thought nothing of us being turned loose around town. My friend on our local bike advocacy counsel laughs now and says we were the original bike commuters in our hometown. We rode everywhere.
As a young teen, bicycles remained central to my existence. These were my “Easy Rider” years when I graduated from coaster brakes to my Stingray with the banana seat, 3 speed gearing, and “English” brakes. I sported an enhanced “sissy bar” on the back. I still recall many hours in the saddle of what we called “the pack”. We weren’t educated enough about cycling to think of ourselves as a peloton!
I recall only one adult riding a bicycle during those years. He was older than me and had returned home from the Viet Nam War. J.B. rode everywhere in town on, as I recall it, a black bicycle with a basket on the front. As an older teen at this point and working as a life guard at that very same outdoor pool, I can see J.B. riding by with a 6 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the basket. I can remember him going to the local drive-in theater on that bike. I used to see him everywhere in town on that bike.
The years passed and my bicycle days were replaced with new temptations of girls, cars, and motorcycles. Appalachian State University called and I spent 5 glorious years in Boone, NC doing things NOT associated with cycling even though I was in some of the most beautiful cycling territory in the country. A career has come and gone since that time with only a brief interlude of cycling in my late 20’s. It was then that a bicycle took me to my life altering meeting with the Navigator with whom I will shortly celebrate 28 years of marriage.
So, my evolution to bicycle advocate has, in many ways, brought me back to the roots of my youth. We didn’t have a bike culture “back in the day.” We simply rode and it was simply accepted. The environment is different now. Now, we must fight for acceptance and for the infrastructure that supports cycling. Cycling is very much now a “purposeful thought” for me and the members of our infant advocacy council. We find purpose in fighting childhood and adult obesity, dependence upon foreign oil, and for our rights to alternative transportation. In our infancy, we need to develop a bike culture so that we can one day move beyond it and, when asked, be able to say, “What bike culture. We just ride.”
Speaking of Zeke, let’s give a belated shout out to his L.A.-based, recumbent-riding brother Dave, who celebrated his birthday over the weekend.