I guess I ride a bike now.
It’s not really something I like to talk about because bikes, like magnets and former governors of Alaska, have polarizing effects. Maybe it’s different in other towns, but here they’re a pretty divisive issue. Of course, neither side presents itself very appealingly.
On the one hand, you have the people who are decidedly anti-bike. Some of their points make perfect sense- I also drive a car. I know how annoying bicyclists on the road are. When I’m riding my bike and a car comes up behind me, I want to nod sympathetically and yell, “I KNOW! I HATE ME TOO!” The problem is, the anti-bike types are surprisingly aggressive. There’s no quicker way to get someone to call you a dirty hippy than to show up somewhere on a bike, and three bicycle-riding friends have been hit by cars in the last year. It’s hard for me to take your side when you’re actively trying to kill people I like.
On the other hand, the pro-bike crowd is full of terrible human beings. If they’re not hipsters with the name of their fixed-gear bike tattooed ironically inside a heart on their arm, they’re mountain bikers who won’t shut up about Moab.
If you mention bicycling in public, society breaks down. Relationships are torn apart. Brothers fight brothers. Once you’ve opened that can of worms, it’s not unusual to see a bicyclist wearing someone else’s skull for a helmet whiz past, while an SUV full of anti-bike crusaders sporting jewelry made from bicyclist teeth and waving a pig head on a stick drives by. It’s total chaos.
To negate this unfortunate effect, I’m choosing to bring it up on the internet, a place known for nurturing respectful discourse and rational debate.
You Might Ride a Bike Because…
- …the environment is groovy, baby. (OK, fine. It’s not just hippies. I guess reducing your carbon footprint is a legitimate reason.)
- …it’s good exercise.
- …you have a superhuman heart, one gonad, and may or may not be powered by steroids.
- …you’re in France in the summertime and everyone is doing it.
- …it’s the early 19th century and you’ve just invented a two-wheeled mode of transportation, so now you need to test it. If that is the case, welcome to the future, Baron Karl von Drais! Congratulations on also inventing time travel!
- …you’re a child actor in a life insurance commercial.
I Ride a Bike Because…
- …I can’t afford gas.
Things You Don’t Really Think About Until You Ride a Bike on a Regular Basis
1) Hand signals.
It’s socially responsible to learn how to use hand signals on a bike because the drivers of the vehicles around you are having tiny heart attacks every time you swerve a little, and wondering if the noise your head will make when it’s crushed under their wheels will eternally haunt their nightmares or prove to be surprisingly cathartic.
Hand signals say, “I know where I’m going. I’m clearly conveying that plan to you now. Here I go.” It makes everyone involved a little less homicidal.
2) Proper gear.
I never see bicyclists with helmets around here, which goes against every Radio Disney PSA from my childhood. You also don’t see them wearing elbow, knee, wrist, or shoulder pads. (I guess I’m a little confused on appropriate protective gear. I remember someone telling me bikers should wear leather. Is this true? It’s 10,000 degrees outside. Not even cows enjoy wearing leather right now.)
3) Bike rack locations.
When you ride a bike, you can only take it to places with bike racks, reliably sturdy trees, or other things bolted to the ground. You start frequenting establishments specifically because they have a rack out front, and you spend a lot of time looking at scenery, thinking, “Could I lock my bike to that? Could I lock my bike to THAT? What about that?”
4) Sidewalk topography.
You don’t know true humiliation until you crash in a very public place. You only have to skid eight feet across a gas station parking lot once before you learn to spend most of your rides looking out for the sidewalk lips or divots that could spell your doom.
5) The care and keeping of bruises.
You have to base your outfits around your bruises. If you want to hide them, you make sure your clothes don’t rub them all day. If you want to show them off but you don’t want to bring up the conversation, you pick outfits that showcase them and then walk around all day “casually” doing stretches that place them in people’s line of vision.
At night, you develop a new sleeping position that doesn’t put pressure on any of your bruises. Sometimes, you discover you’ve been sleeping in a complicated yoga position and have literally achieved enlightenment overnight.
The local fauna becomes dangerous. A bird with terrible timing hit me while I was biking home from the gym a few weeks ago. It was like a tiny feathered missile to the ribs, and I’m not sure which one of us was more freaked out. I saw a dog hanging out in the road the other day, acting kind of weird, and I started to worry that without the safety of my car, I was going to have to pull an Atticus Finch.
7) Your butt.
My butt hurts so badly that I’ve developed a reflex whenever I see a bump in the road. It’s a total body clench that makes my toes curl and my face scrunch up, and it’s extremely attractive.
I don’t know who’s right in the bike debate. Certainly both groups are annoying, but I once read some sage advice from someone who always says the right thing:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” –Atticus Finch
“I believe there were three solid literary references in this blog post, Scout. Four, if you count the double-whammy from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. BLAMMO.” –Atticus Finch