Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Don't Ride to Make a Statement.

About two years ago, I started riding my bicycle again. Since then, I've ridden over 7,000 miles on three different bicycles, and enjoyed every minute of it. It's not just exercise, it's fun and interesting.

I began riding again because I needed some sort of exercise to help keep my back muscles toned to help reduce lower back pain. I found that the riding posture helped stretch out the trouble spots in my back, and riding the bike also helped to gently exercise the back muscles.

So it's my exercise regimen as well as a source of fun and entertainment. But riding my bike quickly grew into something that couldn't properly be done in a neighborhood. Running is great exercise, but generally it is done in neighborhood streets, on sidewalks, and in parks. Bike riding can be done in neighborhoods as well, but there are stop signs to mind, and (my neighborhood, at least) the neighborhood is generally too small to go out on a one-hour ride without repeating the same small loop over and over and over. So I go out on my bike and leave my neighborhood and see the town.

At that point, my personal exercise becomes a public event. My private activity is occurring in public places. Yes, my neighborhood is a public place, but my rides take me across neighborhoods to other subdivisions and on other connecting roads. It just happens that way. I like to ride my bike for exercise purposes, and doing that puts me out there where lots of people can see me.

Yes, I frequently wear a bicycling costume: tight shorts and a vibrant-colored shirt. At first I was against such foolishness, but soon realized that the costume has a few purposes. First, the tight shorts make hours of pedaling much more tolerable because there's less friction and chafing due to loose shorts moving around as my legs spin on the pedals. And the bright, obnoxious bicycling shirts I have concluded are that way so that other people in cars can see me more easily. I'm riding on the right side of the road, along with traffic, so it's hard to make eye contact with drivers to verify they see me. So I wear ugly shirts that are bright and highly visible. My shirt makes eye contact because I can't.

I need to be seen so I don't get hit. I don't watch behind me, so I'm trusting that each and every driver is paying attention enough to see me on the edge of the road and gives me enough space as they pass. The bicycling costume helps achieve that goal.

Plus, the bicycling shirts generally have pockets in the back that are handy to hold snacks and things.

Since I'm well aware that my chosen method of exercise is out there on the roads that are used by everyone who drives, I do my best to be a considerate bicyclist and I try to go out there when there are fewer cars on the road, like on early weekend mornings. And when I am out there when lots of cars are out, I try to avoid major roads that have a lot of car traffic. My purpose is to go on a ride and enjoy myself, not to go out there and be a rolling road block for people driving in cars.

Of course, there seems to always be a few "enthusiasts" who make it their mission to ATTRACT UNNECESSARY ATTENTION TO THEMSELVES WHILE RIDING BIKES, who ride in the center of the lane even when there's a shoulder on the road because CYCLISTS HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO THE ENTIRE LANE, TOO, and otherwise just seem to go out of their way to treat their rides like a parade that commands everyone's attention, respect, and praise.

These people brag about how their bikes cost as much as some economy cars (yes, even more than certain Mighty Corollas!), and their shorts cost $100 a pair because they're made from the silken threads of rare Malaysian spiders. While expensive bikes and clothes look nice, it's still the motor that needs to do the work. I say, if your bicycle's motor can't keep up with traffic, get yourself along over to the shoulder. The stack of cars piled up behind you has no idea how much your bike costs, and probably doesn't care, either, so stop being a jerk and let them by.

Just because you "can" occupy the whole lane, doesn't mean you "should" occupy the whole lane. Your ignorance and arrogance only makes it harder for other people who ride bikes. Do the right thing. Stay at the side of the road as much as you can and don't be a turd and take up more than your necessary space, and definitely don't get all aggressive and conceited when those cars honk their horn at you in anger when you are only managing 13 miles an hour on your $12,000 carbon fiber tri-bike with deep-section aero wheels.

I ride because I like to ride. I go out for long rides today so I can go out for longer rides tomorrow, and next week, and next year. I don't mean to be in your way on the roads, it's just that I must use them as I'm out there enjoying my private exercise activity. I'll do my best to not be a nuisance to you. Please don't lump me in with the other middle-aged white guys who spend more time polishing their bikes than they do riding them. I ride a bike like they do, but I'm not a part of their fraternity.

//steps off soapbox//

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