Strange Bikes

We humans are funny creatures. We can’t help but divide, then divide again, into ever smaller groups, pulling up the drawbridges and fortifying the ramparts after each successive cell division. This strange behavior seems to be hardwired into our psyche.

Cyclists, being the highly-evolved members of the human race that they are (ha!), take this behavior out to the edge of absurdity. First we have bikes; then we have road bikes and dirt bikes; then we branch off into the various subdivisions of single speeds, 3-speeds, cruisers, recumbents, roadsters, folders, tri-bikes, road racing bikes, BMX bikes, crit bikes, cyclocross bikes, commuters, cargo bikes, etc. Then finally, it gets crazy, with long-wheelbase recumbents versus short wheelbase recumbents, 16″ folders versus 20″ folders, 29ers versus downhillers, and on-and-on, ad infinitum.

So maybe we should try expanding the borders a bit, out to a place just this side of car culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I love diversity. Having such a plethora of bikes to choose from is incredible. But it’s pretty weird how we quickly gather into our little groups and defend our ground against the “others” on their strange bikes. And as much as it bugs me, mostly I’m as susceptible as the next guy to this odd form of bicycle induced xenophobia, though at least my position as a bicycle double-agent places me in a unique position to see the absurdity of it all.

See, I’m a bike defector; I crossed enemy lines from uprights (what recumbent riders call “wedgies” with a snicker) to recumbents (what upright riders call “lawn chair bikes” with a sneer), and now I’ve come full-circle back to uprights. Well, I shouldn’t really say “I’ve come full-circle”; it’s more like I drank the Kool-Aid and the Crystal Light. I still ride bents and uprights, as well as folders and roadsters and tandems and…

Somewhere along the way, after all this sleeping with the enemy, I figured out that all bicycles are really cool. Fixies, velomobiles, trikes, SUBs, Chinese roadsters, Dutch city bikes, bents, tandems, unicycles (really!), you name it; I think they’re all amazing. As I outlined in this rant from a couple of months ago, it would be very nice if mainstream dealers stocked a more balanced selection of bikes, but in actuality, we’re pretty damned lucky to have such a smorgasbord of bike goodness at our fingertips.

So maybe we should try expanding the borders a bit, out to a place just this side of car culture. Maybe we should attempt to be more inclusive and focus on all the good things we have in common, instead of getting lost in the minutiae of our differences. Maybe we should take a risk and take a ride on one of those strange bikes sometime, just to see how the other half lives. Who knows, we might be pleasantly surprised by what we find.

9 Responses to “Strange Bikes”

  • DON MARLAR says:

    You go Allen! You might be just a little ahead of us, but we are peddeling just as fast as we can . I loved the article on the Xtracycle. I wished I lived in Austin, Texas where there are 4 bicycle stores that sell them or maybe even Portland, Oregon. Those places are ahead of us guys stuck here (Oklahoma) in total car culture but we are going to get there thanks partly to a website like yours .

  • John says:

    Ok, so you’re a slut, fine. Running off with every kind of bike that catches your fancy … ;^p

    I don’t have any problems with uprights except for pain (neck, back, wrists) and the threat of permanent damage to parts of me that I’d prefer not be damaged (guess). I’ve recommended uprights for women I know; I can’t see how to make a similar recommendation for a man.

    Certainly we should all be catholic in our appreciation of the choices made by others. But humans are highly evolved primates, and bicyclists most of all, and that means that we are all about, at a very basic level, noticing differences large and small (hmmm, those seeds grew a little better over here rather than there, the fruits on this one are bigger than the fruits on that one, this ground provides better defensive cover than that ground over there …). And I daresay that those of us here today are hardwired to want to choose the better option that we’ve noticed from among the different ones.

  • andy parmentier says:

    we’re all the same skin color-some of us have less/more skin pigment. i really like the rans crank forwards-i had napkin sketched such a bike before randy schlitter went public. because it’s a “recumbent” that you go “off road” with. but my FAVORITE bike pays no heed to those practical concerns. i’m a left handed artist-i like british cars, i feel at home on the right side of the car, and the right side of the road. or an indy car, like an inverted plane, centerline thrust. a very large friend of mine likes tadpole trikes. i could’nt see it from his perspective, why they’re so cool. til i saw the grinnall tadpole CAR. stability of a car, feel of a motorcycle. my mom is trying to tell me about my temper tantrum problem right now, and i’m unwisely multitasking! toodles


  • Frank Conley says:

    It’s not about the bike, it’s about the ride; the unique sensuous feel of motion and freedom that any and all bikes deliver. Even two bikes of the same model can ride differently

    I’ve never met a bike I didn’t like…and I’ve never had two bikes ride the same…looks like I’m not alone…enjoy the bike, any bike, and savor the ride


  • andy parmentier says:

    though i’ll never drive a grinnall, i’ll be grinning all the way on my recumbent, which accepts me and mellows me out and energizes me.
    brainwashed into brand name only thinking, i’ve missed out on can do do it yourself contraption adaptions. homebuilt tandems, tallbikes, sidecars, kid recumbents, like some minneapolis/chicago people friends of friends i know. and now the bike polo bikes.
    in high school, had to have nike, members only jockwear. then i stopped caring about all that. sometimes i figure i’d have to do drugs to get into the scene. then i remember my unicycle is my drug-the running high of high school. i even timed myself on a track, and did a 5:50 mile on my one wheel.
    so i don’t build it myself, but that’s where my art and creative expression comes in. i build THAT myself.


  • Croupier says:

    I’ve been on a bike for a lot of my life but I didn’t really realize that I loved bike until I discovered that they’d infiltrated every part of my psyche in some way. I work in the bicycle industry so I think about how to sell bikes and how others feel about their bikes when I’m at work. I travel around my neighborhood on a bike. I get groceries and go to the movies on my single speed. I need to express myself, but when I can’t do it behind a desk I do it by tearing the s*** out of an empty swimming pool on my BMX bike. It’s my art, it’s how I make a living, it’s how I socialize, it’s me. I’m not one kind of bike above another… I AM BIKE!

  • Dave Pynaker says:

    I like your thought process here. It is time that we start working together and seeing the sameness not the differences.

  • Einar says:

    I agree. Bike community worldwide has more in common than you can belive. The future for bike is really bright!

    Einar, Bergen, Norway

  • KevinH says:

    If it weren’t for different configurations I would have little to discuss with the guy in full Discovery Channel kit including the Trek Madone or the ‘geezer’ on the mountain bike that kicked my but down the ARBT. In fact, if it weren’t for such diversity I probably wouldn’t be able to ride anymore at all.
    Keep preaching Allen, I like this congregation!
    Ride on, Ride on, Ride on!

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