Unexpected Benefits

Grocery Shopping

Up until a few years ago, we rode predominately for fun, entertainment, and exercise. Typically, we’d go for long rides in the country or load the bikes in the van and drive to a riding destination outside of the city. We did very little riding to replace car trips.

Now we ride predominately for transportation. We use our bikes for commuting, shopping, and general errands around town. We still own one car, but bikes play a much more important role in our lives than they have in the past.

There are a couple of unexpected benefits that came out of changing how we use bikes. One is that we actually put in more annual miles now than we did when we rode solely for sport. Our typical rides are shorter, but we ride more frequently, sometimes getting on the bikes numerous times throughout the day. The second is that we actually enjoy riding more now than we did when we were riding only for “fun”. This is probably the most unexpected result of changing our focus. Now, riding is fully integrated into our lives and there is absolutely no competitive or sporting aspect to it. This change of emphasis and attitude has made our time on the bikes more relaxed and social, which in turn has made it more enjoyable.

We’d be curious to know how you approach bicycling. Do you ride only for transportation? Do you also ride for sport, participating in organized rides and/or races? What kind of mix works best for you, and what type of riding do you enjoy the most? Feel free to elaborate in the comment area below.

How much of your on-bike time involves riding for utility?

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40 Responses to “Unexpected Benefits”

  • Don says:

    I’ve been keeping track of my mileage for a number of years, the last 12 years I’ve been tracking commuting percent. It has been steadily creeping up from about 70% to over 80% now.
    I generally ride two or three organized rides annually of about 60-70 miles and typically short, 20-30miles, on Sunday mornings several times a month. This constitutes the bulk of my non commuting riding and seems to be a pattern that works for me and still be able to spend time with my family.

  • RJ says:

    I ride for almost every reason. Sport, transport, travel, and just fun.

    What I’ve been debating to bring up on my own blog (I’m cringing at the flak it could get).. is that I hear a lot of commuter/casual cyclists really rippin’ at “spandex cyclists.” A lot of whining about how people wearing spandex and riding fast are a) stupid, b) ruining it for everybody, c) inconsiderate or d) any other insult you could think of.

    But.. I AM one of those spandex riders. Heck, I’ve even got a number of National Champion jerseys– and that’s just to say that I’ve really been immersed in the racing scene.. and I have NEVER heard a “spandex cyclist” make fun of casual cyclists riding upright city bikes carrying a load of groceries.

    There seems to be a perception that spandex riders turn their nose up at casual-clothed cyclists, but..

    ..dare I say it?..

    it seems to be the other way around?…

    [ducking and covering my head]

    [peeking up..]

    I mean, I just want to know what the deal is with proving to everyone that you don’t have to be a racer to ride a bike.

    DISCLAIMER
    ..Looking for civil discussion. Just bringing up a thought. Not really trying to insult anyone. I am a cyclist of every kind– commute, tour, race, etc.

  • Barturle says:

    Up until December a year ago, 100% of my riding was for utility, but being unemployed, and having my grocery bike die, the last year has been about 90% sport.

  • Rick says:

    @RJ:

    RJ, for myself, the problem I have with Sport Riders is the sense of entitlement they seem to have while riding in areas designed for anything but riding fast; to wit, a couple of issues have come up recently in our area about Sport Riders crashing into pedestrians on multi-use paths (ours have a speed limit of 15mph, one person was hit and nearly killed while the cyclist was doing twice that), constantly running stop signs and lights, weaving in and out of traffic without regard to the flow, etc. I realize that others are guilty of the same sins, but Sport Riders go faster than others, and therefore make everyone else compromise their travel that much more quickly and dangerously.

    As a former racer myself, I understand that it’s all about the pleasure of riding fast, getting up to a good rpm and keeping it there–but there’s a time and place for it, wouldn’t you agree? Sport Riders need to stop treating others like a slalom pole in a downhill ski race.

  • Brad says:

    I love to ride and love to ride for just about any reason, but I have two very young children and I love them more so my desire to go out for the randonneur series is somewhat muted now. I do love to pull them around and my 2 year old rides a bike without training wheels and with pedals, so there are other joys to be found as well.

    As for spandex versus street clothing, I do prefer the street clothing aesthetic but when it’s raining hard here in Seattle, I don’t mind suiting up. It’s just a question of tools.

    Back to utility cycling, I would say that most of my riding comes from commuting and errands and that my highest mileage months are January and February. The summer is more full of family oriented stuff and daily mileages on a family bike tour are much lower than my normal work commute. Funny.

  • Brent says:

    RJ, I don’t know, I think that there are jerks in every class of cyclist, and great people as well. My upstairs neighbor is a retired bike messenger, rides cross country tours and teaches spin classes. She loves my Trek Allant, loves my rear Basil Cardiff baskets, and jumped up and down over my new Sackville Shopsack and Gamoh front carrier – her room-mate “won’t ride anything that isn’t fixed.”

    My neighbors behind me are spandex cyclists. When I pull up on my bike at the Safeway they sneer at all of my cargo accessories that allow me to haul home an enormous amount of stuff. Of course, the store is half a mile from our houses, and they drove their SUV, and I rode the bike, but they sneer.

    However, I have also gotten a lot of complements on my set-up from other members of the “spandex crowd” as well as teenagers, old women, and random people on the street.

    Regarding my neighbors, they think it is stupid of me to bike to the grocery store, I think it is stupid of them to drive when they have perfectly good bikes. I don’t hold that against the rest of the spandex clad bikers, though. At least they are on bikes. That is the important thing.

  • Fred Davis says:

    Because I work at home I can’t really be considered a commuter but I do ride for any reason I can justify. A few years ago I imposed upon myself a three mile rule. The rule being that if possible I must not use my car for trips under three miles from home. I have since expanded the distance up to about 5-6 miles and like the author, it’s fully ingrained in my life.

    I keep track of my mileage and have found that I average about 100 miles per month, of which about 80-90% I would consider utilitarian and the remainder recreation. Whatever the reason, whether it’s going to the dentist, getting groceries, or cruising along the beach, I am always happy when I’m on my bike.

  • Ryan says:

    Speaking of utility,

    I hate that rental bikes aren’t widely available. I am flying from Sacramento to San Diego tonight to visit a cousin for the weekend. I would love to be able to pick up a bike at the airport and click my pannier to the back and take off. Looks like I need to get a folder for these types of trips.

    Instead he has to come pick me up.

    I can only hope…..

    -Ryan

  • john in nh says:

    Well I am putting 60+ miles a week on my bike, pure utility transportation, this spring I might have some time to go on some longer group rides but until then its too cold to go out and enjoy a ride, seriously, its all I can do to get out to class when its –10F and a 10mph headwind :P

    RJ
    I know what you mean, however I have seen times where a city or campus just promoting cycling will consult with “tour-de-francers” on cycling in the town. Which is all well and good, but typically the speed riders do not tend to support separated multi use paths, because of the speed they typically like to go, however it is these paths that will actually allow more people to ride a bike and that’s the goal of people like me who are focusing on encouraging transportation cycling, not recreational cycling. They also tend to be out riding on weekends and such, and I have no problem with that but like Brent said, all too many drive their SUV’s to the market 1 mile away from the house, or commute 10 miles to work in that same SUV. Now I wouldn’t ride my $3000 racer to the market but I just don’t understand the disconnect.

    Friction is caused by many issues, I think the spandex riders might feel some resentment because now they are not the only ones on the road, you have true commuters and utility cyclists now and we each need different kinds of bikes and different kinds of infrastructure even. on campus, the bike new club, which has fixies, transportation, bmx, mountain and road cyclists in it is working hand in hand with the new competitive cycling club to work on bike maintenance and safe storage and encouraging cycling in all forms. I think we can all get along and we are at least on bikes but we all need to realise that we each do different things in different ways but that we need to understand and work toward getting on a bike for every trip. That includes long day trips on the road bike with the spandex, and includes getting on the bike to go shopping or to the movies.

    There are bikes for every activity and the sooner we all realise this and start using them accordingly, the better

  • todd says:

    i am a father and husband, run a business, own a home, and have never owned a motor vehicle. at 43, i find that just running errands, commuting etc. on a bike takes up all the time and energy i might otherwise apply to riding for recreation purely. i enjoy every single ride.

  • Arie Dekker says:

    As a native Dutch, for me your discovery that the enjoyment of cycling actually increases when using a bike not only for fun is a sign that you indeed managed to integrate bikes in your life. In a country lacking the infrastructure we have that is quit an achievement.
    Today I bought the book Bicycle Mania which does contain magnificant pictures of how the use of a bicycle is an integrated part of Dutch life. The book is by Shirley Aguda, a USA Xpat living in The Netherlands since 1993. It is such a nice experience to look at your own nation through the eyes of a “foreignor”.
    The book not only is a gem because of the photo’s; it is also informative in both Dutch and English text on how we cope with 16.5 milion people and 18 milion bicycles. The book is available from the website http://www.bicyclemania.nl/index.htm which also contains some examples of the pictures.

    Arie Dekker

  • David says:

    RJ,
    I expressed a similar frustration back on the Rivendell Reader post. I’d been commuting in Spandex for years without even realizing there was a “backlash” against it and many other aspects of modern bike and bike accessory design. It seems pretty reasonable to me to want to keep the work clothes from getting sweaty or wet. If you’re going to change clothes to ride anyway and you find the Spandex stuff to be comfy, wear it! If you prefer to wear underwear and lace-up shoes without cleats, that’s fine too!

  • Sharper says:

    100% here, but “letting off steam” and “enjoying a beautiful day” are as much a utility in my life as power and gas.

  • Andrew says:

    I’d say the proportion of my utilitarian riding varies directly with how the nice the weather is. Now that it’s winter and the temperature is in the negatives, my bike is still the way I get around for the majority of trips and my daily commute, but I feel no real desire to ride for fun (instead I wrench on fair-weather bikes and fantasize about spring time).

    In the summer, though, joyrides tend to be my default activity whenever I don’t really have anything else on the agenda, and the distances of fun rides definitely rival that of my (short) commuting and shopping needs.

  • Andrew says:

    Oh, and re: spandex – the only dedicated pair of riding shorts are of the MTB variety, with a casual pocketed-short over top of the chamois, but they’re definitely more comfy than jeans and boxers for long-haul trips. I don’t wear loud racing gear, but lightweight wicking technical clothes (MEC or REI fare) are so much nicer than sweating through a standard cotton Tee.

  • John says:

    Alan, I appreciate the post. Back in my 20s, I was a pretty serious recreational cyclist who wouldn’t get on a bike unless I was in lycra. Knee problems slowed me down as I approached 30, and I got married, had kids, immersed myself in my career. Long story short, I didn’t ride very much for years until very recently. Now I am back on a bike, but this time around I’m doing it to integrate my bike into my everyday life. My goal this past year has been, like Fred Davis, to substitute my bike for my car for short trips around town. I do this because it’s good for me, it’s good for the environment, and it makes a community more livable. Oh yes, it’s fun, too. Generally, I wear whatever I want as, for me, convenience is key to making bicycling a part of my transportation routine. Usually it is jeans and casual street clothing.
    RJ, just a few observations. As I’ve got back on my bike (a commuter-style bike with relaxed, upright bars and racks), I’ve stopped nodding at cyclists in full racing gear, as in my experience they rarely nod back and will look straight through me. I guess I’m not a member of the club anymore. It’s a shame, really. Life’s too short for such cliquish nonsense and ultimately we all should be on the same side pushing for more bike-friendly infrastructure in our communities. I’m not saying all racing cyclists are like that, just seems I’ve seen it quite a bit.

  • Alan says:

    I don’t think what we wear matters one iota. What does matter is whether we obey the rules of the road and treat other road users with respect. I suspect all of us, regardless of what type of riding we do, have some room for improvement in this regard; I know I certainly do.

    Alan

  • Finley says:

    I am a big guy, and exercise for exercise’s sake has never agreed with me, for some reason. However, exercise for transportation, be it on foot or on a bike doesn’t bother me in the least. I guess that if I am doing something or going somewhere, I feel like transportational exercise has a definite, immediate point to it instead of some vague ‘your suffering will pay off down the road’ kind of feeling to it. Also, if I have gone somewhere by bike or on foot, it seems more rewarding in a very tangible sense. If I ride to the diner to have coffee with friends, the coffee tastes better. If I am getting groceries, the dinner I cook that night tastes better. If I am purchasing something else, I appreciate it more. Already good beer definitely tastes better, although there is nothing that can make american domestic beer taste good unless it is over 100 degrees and above 95 percent humidity. Even if I am just going to visit friends, it is a good feeling when your friends are impressed that you rode your bike instead of just drove. There is also the added bonus of random conversations with strangers about your city/country bike, often with old timers who ‘didn’t know they still made ‘em like they used to.’ Human powered transportation is, if nothing else, a good way to hear all sorts of interesting tales. The biggest bonus is that you don’t have to look like a berk while doing it.

  • townmouse says:

    Agree with the posters who find the percentage varies with the season – now that it’s cold and wet, my riding is about 80% utility, and the remaining 20% is mostly nipping up on the bike to the woods to do some walking, instead of walking the whole way (so it’s sort of utility as well). Come the fine weather, I’ll find others who want to ride with me on a joy ride, just for the hell of it – but if we stop for bacon sandwiches and/or cake, does that turn it into a utility ride?

    I don’t (or try not to) look down on any kind of cyclist, and I hope they don’t look down on me as they fly past me at twice my speed. But I do always feel kind of sorry for the bikes that are stuck on a bike rack on a car. Bikes want to be free!

  • Billi says:

    I think Alan just called it, “obey the rules of the road and treat other road users with respect”
    Unfortunately some cyclist, (roadies and commuters both) give us all a bad name, weaving in and out of traffic, “buzzing” cars, riding on sidewalks, etc… I’ll admit as a commuter I look down my nose a little bit at the helmetless hipster fixie riders and the wrong way riding, no lights clueless commuters. I recently road with a huge spandex group on a social (slow) charity ride, and was the only rider in street clothes, no clipless pedals, 26in wheels, and upright handlebars on my retro styled fender wearing ’85 Raliegh Elkhorn. The spandies were freindly and nice, even though we were worlds (and MPHs) apart culturally.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Over the last couple of years I’ve covered more miles on my bike than in my car. I commute by bike every day as a rule, with ice on the road really the only good excuse to take the car.

    Practically all of my groceries I get by bike, I only use the car to transport things that don’t fit on the bike. Almost every trip within the city, say 5-10 km is by bike as well.

  • Roadie Ryan says:

    In the past year I have come upon and embraced the casual clothes/steel bike/platform pedal vibe after being a “spandex guy” for a decade. I still like to jump on the “go fast” road bike and go out for group rides or wind it up if I am feeling good but I also enjoy climbing on the steel bike I built up last year (Alan looking forward to your Handsome Devil review!) with “regular” clothes on and running errands or just going for a ride -no goals, HRM ranges, workouts, etc just fun. If I see a good photo op, I stop, if I have a coffee jones I stop, if I see a gravel trail my 700x35c’s say “no problem boss”. I guess I think you can have your cake and eat it too.

    To the above I would agree with the poster that says every group has its great folks and jerks, I have had “racers” stop to ask if I need help with a flat and had “casual” riders put me in the ditch becuase the are riding obliviously. The important things, be respectful, patient and mostly ride and smile ;-)

  • Sharper says:

    For my part, I have noticed on my morning commutes that the less expensive a rider’s outfit and bike, the more likely they are to respond to my “good morning” and thank me on the occasions I need to offer, “passing on your left.” It gets very quickly demoralizing to be able to develop a stereotype about your fellow humans, even one as simple as (in my case), “the spandex-clad don’t even acknowledge pleasantries.” Doubly so since these are often the same people day in and day out, so it’s not just one instance that’s tainting their behavior and reinforcing the stereotype.

    I still try to offer the pleasantries, though. My goal is to hear “good morning” from every cyclist on my commute at least once before I die.

  • Scott Wayland says:

    I have to say that I get a serious kick out of running errands, shopping, etc. on the bike. Practical fun–can’t beat it!

    Scott

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    For me, the issue of transportation vs recreational cycling is a complicated one, especially once the question of car use enters in. My husband and I used to own 2 cars (both of them 4WD SUVs) when we lived in the countryside up in the mountains, with harsh winters and bad road conditions. Since having moved to the city, we sold one car and kept the other. We will always have a car, and it will always be a 4WD SUV (or a pick-up), because we often travel to remote locations for photo-shoots, hauling supplies and equipment, as well as large props – like pieces of furniture. There is just no other efficient solution, and for us bicycles do not take precedence over efficiency.

    When we are not traveling though, a lot of our transportation is by bicycle. My husband commutes by bike to work every day, including when it is snowing. I have not driven a car since 2007, so when I am on my own I use the bike for transportation as well. I do not have a fixed office for work, but I cycle to meetings, to buy supplies, to work in a cafe, and on other errands.

    When we are together, our transportation is split 3-ways between bike, subway and car. Subway wins over bike, when the urban route to our destination is too complicated to tackle. Car wins when the destination is too far away and we are on a tight schedule.

    Also, one aspects of cycling together for transportation that we find less than ideal, is that it is difficult to talk. We both have busy schedules, so running errands together in a car allows us to talk on the way there and back, as well as a general sense of intimate proximity. When cycling in urban traffic, this is simply not possible. We are riding together, but each on our own.

    Aside from cycling for transportation, we do take many recreational rides together. Since we began cycling, a considerable amount of our free time is spent riding recreationally – 20+ mile rides together, ideally on a trail. They are not fast or competitive rides, and because we are not in traffic we can talk to each other and enjoy the scenery.

    So that’s our bicycle use in a nutshell. It is not ideal from the perspective of “car free” activism, but then we are not car free activists. We use the bicycles form transportation when it is convenient and efficient to do so, and we also use the bicycles for recreation when time allows.

  • Lyle says:

    For me it’s definitely seasonal. December, January and February are probably 99% utility oriented and the rest of the year probably 70-80% utility and the remainder sport.

    Of course, riding my racer 100 miles on Saturday is probably equivalent to 4 to 5 days utility riding so the equation changes drastically if it’s miles versus time spent on the bike.

  • Saddle Up says:

    We became to be car-free 8 years ago not by design but by accident, our car broke down and we simply were not willing to spend any more money on a car.

    I rediscovered cycling long after we started living without a car by accident also. I bought a bicycle because there was a very high probabilty of a transit strike. I discovered that I was much efficient and reliable than the transit system. In the process I realized that cycling was my real passion.

    Alan I’m happy to hear that cycling is playing a bigger role in your lives, although I’m not surprised. I have a theory that I’ve developed from working in the bicycle industry that connects the dots betwen recreation rider and utility/commuter riders. It’s actually the first post I made on my own blog. http://saddleupbike.blogspot.com/

  • Iain says:

    As stated already, my percentage of utility cycling varies with the weather/seasons. At the moment the total mileage is down as the commuting options are constricted by narrow country roads made even narrower by snow, so the train takes most of the strain. For a period in the spring the commuter mileage goes up, then in the better summer weather (if there is such a thing in Scotland!) the fun mileage creeps up. As a couple, Sarah and I are now down to one car with me seldomly driving and I love the fact that I never need to drive in congested traffic.

  • MohjhoRider says:

    Miles on the bike equals hours out of my day. I have a job, family obligations, and other projects that battle for my time. Using my bike for utility makes my day and puts a smile on my face. That can’t be bad.

  • DerrickP says:

    I do agree with Alan. What you wear doesn’t matter. I’m curious what breeds this mentality of utility vs. recreational. Do joggers sneer at pedestrians in street clothes? Does a mother pushing a stroller feel the need to prove herself to a woman in running shorts? If the concept makes no sense on two feet, why would it on two wheels? I think too many people are making blanket judgements. I commute everyday. There’s only one other guy I’ve ever seen. He never waves… ever. Also, he’s on a recumbent. It wouldn’t be right for me to say, “Those lazy recumbent riders are jerks,” would it? Of course not. But he represents 100% of the other commuters I’ve seen. Yes, I’ve been snubbed by a few spandex riders. But I’ve been nodded at by dozens. I don’t even like making a judgement call on the individual. Maybe recumbent guy is near sighted, deep in thought or struggling to keep upright. I shouldn’t cast disparaging thoughts on him or anyone else until I’m able to ask him. Until then, I’ll just assume the positive is true. Life is easier that way :)

  • Deltatrike says:

    I couldn’t be 100% bicycle and quite frankly don’t aspire to be. To those on these pages and others that are, I think that is great because you are doing what you want and are able to make it work. In every endeavor there are snobs and cycling is no different. I have seen snobbery within every group – with the recumbent crowd, with the commuting/utility crowd, and the so-called Spandex crowd. Overwhelmingly though, are the encounters with great folks who enjoy being outdoors and moving their legs to push themselves along. I ride a recumbent and love it. It’s a slow and low, yet exceedingly comfortable way to get around. It’s strange and unique and I know that riders chuckle when they pass me as if I was standing still, but without exception, I hear, “Now that’s the way to go!” I use a semi-hybrid converted to a more “comfortable” ride for events. It has a rear basket and I carry a cooler in it to keep my Camelback resovoir cold. Folks giggle and sneer, but also they nod approval and wish their water was as ice cold as mine. I use a 3 speed cruiser style for commutes and errands. It has, I suppose, goofy looking to some, rear panniers and an equally goofy lined basket on the front. Serves me well and I really couldn’t care less if by association, folks think I am a goof. I wish I had a cool, expensive road/race bike. I wish I could move it along the road like I see folks doing, but I can’t. Even if I could, I’d still use all my other bikes because each one serves a particular purpose. The tribes must come together!

  • D'Arcy says:

    We use our bikes most of the time now for riding to work, shopping, going to shows, etc. It’s always a marvelous feeling, day or night, winter or summer.

    In a car you’re merely watching scenery go by. On a bike, you are the scenery, and very much a part of life on the street. You can hear the kids playing, smell the bake shops, all while usually passing cars stuck in traffic. Stopped at traffic lights, waiting cyclists actually talk to one another in a neighbourly fashion. It’s much more civililized than when you are surrounded by tons of steel cut off from the rest of the world in a car.

    I’ve said this before in previous posts, but I work much better after a bike ride. My mind is alert and my stress level low. I’ve also lost 10 pounds since I’ve started utility cycling on a regular basis.

  • Finley says:

    @DerrickP-

    I can’t speak for others, but I drink the Lycra Haterade for both aesthetic and political (although not political in the sense of government and legislation) reasons.

    As far as aesthetics go, I personally think that Lycra cycling clothing looks exceptionally stupid, and (I cannot take credit for this next bit, I read it somewhere online and agreed with it wholeheartedly) it looks exponentially more stupid with every couple of feet away from a bicycle a person in Lycra gets. I understand why people in races like the Tour de France wear it, just like I understand why olympic swimmers wear those insanely complicated wetsuit bathing suits, but if you saw some dude just goofing off in the ocean in one of those olympic swimsuits instead of a normal swimsuit, you would probably think he looked a bit stupid, like I would.

    Politically, Lycra keeps people off of bicycles. Lycra is the gang colors of the cycling world. It is cliquish. It visually sends the message that the Lycra clad cyclist is different from the rest of the community. It makes ordinary people assume that in this day and age, the bicycle as a mode of transportation is less accessible than it was in people’s youth. Sure, some of you might live places like Boston or Portland, where cycling is much more democratized, but out here in middle america, the VAST majority of cyclists are lycra clad dentists that think they are racers, and the general public has no idea that cycling is even an option for people that might otherwise want to ride just for fun or transportation.

    For me, Lycra cycling clothing also triggers my deep hatred of out of control marketing. Of course marketing is necessary, as if no one knows a product exists, no one can buy it. The majority of cycling jerseys are just mobile billboards though, worn by people who think it is cool to pay money to advertise other people’s products, and they are convinced of this by the entire marketing structure surrounding road bikes. People watch the tour on TV, which generates money. People watch the ads and rush out to get the new madone, or a jersey just like whatever roided up carbon jockey they happen to admire, which generates more money. They read the mainstream cycling magazines, which only cater to the Lycra wearing crowd, giving them a false sense of belonging which only exists on the basis of similar purchasing decisions.
    The entire mainstream cycling marketing system constantly tells people in its grip that newer is better, newest is best, less is more, more is more, buy, buy, buy! People every day are sold on buying carbon fiber racing bikes which are twice as expensive and last less than half as long as the comparable aluminum framed racing bike, because lightness is everything, even though the much more durable aluminum bike is only heavier by ounces. For me, pointy helmets, silly yellow shirts with ads on them, ridiculous shorts, and shoes that click when people walk are all reminders of the fact that the majority of the cycling industry doesn’t care about normal people, they only want to bilk increasingly large amounts of money out of the customer base that they have already enthralled with false hopes of being just like contador and armstrong.

    I have said this before, but I will say it again. The niche is mainstream, and the mainstream is niche. It should not be easier to buy a 5000 dollar racing bike than it is to buy a good sturdy commuting or touring bike, but it is, much. Lycra clothing is quite possibly the main symbol of that disparity. THAT is why I detest it.

  • Paul says:

    Also @DerrickP:

    I also agree that what you wear doesn’t matter and I wish more would live your implied, “Give the benefit of the doubt,” advice. However, your pedestrian analogy is an invalid one. Most of the utilitarian/commuting cyclists, myself included, have various altruistic motives for our choice of transportation. Everyone has their reasons, but the best common denominator is that a bicycle in my life means I consume less gasoline, not more. Generally, the spandex cyclists don’t consider this matter. Therefore, it’s easy for the utilitarian/commuting cyclists to conclude that a bicycle is a means for a spandex cyclist to consume more gasoline, not less. The pedestrians have no such divisive issue.

    @Finley

    I have plenty of Lycra products in my closet and a pretty sweet road ride. When they’re used, yes, I’m a rolling billboard. I’m sorry you feel I look stupid. Depending on the occasion, I’m merely expressing my individuality or kinship, or pleasing the ladies, or making the kids laugh, or all of the above. Fashion and Freedom, it’s integral to life in America. (FWIW, I still ride my bike from my home 98% of the time I pretend to be Bartali.)

  • Brent says:

    This morning I got up and rode my bike to the grocery store, brought home 22 pounds of groceries in one rear basket, 17 pounds in the other, and 12 pounds on the front rack. I unloaded and headed back out to Whole Foods and the holistic pet store. I finished up and rode home with about 15 pounds on the front rack.

    As I was unloading, bringing the bike in the house, and putting the dog food in the freezer I had a goofy sense of joy and well-being.

    I have that feeling every time I come home from running errands on the bike. Maybe it is endorphins, maybe it is the knowledge that I got all my errands done running only on my own steam. Maybe it is a combination of the two.

    When I still had the car it allowed me to run around without thought, but it was also a constant source of stress. Do I have enough gas, is it time for an oil change, sh*t my check engine light is on, time for a tune-up, tire rotation, filters, plates, blah, blah, blah.

    Since I got rid of the car that stress is gone, and what’s left is the the sense of joy I get while riding the bicycle, the sense of accomplishment I get from using it to run errands, and far less impulse shopping. Taking the bicycle to go buy something gives me more time to think about whether or not I really need it. It also encourages me to spend my money at stores in the neighborhood as opposed to suburban mega-box stores.

    Plus there is that sense that comes over you sometimes on the bicycle, you know the one:

    You are riding along, the sun is shining, you feel one with the bike beneath you as you pedal, your body automatically shifting and moving to keep you balanced. You glance down and see your shadow gliding along, maybe you coast for a minute, and you feel like you are flying, like you’re a kid again.

    I have never felt that way in a car.

  • Rick says:

    @Brent:

    Bravo, my friend–you have just expressed why my wife and I sold our car five weeks ago; less stress, more thoughtful consumption, a better, more deliberate way of moving through our lives. For me, my bicycle is the key to my steps toward satori, a way to remind myself that sometimes, all you have to do to get through the day is breathe.

  • David F says:

    @RJ:
    Perhaps things are different this side of the pond but, given that people are people, I’m guessing it may not be the case?

    And experience I had yesterday probably makes the point better than formulating an argument. Yesterday I popped into a local racer-focussed shop to get a few bits and bobs with a friend. Usually I’ve locked my bike up outside but yesterday the parkings were all taken so I hauled my heavy old but very practical steel-framed, fendered GT mountain bike up the stairs into the shop into their inside parking area (which was also jammed).

    Most of the guys there know me as a racer, but when they saw me with what was clearly a utility bike (and not lycra) there was a subtle change in attitude. It seems what little street cred I has was eroded in an instant… ;-)

  • Jt says:

    I’m in the 80% percent, however like Lovely Bicycle I need a four wheeled machine from time to time. I’m never against a car, van, SVU if it’s truly needed. Sort the inverse of using my xtracycle to go grocery shopping, it’s the transportation that fits the task well.

    My four wheeled need is based on my part-time career as a freelance bassist. An upright bass and an amp is too much for a bike, even an xtracycle. Unless I custom fabricated a trailer, I’m not seeing a two wheeled solution. Plus wearing a tux on a bike would be as eye grabbing as spandex!

    Like others who wave and greet other cyclists regardless of their style I get mixed response. It doesn’t matter what their response is, the important things is that I be courteous and initiate the social encounter. Even when snubbed the other person saw me being a friendly guy, obviously part of the bike community. I can’t change the fact that they want to be the way the are, I can only myself.

  • CTP says:

    i’m a very practically-minded person, so 99% of my riding is task-oriented. the other 1% is test riding a bike i’ve been fixing up.

  • Sharper says:

    @Brent
    I felt a very odd mix of sheepishness and devilishness when I took my pickup in to my mechanic last November for its 5,000 mile oil change. Looking up my truck, he commented that I was well overdue; I was last in his shop the previous December.

    If my girlfriend’s workplace hadn’t just moved eight miles further away and we just adopted a great dane, I probably would have sold her on getting rid of one of our two stress-inducing, pollution-causing, cocooned-environment noise generators. C’est la vie.

 
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