Sport, or Transport?

Michael on the Betty Foy

When we were kids, we pretty much lived on our bikes. We rode all over the countryside surrounding our small, rural farm town, jumping through ditches, popping wheelies, and tearing across fields for fun and kicks.

When I was 10 years old, our gang went on our first major expedition, riding from our hometown, all the way to the mall in the next city and back. It was quite an adventure.

We also started early using our bikes for getting places. I first rode my bike to school in 2nd or 3rd grade. When I was 10 years old, our gang went on our first major expedition, riding from our hometown, all the way to the mall in the next city and back. It was quite an adventure. I measured the route on Google Maps this evening; the round trip was 22.4 miles.

From that auspicious start, bicycling for sport and bicycling for transport have been inextricably entwined for me. Over the years I’ve done some racing, lots of club riding, and even more mountain biking. Throughout, I’ve always used a bike for errands, commuting, and just getting around, but it’s only in recent years that a majority of my riding has been for transportation. Interestingly, this shift hasn’t diminished my enjoyment one iota. In fact, a more purposeful approach to riding has made it more rewarding than ever.

How about you? Are you a pure sport rider, or do you mix in some utility riding? Are you a pure transpo rider, or did you start riding for practical reasons, then take up sport riding later on? Has bicycling been a lifelong pursuit, or did you take it up in recent years? We’d love to hear your story.

How much of your riding is for transportation/utility?

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How long have you been riding on a regular basis?

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19 Responses to “Sport, or Transport?”

  • Michael MckIsson says:

    After renting a bike at the beach, it reminded me how much fun riding a bike is. I think most adults forget that.

    It inspired me to get my own bike, which helped me lose 130 pounds. I started out much more as a recreational/health cyclist, but have morphed into more of a utility/commuter cyclist.

    I still like the weekend sport rides and will probably do more racing this year, but I get more pleasure from the utility rides.

    I love knowing that I can get everywhere I need to go with my own two legs rather than fossil fuels. Thinking about the fact I’ve started our second car once in the last 2-3 months — even with an infant in the house — makes me smile. Now, only if I could talk my wife into letting me sell it and replace it with a few more bikes.

  • carfreepvd says:

    I started tracking my miles for my second year of living without owning a car. At first, I divided my biking into “biking for fun,” “biking for work,” and “biking to shop.” However, soon I realized that there was too much crossover between the categories. I often work an errand or two into my longer “fun” rides, and riding a bike to work is always more fun than driving. Instead, I just track miles by bike. Now I see that while I ride my “transport” bike more often, the miles on my “sport” bike are almost equal.

  • townmouse says:

    Hmm. I voted 50-75% utility because that’s about right, but I wouldn’t say the other 25-50% was sport. Fun, maybe, and at a pinch good exercise, but not sport. I’d count any ride as non-utility where I was going out just to be on the bike, to enjoy the views or take photographs or to be with other cyclists or to have a picnic, but I wouldn’t call any of those rides sport.

  • Pete says:

    I prefer not to distinguish the two! Every ride is a “fun ride” in some sense. About the only way I can think to differentiate them is that my “utility” riding usually involves cargo of some sort, where my “recreational” rides usually don’t.
    Since my commute is short, and my weekend rides relatively longer, the mileage is probably 50/50, but if you count number of rides, it’s probably at least 80/20 in favor of transport.

  • Alan says:

    @townmouse

    I think it’s a matter of semantics. I was using the term “sport” very loosely to encompass most any type of riding that doesn’t involve some practical purpose. I understand that’s probably an unusually broad definition. I could/should have substituted “fun” or “recreation” in place of “sport”, but utility rides and commutes can be so “fun and recreational” that they confused the question! :-)

    Alan

  • Andy says:

    This year I will have put on about 3500 miles, significantly down from 4850 last year. I do about 2000+ with commuting a year, and the rest is mostly long group rides 50-150 miles and weekly local races at 30 miles. There’s also weekly bike polo, which I don’t count into the miles, although I should figure out how far that is someday.

  • Terrell says:

    I started biking when I was really young as well, me and my friend would ride all around the neighborhood. I got into mountain biking when I was a teenager, and that is most of what I have been doing since. I have ridden to work a couple of times but never consistently. I would like to start commuting more sometime though.

  • Michaelniel says:

    As a kid, it was all (or mostly) for fun. I grew up in Kodiak AK, and there’s no real commuting there. In college and in my twenties it was a mix of about 80/20 fun/transpo. Back then I did a lot of extended mountain riding as an almost daily therapy session in the foothills of FT.Collins, CO. During the last couple years, that has flipped the other way and I’m putting on 60-80 miles a week commuting in Denver, with an almost weekly Mountain or Pleasure ride during the warm months.

  • Bomber says:

    about 80-90% is commuting miles, so far mileage this year @4500. Still fun either way generally. My forced slow, commute to work (as compared with car) has helped me to develope a more relaxed attitude and keep things in perspective. I look forward to it, I dread the Vermont cold that will ultimately force me from the road for up to 4 months. But know that the time will just make me appreciate riding even more. Transport cycling also helps me ride safer, getting out of the competitive mind set, means that I’ll take those few extra seconds at an intersection if need be to be safer. I have enjoyed going a bit slower, my average speed is 13-15, I have a couple monster hills in my ride too, they are both uphill both ways, whew!

  • AndyN says:

    Hah! I just mapped the very first “serious” ride I ever did – My highschool buddy and I rode out to the rural town where his girlfriend lived, way out at the far edge of our school district. It was summertime, and hot, and in my memory it was a long, grueling series of climbs, and I’m sure we fancied ourselves like Greg LeMond, who was riding the Tour on TV that summer. At the time it felt like a monumental achievement; today the ride map says the out-and-back distance was 18 miles, with 610 feet of climbing.

    That first big ride was Transportation Riding, simply because we could not drive. As my peer group got licenses & cars, I was one of the few to keep riding, even when I had my own car. I believe the teen years are the critical window for the making of a life-long cyclist; we find that riding bicycles is just too much fun to abandon, regardless of our access to automobiles.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    I was not sure how to vote, because it would depend on what you mean by “how much”. Subjectively, it feels as if I ride mostly for transportation, because that’s such a crucial part of my life. Also, it involved using the bicycle all day and every day, albeit in small increments at a time.

    However, if I look at mileage, then sporty/ recreational cycling would win hands down. I have put 1,800 miles on just one of my three roadbikes since May, which is probably more than I’ve put on all of my transport bikes together, since I started riding them! But this feels like a much less significant part of my life to me, and I most definitely do not see myself as a “predominantly recreational” cyclist despite what the miles say.

  • David Bolles says:

    I rode all the time as a kid. Eventually I got in to BMX bikes and that was the beginning of swapping/ upgrading parts…
    Then I got a used, 80′s Schwinn World Sport. Sort of as an intro to the road world… And, I quickly upgraded the stem, bars, levers, pedals,saddle etc…(Thus, the rebirth of obsessing over all things bike happened.) I can get the bike moving quickly and it’s a great commuter.(Should I post a photo?)

    I do, at a low, 100 miles a week and that is just commuting. What’s nice is that it’s 30-34 miles round trip. The roadways are generally safe and the trail is flat. In the commuting 101 there was a mention to ” Keep in mind, it’s not a race!” And it’s not but, I definitely keep track of time and have noticed with the coming east coast cold, my time has improved! Cold is a motivator to fly, apparently.
    I’ll take a rainy day on a bike any time over Philadelphia traffic!
    I’m working on getting back to 4 days of commuting a week. Plus, my Sunday 50 mile ride.
    So, I guess I try to strike a balance of what I use the bike for.
    I’ll be returning to school in the spring semester and am hoping to commit to always riding. It would be long miles but, I feel I can do it. Perhaps I’ll blog about it. :)
    Love the site!

  • somervillebikes says:

    at least 75% of all my riding is utility riding: commuting to work or running errands.

    i’ve been riding regularly for four years, after a 20 year break from riding. it’s a little ironic that i stopped cycling at an early age; before that i was a fairly avid cyclist, practically lived on my bike and even did an 80 mile mountainous ride on my 13th birthday, with only my 13-year old best friend!

  • Fergie348 says:

    Biked all around as a kid too – I remember the day that my friend ran away from home, loaded up his backpack with food and clothes and a pup tent and rode 40 miles before his dad found him. We were probably 11 or 12. I think it planted a seed..

    I got into cars and girls in high school and biking disappeared until I was about 23 and just settling into San Francisco. I started out by buying a Nishiki Alien MTB (Richard Cunningham design – the one with the raised chainstays) for way too much money and turning it into a city cruiser with big balloon tires. This was before suspension was popular, so rigid. It probably weighed 40 lbs. I started riding it to work when I realized it was faster to ride than to take MUNI. Thanks MUNI! Then I got into road riding more seriously, with an aluminum Trek 1400 and some friends who liked to ride fast.

    Then came the touring lust, a Bridgestone XO-1 with racks and bags., trips down the coast from Eugene and Seattle, and eventually a trip to Barnett bike school to learn how to wrench properly. Then I rode home, through CO, WY, MT, ID and WA. Bike shop jobs, some cross racing and italian steel brought me to work at Bianchi as an inside rep. I knew that penury was next, so I hopped on the dot com train and learned to write code. The bike industry days were over, but I kept about 5 bikes from that era. Still have my old Tommasini SLX converted to a single and an ancient steel Stumpjumper that I also converted to a single and am looking to move. After the apocolypse, the only bicycles that will remain in riding condition will be old steel Stumpjumpers..

    Now I have a family, live in the suburbs and ride my bike to work almost every day. I still love to go riding on trails and on fast road rides but I don’t have the free time I used to. Riding to work is helping to keep me balanced – it’s probably 70% of my mileage and maybe 80% of my trips.

  • Alan says:

    @Lovely Bicycle!

    “I was not sure how to vote, because it would depend on what you mean by “how much”. Subjectively, it feels as if I ride mostly for transportation, because that’s such a crucial part of my life. Also, it involved using the bicycle all day and every day, albeit in small increments at a time.”

    Hmm, I guess I meant “actual mileage on the odometer”, though I certainly understand your point. Since such a high percentage of my mileage is for transportation of one sort or another, it hadn’t dawned on me that a person’s actual mileage and “psychic mileage” may not coincide. Interesting!

  • Lee Trampleasure says:

    Another good poll question might be: When did you first start riding with any consistency (weekly fun rides as a kid, riding to high school, riding to first job, etc)? 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20-25, 25-35, etc.

  • thomas says:

    Sometimes the two just blend together. If I’m touring, is it sport or transportation? We tend to view transport as boring or necessary and sport as fun and exciting but that’s not how it has to be.

  • Alan says:

    @thomas

    Personally, I’d consider touring “sport”, but a commute, grocery run, or trip to a dental appointment “transport”. I enjoy all of the above equally (well, perhaps not the trip to the dentist… ;-)).

    Alan

  • 300 Pound Gorilla says:

    I was on two wheels at about 4 years old. I’ve been cycling pretty consistently since then. I was a kid way back when parents said “Be back for dinner” and let their kids go have fun around the neighborhood, so I used the bicycle for transportation at a very young age. That’s how I went to the neighborhood park, friends houses, etc. At age 12 or 13, most of the neighborhood kids got really into skateboards. I had one, but I didn’t like it that much. I stuck with my bicycle.

    When I turned 16, I got my driver’s license and didn’t bike much for about 3 years. Then, I sold my car and bought a Gold Rush. I’ve owned a car on and off since then, but mostly I’ve biked everywhere. Right now, I haven’t owned a car in two years. I did join zipcar, but I only use it a few days per year.

    Whether considering number of trips, total mileage, or frequency of riding, almost 100% of my riding is for transportation. My just for fun rides don’t happen very often. They’re mostly my best cure when I’m in a funk.

 
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