The Bicycle, then and now.

First of all, a big thank you to Shai and the others who answered my call for help with image files. Although I have not succeeded in fooling Windows into accepting my old CD dictionary, at least I understand the language now (important for a translator, don’t you think?). Next, I will be looking for backward compatibility issues or an updated electronic Devoto-Oli or comparable dictionary. Now back to the subject:

My friend Heather Warren once she asked me if I had ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Skyline Drive. My answer opens a window to my bicycling soul:

“Thanks for the wishes. As for the Blue Ridge Parkway, yes, I have ridden portions of it. It’s a dangerous road for bicycling and often closed when I would want to ride it (off-season). The Skyline Drive is worse: more distracted tourists and more traffic unable to pass me.

“The “bike tribe” you see riding the Ridge are the recreational riders. I prefer the main highways in the valleys to get where I am going, so I belong to a different tribe, the utilitarian/transportation riders. I used to belong to the commuter tribe, but I work from home now. [See Bike Tribes: A Field Guide to North American Cyclists, by Mike Magnuson, Rodale Press, 2012 – links below]

“I am so bad about the utility of my riding, that if I don’t have some place to go (even just wishfully), I often won’t even get out the driveway … Going to see someone is my motivation, even if I end up doing a circuit without stopping. Visiting friends and family is the personal incentive behind my Southern Swing, though I will spend much time and distance alone or making new friends.”

Heather Warren and the author

Heather Warren and the author

I got this way by growing up in Rome during the Marshall Plan, when everyone rode a bicycle or public transit. Government ministers and rich people had motor scooters. After the economic recovery and the Olympics in 1960, Rome became a city like any other, crowded with cars. But there were always plenty of bicycles. Drivers and bicyclists simply had to look out for each other, and for trolleys, horses, handcarts, and pedestrians.

I have never been troubled by traffic. My concern is not the number of cars or even their speed. For me, the issue is road rage, not traffic congestion. This is why I prefer multi-lane roads and wide shoulders, so that drivers can pass me without slowing down.

Except for the equipment that we strap to our bicycles and the number of gears, bicycles have not changed much in the 60 years that I have been riding. In fact, the bicycle I ride today is one that I only dreamed of owning when I was a teenager: a steel Bianchi. I want my bicycle to do as many different things for me as possible, because I cannot afford to own more than one. The Bianchi Volpe is light enough for a fast recreational ride, sturdy enough to carry me and my office all over the world, and simple enough to fix and maintain.

The Bianchi Volpe on US 29 between Culpeper and Charlottesville, Virginia

The Bianchi Volpe on US 29 between Culpeper and Charlottesville, Virginia

Links to Bike Tribes, if you would like to read more.

Next week, I will discuss how my personal life has changed.

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