Whether you have read Bike Tribes, by Mike Magnuson, or not, chances are you have observed that there many different types of bicyclists. Magnuson has in fact identified about 20 groupings of bicyclists, and he argues convincingly that we need to respect each other, as well as motorists and pedestrians, and learn to get along.
My point from what he writes is that it really doesn’t matter what kind of bicycle you might want to ride. No one of them is better than the other, if it is doing what the rider wants it to do. A little child on a shiny red trike is perfectly happy. A chic city girl riding in heels on her way to work would never ride a bicycle if the only thing available were a clip-equipped road bike. And pizza delivery is really not very efficient unless you’re riding a work bicycle. I have no desire to ride a mountain bike at all, but I would have to be blind not to see how much the mountain bike riders love their steeds.
Some of the things that these different bicycles and their riders have in common are contributing to good health, reducing congestion on the roads, reducing stress for the riders and the people around them, using less petroleum, creating less carbon dioxide, and, most important, having fun.
“If it’s not fun, why do it?” This is more than an advertising jingle. However, it does take a superficial look at the idea of fun. For me, fun is not simply feeling happy all the time. For me, fun means a deep satisfaction, an enjoyment that can also include a certain amount of physical pain or suffering. I am put in mind of the soccer player carried off the field after an injury, who tells everyone what a great game it was. Or the many people who are working at things they would do for free if they didn’t have to make a living: translators and writers like me, artists, musicians, teachers, and workers from any walk of life who come in early and stay late, because they want to. They work hard, but they would rather be doing that then something else. Athletes and devoted hobbyists have to love it, or they wouldn’t do it.
Fun includes facing a challenge and succeeding. This almost always involves a certain amount of struggle, but it is a struggle that one undertakes willingly, because, after all, it’s fun.
So it doesn’t really matter what your reason for getting on a bicycle is, or what the bicycle looks like. It really doesn’t matter how long you ride each day, or whether you ride every day. If you have ever wanted to capture the joy and the freedom you remember from being young on a bicycle, get out there and ride.
If you’re terrified of traffic, go to a park. If it’s been a long time, practice in a parking lot or near home. Check out the internet, and visit a bike shop for friendly advice (it you don’t get it, go to a different bike shop). Don’t overdo it. And don’t spend a lot of money until you are comfortable that you know what you need and why.
Keep it simple. And don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Just have a good time, because any day on a bicycle is a good day.
Next week: another sea story.
Smooth roads and tailwinds,