Over the last couple of weekends I have been back on my bike and my world is seeming much much brighter. Through May of this last year my back has given me all kinds of trouble and has limited my riding time. Now my doctor has given me the go ahead to start riding again and I am taking full advantage. Although I can tell you that my wife is not as stoked about my desire to be sitting in the saddle again.
We will begin with Emily and her concerns. She is my wife and I could not have gotten a better person to spend my life with in this existence or any other. She is constantly making sure that I do not do more damage to my already messed body. To give her a little solace I have told her that I will never be a runner ever again. This does bring me a bad place because for so long running was my relief to all that was going on around me. Now it has been completely substituted by biking. Emily’s main concern is that I am a slightly competitive individual and she does not want me pushing myself where I am injured yet again. All her concerns are valid and I understand, but I just have to do something. She is well-intentioned and I have to get it out of my psyche. I am limiting my rides to under 10 miles right now until I am strong enough to go farther. This alone is tough on me since I want to go on 20, 30, and 40 milers all the time. She is having to reign in a wild beast that does not want to listen. She got the crap end of the stick on this one.
Now to my thoughts on riding a bike. You may have heard this before but I am going to let it all hang out, so know that I warned you. Since 2005, while living in NYC, biking has been a major part of who and what I am about. The decision was made by me to get a bike to ride around NYC and I got one off Craigslist for $100. It got the addition going and from that moment on I was hooked. Now if you ride a bike you may be one of many types of riders: (I am not an elitist about biking and am happy to everyone that rides a bike, but understand within our subculture there are many different types of riders and we all should love each other)
1) Coaster- These are a group of individuals that normally ride casually and enjoy riding. They tend to enjoy riding in groups and really like downhills because they have to the ability to “coast” down a hill and enjoy the breeze in their hair.
2) Lycra Weekend Warriors- This is a group of individuals that normally buy very high end bikes, enjoy riding on the weekend in head to toe lycra, and by my interpretation enjoy the flash more than the bang. They tend to enjoy showing off their high end gear and getting the jealous looks of others that tend not to spend thousands of dollars on a hobby. Mountain bikers can fit in this category, but tend to be less dicks because they really like not hitting trees while flying down a mountain.
3) My closet or garage owns a bike- These are normally individuals that think they want to change their lives by riding a bike, go out and buy one and then donate it to a room inside their home. These are normally not bike riders, but want to be and normally do not have time or realize that it takes some dedication to ride a bike on a regular basis.
4) The commuter- These are persons who have decided that cars are part of the evil empire and they are quickly destroying our world. They have decided that riding a bike rather than in a car is better for the planet, their bodies, and their minds. This group is can have any form of bike: cruiser, mountain bike, road bike, single speed, or fixed gear. We will get into types of bikes later. They tend to want to be superior to others and normally have a unhealthy anger towards cars and the United States for allowing the car to be our major form of transportation during the 1920’s.
5) Gear heads- This subgroup is a interesting group that normally are sitting in a coffee shop, bike shop, or other hipster places to be and are normally talking about gear ratios, brake types, or wheel sizes. Let me give you some lingo so you can be aware if you are in the presence of this group. Example, “I have a 46 by 16 gear ratio on my fixed. My cantilever brakes have really held up, but discs are the way to go if it is raining- instant stopping power. My saddle weights less than 6 oz and has made all the difference in cadence.” If you hear any of those key terms be aware you are listening to a conversation that is very technical and only impresses people that understand what all that means.
6) Fixed- Now this is a subset that I am part of so I can make fun of my own. These are people that I bike that only has one gear and you can NEVER coast. To most people this is an abomination to biking. This is normally hipsters, bike messengers, serious bikers, people that really like to get in shape, and people with small amounts of money. They tend to be very serious bikers. They can be in lycra or shorts and a t-shirt, depending on where they are going and what they are trying to achieve socially. This group has recently gained major interest by the hipster community because of the coolness factor being in this group gets you in the bike community. If you ride fixed you tend to be understood to really like bikes and have a sadistic desire to punish your body by never coasting while riding a bike.
Now of all these types of people I have fit in many a category. I can check gear head, fixed, the commuter, and at times the coaster. I want to disavow any talks of me being a hipster. My wife bought me a really good bike 6 years ago, a Bianchi Volpe. This was my commuter bike for a year before I got the fixed bug. Riding back and forth from work I decided I needed to take it to the next level and wanted to get a fixed gear bike. I started by looking at bikes on a website that was dedicated to fixed gear bikes and that was it I was hooked. So on my daily commute I saw a frame on the side of road. I kept my eye on it for a week and decided that if by Friday it was still there I was going to pick it up and take it home. I drove to work that day for some reason and I had my bike rack on just in case it was still there. Low and behold it was there. I swung into the parking lot put it on my rack and headed home with my find. Now is was an old Schwinn Traveler III. All I knew was it was a steel frame and it fit my size. I stripped it down that day and built me a fixed gear bike. I even got it posted on that fixed gear bike website, here are some picks if you are interested. As you can see I enjoyed changing the paint job and making it my own. I have since changed the saddle, the seat, to a Brooks leather seat that I wouldn’t change for the world. I also built it from the frame up which if you are like me, anything you build yourself is much better than anything you can buy. The greatest thing about my bike is there was a place in Austin, Yellow Bike Project, that allowed me to use their tools to build my bike. You could not have seen a happier human on this planet. Now there are some things you need to know about a fixed gear bike: 1) if the wheels are moving you are peddling 2) you must anticipate 30-50 feet in front of you because you cannot stop as fast as a bike with brakes 3) people that tend to ride fixed gears seriously have normally had a religious experience riding their bikes, this normally happens when they are flying through traffic at break-neck speeds and the world slows around them and you feel in complete control (my friend Jeremy Dean relates it to poetry and I tend to agree with him) and 4) this is not for the vast majority of bike riders, my wife never has a desire to ride a fixed gear bike and still looks at me like I am a bit crazy to ride such a Frankenstein of a bike. A fixed gear bike does not have a front or rear derailler, brakes sometimes, and is the simplest form of biking because there are not many working parts.
This is just a taste of my love for bikes and the biking community. I will pontificate further at a later date, but for now you will have to accept this entry. Living in cities such as New York and Austin have spoiled me as a bike rider. Now relocating to B’ham has shown me that I must join the local riding community here and fight for our rights to share the road with the four wheel sloth devil. Know that I have owned many cars and have traveled cross country many many times and could not have made those trips without the modern car, but I would rather ride a bike in the rain in 30 degree weather to work than get into a box of death any second of any day. I ride to see the world around me and find a person that I know exists within my soul that has yet to be released.