Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bike or Die

You'll notice the bikers on signs never have helmets on.
What kind of message is that sending to the children?
You have to possess great humility to be a biker. No, not a motorbiker with their sweet leather X-Men suits and spaceman helmets. A bicyclebiker. With their spandex and saddlebags and aerodynamic head gear. Riding the Galloping Goose every day, I see many flavors of bikers. But after some obtuse observations I find most bicyclers fit into two groups: those embracing the humble experience that is bikerdom, and those awkwardly fighting against it (or looking really cool, in which case I hate them). But if you're going to bother to bike, you might as well embrace it. Yes, it means wearing a helmet. I sometimes wonder if people who don't wear helmets when they bike think that their heads are made of extra special strong material, like maybe they've been injected with adamantium. That might be more realistic if they were riding a motorbike in an X-Men suit. Somehow I can't imagine Wolverine riding a bicycle.

A couple years ago my sister and I went biking on the Goose Goose as she calls it, and no she's not five. We were probably pretty slow because we weren't bikers, and pretty soon we heard little tricycle-type bells dinging us as faster bikers (everyone) past us. My sister being automatically assumed they were hostile dings, like cars honking us to go faster, pointing us out as amateurs and shaming us. After the first few times my sister said something to them like, "Yeah, we get it." But no, they were courtesy dings, friendly little bells letting us know someone was passing so we didn't spastically swerve and crash into them. Easy mistake. The Galloping Goose, however, is incredibly friendly. Except at night time... That's when the bike snatchers come out.

But biking in the summer is the best. It is like an earth friendly, exhilarating, freedom on wheels (two, in fact). I love it. It makes me feel like I am 100% being good, which is often hard to feel. There are many things that make us feel a little good but there might be some iffy feeling that goes with it, like there could be some hidden negative consequences which only lets you feel 80% good. But biking gives a 100% good feeling, especially if your bike is made from recycled parts. You know that what you are doing is both good for you and the environment. It won't ruin your knees and hips like running. There's no gas you have to pay for, or carbon monoxide you're burning into the air. You're not putting anyone's life in jeopardy by biking. In fact, not a single baby is dying because of you at that moment, and that my friend, feels good. (I made that baby thing up, though I hope, for the sake of babies everywhere, that it's true).

You are much more likely to take the time to appreciate the beauty of your city when you bike, and biking during the summer always makes me feel like I'm drinking summer in, grabbing hold of it and not letting it give me the slip like it always seems to do. I love seeing the dog walkers and watching a big dog on a leash suddenly lie down in the middle of the trail and refuse to move. I love seeing people exercising and internally cheering them on. I don't cheer nearly as much for the already fit people. Is that wrong? It's just that when an overweight person's got their exercise clothes on and you know how hard this is for them and how important, like life or death, and how they're probably feeling like everyone is judging them, well, I dunno, I can't help it. I want to get out my pom-poms. In the summer you'll see a lot more than the scenery though. I applaud the serious male bikers who wear spandex, but when girls wear spandex it's like yoga pants: yeah it shows everything, but isn't that kind of the point? When guys wear spandex it's like yeah, it shows everything. And just in case you were wondering, that is not the point. If it is, you are probably a pedophile.

But biking during the winter sucks. Biking during the winter is like punishment for the poor suckers who don't have a car. For the majority of the year by the time I get off work it is usually dark, in which case I have to take certain precautions not to die. Last year for my birthday I asked for some biking gear: gloves, a front and back light and waterproof shoe covers. I got more than I bargained for. I also got a bright neon-green safety vest and matching Velcro ankle wraps with little blinky red lights embedded in them. I mean, if you're wanting to look like a dork, that is how you would go about it. I looked like the kid in the school play that can't act so they dress her up as the Christmas tree. But do I want to end up like my squirrelly friends, just more roadkill on the side of the road? No, not today my friend! Instead I say loud and clear to my fellow road users, "Hello! Here I am! See me so that you don't kill me!" Because just in case you were unsure, if a car and a bike got in a fist fight over a nasty argument involving the right of way, well, the car would win. I just mean if you are looking for a lesson in humility, biking is a good place to start.

How you know you are a true biker:
  1. You bike on the road like a big kid. I know some people are afraid to, but as long as there's a bike lane, it's not nearly as bad as you think.
  2. You've adjusted your brother's old helmet fifty times and it still doesn't fit right.
  3. You have bruises on your calves from the bike pedals.
  4. You've ruined at least one pair of pants by either ripping the cuff on your chain or smearing it with grease. Amateur! That's what the gangster one-leg-roller-upper is for.
  5. You know how to put a chain back on and not get grease all over your face like a two-year-old with face paint.
  6. You are immune to the many flies and bees that ping off of you like a pinball machine.
  7. You have eaten at least one.
  8. You have surprised a flock of birds down a trail and have finally experienced what it's like to fly with the birds for 2.5 seconds. FYI if you haven't done that before, it is one of top twenty-seven best experiences ever.
  9. You have a biker's tan, including a line under your chin from the helmet strap.
  10. You are no longer ashamed of picking your wedgie while riding.
P.S. Two days after writing this post I bailed on my bike terribly and had to go to camp the next day with a bandaged arm, hip and knee. The bad new is that I am no longer a good biking advocate. The good news is that the title of this post has taken on a fantastic irony that I couldn't have planned better if I tried...

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