Because of a little medical problem last month, my bicycling has been rationed for a while—though fortunately the ration goes up weekly!—and more particularly I have been advised that it would be unwise to sprint or hammer for a few months, till things heal up in the old thinkpot.
I never have thought of myself as a hard rider—I never go anaerobic, for example—but I do like to bound along at a good clip for miles and miles when I have the chance, and my wife does complain that I am always going too fast when we ride together.
But now that I am having to slow down a bit, I find that it isn’t so bad, either. Even on busy streets, where in the past I have tried to minimize the speed difference between me and motor traffic.
In fact, I find myself riding at the pace of those utility riders we are so assiduously trying to entice onto bikes.
You’d think you wouldn’t notice the difference between a 12-to-15mph pace and my previous 16-to-20mph— and I don’t, as far as concerns the time it takes me to get somewhere if it’s within the much more local radius I am restricted to for now. And of course most utility riders will stay much closer to home as they pedal to shops, jobs, bars, and restaurants than hotdogging enthusiasts will as they grind off to the hills for a hammerfest.
And it involves much less expenditure of personal energy. I go miles now without breathing hard or sweating much, if at all.
That is important for us as advocates: instead telling prospective riders they gotta learn to love sweat (a persistent if minor meme lately), we’ve got to point out that sport riding and pedaling for local travel are as different slinging 600 horsepower around the turns at Laguna Seca and climbing into the sedan to pick up a bag of spuds at the store.
And that picking up the bag of spuds on your city bike is not only much more fun than driving there, but it’s easy as well.
It’s no secret that the image of cycling in the US has been dominated by racing, and that that is what puts off too many of the “interest but concerned” 60% of the population that wants to ride but is daunted by street traffic and athletic expectations.
I remember riding around in the 1980s in jeans and t-shirt and a fishing hat, and having people ask me if I were training for a race—because they could not imagine any other reason I would be on a bike!
This narrow focus has been aided and abetted by the great majority of bicycle shops over the last several decades.
Fortunately we have a few enlightened purveyors of velocipedes among us now, foremost among whom is, of course, Flying Pigeon LA, where you’re reading this.
So if you want to ride but don’t want to race, or even pretend you are racing, come talk with Pigeon Master Josef. You’ll find just what you need to get around town, take care of business, and learn to love your neighborhood again—without feeling an obligation to raise a sweat or have some electronic drill instructor nagging at you from a handlebar-mounted training computer.
All it really takes is a bike and a smile.