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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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Spibby

I feel you, Sloop. (figuratively)

Two years ago, I went through a similar process. For my part, a decision to bring biking into my life was based on a few factors: 1) Becoming increasingly disgusted with having to burn fuel and pollute the air on short trips in the car; 2) The ridiculous costs of parking in my city; 3) Exercise, particularly giving my knees and ankles a chance to stretch out after tennis; and 4) Wanting to maintain some autonomy over schedule and mode of transit.

I had similar hesitations. I did a ton of web research and was fortunate to have a really good friend, Erik, who knows tons about bikes, is a total geek about them (I mean that as the hugest compliment), and is willing to entertain my questions. I went to a really good bike shop in town, and got a custom laser fitting (which I geeked out on, because I love biometric technology). Way, way, way different than my first bike, which I got for my fifth birthday, which we bought "off the rack" at the local Pamida store. (I don't even know if they had lasers back then. If they did, I think it was spelled "lazer.")

Side note: The best part about the laser fitting was that the clerk, who was about a foot shorter than me, stood in front of me and said -- as he was looking UP at me -- "I think you and I are about the same height." I was so stunned I didn't even know what to say. I went back two days later for another fitting from a different salesperson. Everything worked out fine.

Anyway, I got over the snob-thing really quickly. My bike cost about $350. My goal was to buy a bike that would pay for itself in a year via what I save on fuel, maintenance, and parking for my car. I ride my bike almost every day in the summer, and ride it to work as often as I can, which is for all but about 4-5 months of the year. My bike is neither fancy nor Italian, but 100% durable and does everything I need it to do. When at work, it rests comfortably along a side wall of my office -- for free.

What I'm trying to say is that I understand your concerns. I don't think there are many things like a bike that so quickly put your body on display to the public. A bike is an unavoidably exhibitionist technology -- the frame so small and designed to be discreet when you're on it; your body forced to perform foolish contortions to make it all go. And riding a bike instantly puts you in a complex nexus of categorizations known by other bikers, passers-by, and certainly motorists. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice that my "cheap" bike drew some unkind stares from others. Or maybe I'm just paranoid when the superbikers, with their $5000 racing bikes, biking jerseys, and other gear zoom past me. But paranoid or not, there can be no question that being a bicyclist means taking on a series of body-imagery that most other transportation technologies work hard to avoid or focus more flatteringly (and I'm sure you could say much more about that than I). Riding a bike is as close to physical and discursive nakedness as our present society will allow.

But here's what I have found, and what I sincerely wish for you: All of those questions and insecurities go away, and I feel so much happier, when I'm biking around and can feel the true sunlight on my face and smell the fragrances of blooming flowers in my neighbors' gardens, and experience that child-like euphoria of pumping my legs and riding like the wind.

I get all of that for the price of a "cheap" bike. I feel like a millionaire.

Rodrigo Stulzer

Hi!

I own a Trek (820) that I bought in 1992. Wow, it's 16 years since the first time that I saw her.

You know what? I'm still in love with her. It's outdated, but I do a lot of mountain biking with her here in Brazil. It's like a old time lover. I know her reactions and her know what I'd like to do.

Forget about what people think. What matter is the joy that you have.

Here you can see some pictures of a trip a couple o weeks ago. I'm the one in the right side of the first picture. Me and my old Trek 820! :-)

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