For perspective

28 05 2008

I was reading the latest issue of Bicycling magazine on my flight home on Sunday. I had finished “1984” by George Orwell on my flight from Vegas to Denver. So I stopped in a little shop at Denver airport (by the way, coolest airport ever! They have a whole flock of birds inside the airport!!) and picked up a cliff bar and my magazine. There was an article inside titled “The Way It Should Be Is The Way It Is” by Mark Jenkins. Apparently, he and his wife took a cycling vacation to the Netherlands to ride around the country. They had an amazing time, ate amazing food, and met amazing people. About 3-4 pages in to the article, I came across a little gem that I want to quote here, bolding mine, comments in brackets are also mine:

“…Think about this: According to the Worldwatch Institute, it requires more than 100 time more energy and raw materials to build a car than a bicycle; 12 bikes can park in the same space of one car; a street must be 12 lanes wide to to accomodate 40,000 car commuters per hour, but only one lane wide to handle the same number of cyclists; and finally, says Bicycling Science, by Frank Rowland Whitt and David Gordon Wilson, converting calories into gasoline, a bicycle gets 3,000 miles to the gallon.

To bring the point closer to home: Only 9 percent of the oil the United States consumes comes from the Persian Gulf. Only Half of this [9 percent] is used for transportation. If Americans cycled, rather than drove, just one day a week, we would completely eliminate our need fot Middle East oil. On the health side, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 34 percent of Americans are overweight, and 31 percent are obese [65% of the American population is overweight or obese!]….Moderate cycling burns 500 calories per hour. Were US citizens to simply bike to and from work for a year, fat would cease to be an American obsession. As for the wallet, average Americans spend one-fourth of their income on their cars; a bicycle that could last a lifetime costs maybe $500…”

These statistics are mind boggling. I don’t know what the authors sources are, but I will take them at face value today. What I take away from this is that from this writer’s perspective, we are lazy, indulgant, fat obsessed people that would rather spend a bunch of money on something that allows us to keep being lazy, indulgant and fat obsessed than to spend time on a bike not being lazy. I know there are many bikers that are still indulgant, and calorie obsessed. But really.

My breakthrough moment with this article was actually all the pictures of people in the Netherlands riding their bikes. In America, biking can be as intimidating to the uninformed as any other sport. People think they need expensive road bikes, aerodynamic helmets, gel padded shorts, slick tires, special clippy shoes, and gu in order to be a cyclist.

I am here to say no! You don’t need those things. You need a bike.

I have an older bike with a milk crate zip tied to it. I have clippy shoes, but they make my feet go numb. I own padded shorts, but I find I am just as comfortable, and much more likely to ride around if I just wear whatever is comfortable. The last two days it was a pair of jeans with the legs rolled up. If more people worried less about “looking” the part, and just got on a bike and rode it, even if it was one trip to work, one errand, that is one trip less that they are taking by car.

I am the slow biker; I will never be competive, or edgy. I will always be the slowpoke stopping to pick daisies, the girl with the milk crate just running errands on my bike. I refuse to buy fancy jerseys, I will never own anything made out of carbon fiber. I will probably get some fat mountain bike tires and some really expensive gloves for this upcoming winter though. I probably will never change the world, or change my town, but I have changed my life. I am out here with my heart on my sleeve, showing you that it can be done. All you need is heart and determination. A lot of people have told me that I can’t do it, it will be too hard, that I am crazy. Everytime I get on my bike, I prove them wrong.

I have the freedom in my income now, without a car, to choose what I spend money on. I don’t have to pay registration fees, car payments, insurance, or insurance, and I don’t have to buy gas. I have decided to use that money to better my life by paying my debt off faster so I can start building a savings account. I have also chosen to use some of that money to make my bike perfect. But perfect is my version of perfect. It won’t be shiny, or fancy. It will make my life on my bike more fun, more comfortable, and easier.


I want to apologize for getting preachy at times. It is really hard not to. I am such a complete convert to bikes that I want to preach the two wheeled gospel to anyone with ears. It has had such an impact on my life in such a short amount of time. I hope everyone can find something that changes their life so completely as biking has changed mine.

100th post!



One response

29 05 2008

Reading your blog really makes me want to get over my hangup with bikes (I had a bike accident when I was 16 and haven’t been able to get myself back on since) and start using a bike for when I just have to transport myself from one place to another.
That’s after you already inspired me to plant a vegetable patch at home and to generally go green wherever I can.


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