11 June 2008

How to ride a bike

OK, lets get the ball rolling, or wheel as the case may be. As I try to rely my bike more than on our car, I was trying to find some more info on commuting by bike, and found a blog that has some great information. The main thrust of the blog is to change the perspective that bicycles are for recreation, and that we should start thinking of bicycles of transportation. There are a lot of issues that are discussed, and many others also send in articles sharing their experiences and their rides (OK, that's slang for the bike that you ride, just in case you didn't catch that).

You can find the blog at www.ecovelo.info if you are interested in reading for yourself. Another plus with this blog, is that the owner of the blog is a good photographer, and his pictures of his bicycles are downright beautiful.

There are a few things that are discussed there that I have considered myself. Some of them not wholly consciously, but after reading the article, it was one of those "oh, yeah, that's the idea my brain was trying to get a grasp of, now I understand!" One of the most recent posts compared how much he rides his bike now. He used to use his bike for exercise and recreation, and would go out for a ride quite often. He would ride fast and hard, to get a good workout. Now, he commutes by bike to work and uses his bike for errands. When training, he had kept detailed records of millage and time data to chart his performance. This past May, he logged his total millage. He thought that with training, he would log more miles, but found that with commuting and errands, he was logging 50% more miles!

Another post discussed your riding style. Having spent a lot of time riding for exercise, you get into the go go mindset pretty fast. But if you're commuting to work, showing up all sweaty and stinky isn't good. So he made a decision and gave something a try. Ride so that you don't break a sweat. Don't pedal too hard, arrive smelling reasonably good, take your time. That mindset has also moved over to his recreational rides, and he is finding he enjoys riding much more.

Imagine that, enjoying a bike ride. Strange notion I know.

It's all part of a new mindset. The bicycle is now not something to go fast on. It is something to move you around. It is not there to test your abilities or limits. It is there to be used to get you around. I think an early name for the bicycle captures the idea well. The velocipede. A machine that adds speed to your walking. When you think about it, a bicycle is a great machine. It very efficiently helps us get around. But when you look a the last 60 years of bicycle, almost all of the developments in bicycle design and construction are a direct result of advances in racing bicycles. But that makes most bicycles more and more like racing bikes. But does everyone race? Is the average person trying to go as fast a possible? What about building a practical bike to fulfill the needs of the average person?

There have been more companies starting to move into this direction. It's interesting to note that the designs that they have been coming up with are the same designs for utilitarian bikes from the 20's and 30's. Seems that they got it right a long time ago, then for some reason we tossed those good ideas out the window in favour of speed. There are a few places where good practical designs have been preserved: Holland, Asia, India. Usually places where getting around in a car is either prohibitive, too expensive, or where a bike is just easier. More on this later. There are much better ways to design a practical bike.

But anyhow, for a start, I am starting to think differently about my bike. More for transportation than for recreation. A viable and effective replacement for our car. The way that I ride is changing, on purpose.


Garth said...

Great link Dave! And I think you have some merit to your thoughts - although I'm still very performance-driven when it comes to cycling. I ride with racers and so I go fast to keep up with them.

But having kids has helped me slow down...I love riding with my daughter Chelsea but I can see in her my same love for speed. There is the exhilaration and freedom that comes with going as fast as you can! My other daughter Aimee took her runbike (a bike without pedals) down the big hill at A.D. Penner Park and hit a tree - thankfully her helmet kept her intact - she was having too much fun to notice the trees she hammered into...hmm also sounds like her dad!

You know I'll be in trouble once my youngest - Zach gets two-wheeled!

Dave said...

So very true. Just to show that we've got the same issues at play with our kids. Just on friday night, Laura was playing with some of the neighbourhood kids, and ran full force into a tree. She wasn't looking where she was going, and got two very nice bark burns on her cheek, and a bit of a black eye. Ahhhhhhh.... just like

I still love going fast. I ride to work every day, and the ride back starts with a little downhill. I can't help but try to see how fast I can get my bike going (50km/h so far, it's a short hill), but I am also learning how to go slow.

I've got two more posts in the works on some other bike related issues. Hope you enjoy them too.