Monday, August 29, 2011

Bicycle Envy is NOT a Deadly Sin

Lance Armstrong wrote the book "It's Not About the Bike".  Am I really supposed to believe one of the biggest dopers who to this day claims he's never doped?  I hate to break it to you but often times it IS about the bike.

Yes, there are a lot of people out there that just see bikes as a form of transportation or exercise...and I will give those folks a standing applause for making the world a better place.  For some of us though, the bike is so much more.  An art form, a way to connect with others (or not connect at all), a way to express his/her emotions on any given day and a way to be part of a specific culture.

I was talking with a friend the other day about how I see myself in the bike culture.  Amazingly enough I'm a one foot in/one foot out kinda girl.  I admit I'm a bit obsessed with bikes (and everything that comes along with them) but I just can't fully commit to one "style".  To be honest, I want it all.  I'm the type that sees a great looking bike go by (yes, I'm checking out the bike not the rider) and I have this Pavlovian response.  My heart rate quickens, I shut out everything else around me and a slight feeling of envy (or is it greed) washes over me.  Some may see this as a sickness.  I just remind them that we all have our vices and aside from good coffee, wine or beer, this is mine.  It could be worse.  So how deep does this envy cut into me?  Well, I have a running list of desires that only gets longer each year...a Chris Kvale road frame (he built my father's old race bike), a Richard Sachs cross bike (waiting list of 6 years), a Bruce Gordon touring frame (but I'd be thrilled to have a Chris Kvale touring frame), a Peacock Groove mountain bike and a Rivendell road frame (just because they are so damn pretty). 

But it gets worse.  This past weekend Madison was the host site for the Heartland Velo Hand Built Bike Show.  Walking around I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Many of the frame builders showing their art are now making it to my list.  I'm including pictures because words can do no justice.  Heck, pictures can do no justice!  Thanks to all of you craftspeople that showed up and made Madison a whole lot prettier last weekend.  I can only hope that you all get a ton of business and a 6 year waiting list!
I'll end with this quote from Grant Petersen:  "Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world."
Chris Kvale, one of the best frame builders ever!

Look at his classic style!

Clockwork out of Tosa

Speedhound is out of Mpls.  Check out the fenders!

And look at these details...

Capricorn out of Mpls. but soon to be in Eugene, OR

The Waterford "Erica"

Lisa's All City...this is the road frame...I've got the Big Block

Bilenky out of Philly

Humble Frameworks out of Chicago

An old Schwinn Paramount (my dad used to use one of these for racing)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Quote for a Beautiful Day

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.  Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.
-Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Riding Tandem With God

One of my favorite t-shirt designs
For the past 15 years or so I have made it a priority to take bike rides on Sundays.  Being raised by a "hippie" mom, religion was never a cornerstone in my life.  Instead, she talked to me about spirituality and let me wander and discover my own path (which led me to everything from synagogues to Quaker churches).   Since I was born into a Scandinavian family I ended up being baptized Lutheran, however, I can't remember the last time I've attended a Lutheran church service.
Although I would never consider myself religious, Sundays tend to be quite special for me.  It's a time when everything slows down.  Many stores are closed or at least don't open until noon, the roads don't see much traffic in the early morning and on the Sundays that the Packers play the entire state shuts down.  These things all make for great riding conditions. 

When I'm on a country road, amidst everything that nature throws at me, I find it hard to imagine there is anyplace that I could possibly be closer to God.  Now please note that when I use the word "God" I am probably not referring to it/him/her the same way most people do.  I use this word to refer simply to something/some being that connects all of nature together.  I have no preconceived notions of what God may be and have absolutely no attachment to one belief or another.  I choose to use the word mainly to put a title to a feeling and have a word to connect with other people.  Often times my rides lead me past country churches.  I find these small white buildings with towering steeples quite beautiful and can understand why people are drawn to them. I'm just not sure if being in a climate controlled building on a beautiful summer day would make me feel closer to "God's creations".  As a child I remember going to Sunday services once in awhile and feeling extremely fidgety.  I would try to get glimpses of the outside world through the stained glass windows and would count down the minutes until I could go out and play.  Stepping out of the church, I would take a deep breath and finally feel relaxed and at peace.  Now, riding on Sundays, I feel more connected to everything around me and possibly more spiritual then I've ever felt.  As I pull up to my house after a particularly good ride I feel cleansed or possibly even baptized.  Everything seems clear and I am usually calm and grounded.

So for me, I choose my bike saddle over a pew.  I try to capture that connected feeling every time I ride, not just on Sundays, and I thank whatever force created the beauty I see on my rides as often as possible.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Join me on my soapbox

As I sit here in a city that has more bikes than cars, I wonder how there can be such a division between the two.  Although biking in Madison is much friendlier than let's say Georgia or Connecticut, where I've had cans thrown at me, we still have a LONG way to go.  Thanks to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and several of our fantastic politicians there is hope that we can live up to what others around the nation think of us.  Don't get me wrong, I've never lived anywhere with better road riding options, however, over the past few years I've seen an enormous increase in road rage against cyclists.

So my question is why?  After spending hours upon hours thinking about this and talking with other cyclists, I've come to the realization that it's partly our (as cyclists) fault.

Thank God only a few of my friends read this because I can only imagine the hate mail I'd receive but I feel like this is something that needs to be openly discussed.  So let's dissect the issues a bit.  Most near misses and accidents I see between cars and bikes are due to drivers talking on their cell phones, going to fast or not giving the legal 3 foot passing zone.  Notice that I said "most".  Now for the other side.  In the past few years I've seen more and more cyclists riding while talking on cell phones, riding at night without any lights, riding 2-3 abreast even in traffic and blowing through every stop light/sign.  To these cyclists I say "If you want to be treated with respect, start acting respectful".  Yes, you can "legally" ride two abreast but if there's traffic PLEASE drop to single file.  Also, be predictable.  Hold your line and obey traffic signs.  How can we get angry at drivers for not doing these things if we aren't as well?  Finally, farm fields and roads are not trash cans.  Your jersey pockets are meant to hold banana peels and GU wrappers!
For the drivers I have to say that by law you must give us 3 feet of passing room from your mirror.  We are just trying to enjoy the great outdoors or better yet cut fossil fuels by commuting by bike.  We are not trying to slow you down so please be patient and only pass when it's safe.  Remember that if a cyclist rides recklessly, chances are that they will only hurt themselves.  If you drive recklessly, there's a good chance a cyclist or pedestrian could be killed.

So where does this bring us?  Really, I think it's time for all of us to work together.  We all need to slow down and be more aware of our surroundings but most importantly we all need to show each other more respect.