On falling in love with my bicycle
Great post! I haven't been riding my bike. I'm almost 80 (did I just write that?), and I must get back on my bike. I feel fear slipping around the edges of too many activities, so onward--to check the air in my tires (literally and metaphorically.)
I think you have the spirit of cycling well in hand. It’s easy to get wrapped up in speed, distance, the right clothes, the right weather, and ACHIEVEMENT. But in the end, the best thing is to just get out and ride.
Hello Austin. My name is Felipe, and I write from Natal, in the Northeast of Brazil.
I bought a bike in 2020 as an attempt to deal with anxiety and panic attacks at the beginning of the pandemic. It couldn't have been a better choice.
A little later, with the gradual return of the face-to-face working hours, I tried to use the bike to go to work, but a mixture of tropical climate and topography of dunes in my city, made the task of covering the 24 km round trip, from home to work, a not-so-pleasant experience. In the end, I started using the bike more for leisure and contemplative tours, but your post today motivated me to look for alternative routes for my commute to work.
This is my model: https://www.decathlon.com.br/bicicleta-masculina-riverside-520/p
For books that address the beauty behind the bicycle, I highly recommend Bicicle Diaries by David Byrne. It is an impassioned report, and almost a manifesto, of the bicycle as a means of transport, with an emphasis on the author's narrative cycling during his professional travels, in different cities around the world. I read this book during a vacation trip I took to Santiago (a city that is very friendly to cyclists), Chile, in 2017, and that was the first trigger to consider inserting a bicycle into my daily life.
Thanks for today's text.
Oh, wow. I love reading your bike stories and I think I live near you (I’m right by the middle school). I got an electric bike from Bike Farm in September and I love it so much. If you haven’t ridden to the Central Library yet, that’s a fun trip. Take Shoal Creek to 38th and then go under 38th.
There’s a whole bike trail that goes through Pease Park and dips under the streets so you don’t have to wait at stoplights. (It gets kinda bumpy for a minute just south of 34th at.) I didn’t know the trail existed until recently and found it to be such a nice surprise. Happy biking! 🚲
I love this post. I started semi-serious road riding at 13, because I wanted to ride TOSRV, a two-day, 210-mile ride in Ohio. That was in its heyday of thousands of riders of all sorts -- so much fun. (It's still around, but a shadow of its former self.) Some of my best teenage memories are of long bike tours with my dad, including a weeklong ride to Canada when I was 14. I'm much more comfortable road-riding now than a lot of people I know, probably because I started long before I learned to drive.
My husband and son are enthusiastic mountain bikers, so last year I finally started learning to mountain bike (at 45). It's also lots of fun, but a whole different skill set from riding on roads or bike paths, and a lot more opportunity for injury. It was funny to me that you find cycling engages all your senses. One thing I like about road riding is that it's second nature to me, so I can sort of zone out and let my mind wander. And that's what I don't like about mountain biking -- I have to pay attention all the time, and that's always true even for the folks who are good at it (which I am not yet). So I like mountain biking, but I don't find it very relaxing.
Last year I started feeling like road rides were such a production -- the gear, the clothing -- and also the riding position has gotten very hard on my hands and wrists. My husband got me a bright yellow 7-speed cruiser for our anniversary, and I'm in love with it! I feel like I can just hop on it and pedal away -- no special clothing needed, no sore wrists. I do second the advice below for a rack and panniers or baskets so you can carry stuff. I've taken it to the beach a few times, and my son has rigged it up with a removable fishing rod holder. It's the bike we all fight over.
Definitely bring the kids. You'll make amazing memories for all of you, and it's an activity all ages can enjoy.
I highly recommend JUST RIDE by Grant Petersen, and Freehub magazine. Freehub is a beautiful print mountain biking magazine that will make you want to visit all the places even if you aren't a mountain biker. Thanks for a great post, as always.
YES TO BIKES! Careful, you're going to be planning a cross-country tour before you know it.
You can ride a bike without a bunch of stuff, but the right equipment makes it a) way more safe and practical for errands and b) comfortable. As a long-time cycling fan(atic) who has ridden tens of thousands of miles on roads and trails, I'd recommend the following:
1. Get a rack and some panniers to haul stuff like groceries and books to the bookstores. Ortlieb makes the best panniers IMO. (I've toured the world with mine for 10,000 miles with zero problems.)
2. Get lights that can blow cars off the road. Front and back. 600 lumens front and a cherry bomb rear are perfect. Cygolites are my preference, but many options exist. https://www.cyclingnews.com/features/best-bike-lights/
3. Get a sweet bell like a Spurcycle. https://www.spurcycle.com/
4. Get padded shorts aka a riding chamois (as someone mentioned) AND get chamois butter to rub on said bike shorts before rides. That stuff is magic for reducing saddle sores. https://www.amazon.com/Chamois-Buttr-Original-Anti-Chafe-Cream/dp/B000HZGTUS
5. Learn basic bike maintenance (how to change a flat and tune up your shifting as a bare minimum). Lots of bike shops offer them and YouTube is your friend. The boys will love learning with you.
6. Always have chain lube on hand and use it frequently. Finish Line is excellent. https://www.amazon.com/Finish-Line-Bike-Lubricant-Teflon/dp/B09F87KHR97. Find Austin's best bike routes and stay away from cars as much as possible. Learn those routes so well you don't need to look at a map.
8. IF you need a map, a phone coupled with Quadlock's products are the bomb. Mount your phone on your bike so you can follow Google Maps or whatever. https://www.quadlockcase.com/collections/shop-cycle/products/iphone-bike-kit-all-devices
9. Find experienced cyclists to ride with. Go get your ass kicked trying to hang on their wheel.
10. Get a bike rack so you can take your bike places.
OMG I brain dumped 10 things. #bikenutalert
Have so much fun out there!
You are going to be inundated with comments on this topic from bike lovers everywhere :) I just wanted to add: don't forget to bring your kids into the joy! We did long bike trips with our kids from 6 months on and they're now both avid cyclists (in their twenties) planning biking adventures of their own. It is the BEST way to have a family vacation that is enjoyed by all. Happy cycling!
Austin, you are wearing the wrong shorts. Go to the bike store and buy some spandexy kind and get some good gloves. Plus you need a spandexy shirt. You will need to order a wrist bracelet, Road ID, in case you crash and can’t talk the information is on your wrist. Be sure you have blinking lights so motorists can see you. Butt paste is great for the ass and always ride with the traffic. Always yell “On your right” very loud. Pedestrians never listen. Don’t forget to bring your water and snack. Cliff Bars are good. They give me gas but you are a lot younger so you will be OK. The most fun I’ve had on my bike is when Zilker Park had their Jingle Bell Ride at Christmas. So much fun!! I am 70. I love riding my bicycle.
Biking, yes!!! I bought my new bike two years ago and absolutely love it. I live near Chicago and I can only bike outside about 7-8 months out of the year so I am having big bike envy seeing your recent posts. My daughter and I go whenever we can. When we get home and finally have to get off the bike we walk on baby deer legs and recount the highlights of our ride. I'm still learning the pro tips, but I can say my best accessory investment was padded biking shorts. Helps to ease sore ass.
I liked how Mark Twain’s bicycle instructor asked to inspect his arm muscles when inquisitive of his lack of ability to ride a Penny farthing. Twain wrote,
/“The contrast between his muscles and mine was quite marked. He wanted to test mine, so I offered my biceps-which was my best. It almost made him smile. He said, "It is pulpy, and soft, and yielding, and rounded; it evades pressure, and glides from under the fingers; in the dark a body might think it was an oyster in a rag."/
The writer works the arm to perform the art of writing, or typing his/her thoughts. It is the brain muscle that is worked. Not the strength of the arm.
The mind is the tool of the writer.
The arm is the tool of the bicyclist.
I trust it is easier to teach one to ride well than to teach one to write well. I suspect Twain’s instructor would be tasked to describe the nuances in tight and concise written instructions.
I can't resist also adding this cool story about theatre powered by bicycle (yup!) in an effort to find creative responses to the climate crisis: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/03/theater/a-play-for-the-living-in-a-time-of-extinction.html
Hi Austin, have you every read Craig Mod? Yours and his are my two favourite newsletters. When I saw you writing about biking, I immediately thought I should introduce you both - and the only way I can do it is to share Craig's fantastic article on biking for a loaf of sourdough in Japan:
Hope you enjoy it.
In case you're encountering Craig for the first time, I think you'll get a kick out of reading what all he's up to. I believe you both would be friends if you met.
Congrats. I have two bikes both very "vintage" at this point. When I take them into the shop for a tuneup or upgrade they get "oogled" by the guys working at the shop. I have a Marin mountain bike which I use for trail riding and a Bianchi Brava which I bought in the late 90's. I will say I like the mountain bike better as it can handle anything on the trail. I think we get our first taste of freedom and independence as children bike riding. It lasts forever.
Check out "Steve Retired and Cycling" on YouTube. That's living the dream IMO.
"My ass hurts. My knees hurt. I feel great."
Yes, yes, yes.
Ok be careful if you are just starting to bike. Focus on the road and your surroundings. I have a route mapped out so it is a planned event and I am not worried about cars hitting me. Get a basket for the front to hold things. I also carry a pair of scissors to cut flowers I can steal. And be weary of the dog. They will bite as they don’t like wheels. Welcome to biking as it is the best for feeling the air on your face and great in lieu of walking on hot days.
One idea that stuck since the first time I heard it: "the bicycle is like a crossfader..." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzXX-CMGKag (LA!)
Only recommendation: consider creating a biking playlist. If you hear a song and think, "this would be great to ride to", you're probably right.
Excited for you!