Monday, July 7, 2008

Why we should always ride bikes: Childlike joy

If you're in Hartford or Bridgeport, the sort of cyclist you're most likely to see is utilitarian in the extreme: riding a squeaky, ungreased department store bike, hauling some large parcel, and looking more than a little beleaguered. In New Haven, the typical two-wheel pilot is an academic commuter type: oversized backpack, hand-me-down ten-speed, hurrying to somewhere and wearing a far-off look. And if you take to the suburban hills and dales surrounding our big cities, you find the roadies in full kit, gritting their teeth, checking their cyclocomputers, and generally looking as though the task of cycling was imposed on them as a punishment. All of this is fine: People should ride bikes to class and work and to carry large things to important places. If people get some kind of pleasure from serious road riding and wearing those absurd get-ups, well, god bless them. But there is another kind of cycling experience, of which I was reminded this weekend when I went to Cape Cod: unadulterated, childlike joy.

Provincetown, Mass., is overrun with bicycles, mostly beach cruisers and antique three-speeds, which live in guest houses, hostels, and bed-and-breakfasts and are ridden by whoever needs quick transit from one side of town to the other. The people doing the riding are on vacation, mostly, and are not serious cyclists. They don't worry about equipment or spandex or even seatpost adjustment - they just hop on and meander over to the next barbecue or drag show or whatever. And they look utterly delighted. Out for a little ride on Saturday, I must have crossed paths with ten people who were coasting gloriously down some hill, wearing those little half-smiles that people get when they remember a good joke or are especially happy. It reminded me (not that I really need reminding of this, but still) that being on a bike is just plain fun. Starting the day with a three-mile jaunt is about six bazillion times nicer than having a three-mile drive, and a little better than a three-mile walk, too. And it doesn't matter the bike or the shoes or any of that jazz - I rode almost 30 miles on Saturday on a cobbled-together three-speed that requires a special maneuver with the right heel to get into the highest gear, with squeaky front brakes and a less-than-ideal handlebar position, and at the end of it, I felt like a million bucks. Riding bikes is fun. Here's a video that is germane to this point:

video

4 comments:

chillwill said...

we have video! wow!

i still like riding in circles too, Krash and i did that the other night in East Hartford at the Hockunum Velodome

hey, he didn't ride down those stairs he was pedaling towards!?!?

Brendan said...

Your search - Hockunum Velodrome - did not match any documents.

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Are you talking about the parking lot of the Two Rivers Magnet School?

chillwill said...

It is between the Charter Oak Bridge Stairs and the Hockanum River Pedestrian Bridge.

Krash and I played chase or whatever you call it when two people start off on opposite sides of the track and try to catch eachother riding in circles. Simple. Fun. I am prolly the last person to discover this!!

El Presidente de China said...

He did not, in fact, ride down the stairs. I had to clip the video there because afterward you can hear my dear wife (wisely) saying, "Josh! Don't let him ride down the stairs!"