This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


     One of the reasons I started punishing people with my cynical wit was the simple fact that that there are a lot of bike blogs out there.  Most of those that are written are by relative newbie's to the sport looking to share their new found love with friends. With my usual sense of self ingratiating humility I thought my 40 years of experience on the streets might have produced a perspective of value.   I made the mistake of mentioning this to a friend and he asked what significant changes I had witnessed during that time.  The question made me think a long time and I finally concluded,
a lot, but not much.
    I started riding seriously to keep from being trapped in a sedentary grind between college classes, my car and an office job.   It was the seventies, the Japanese had found their way to create great lugged steel frames cheaply, gas prices tripled with the Arab oil embargo, and the great American bike boom took off flying.

 Common bikes were basic touring models with drop bars, stem shifters with 1 1/4" tires and were comfortable for recreation as well as going to the office.  Things were not nice on the road.  There were no bike lanes, few designated "bike routes" and the whole thing seemed like a curious joke to the American public.   Drivers called us commie faggots, hit us with sticks, threw open beers at us as they drove by and tried to run us off the road at every chance.
    Racing was virtually nowhere.  Then a major company, 7-11, invested some time, effort and a whole bunch of money into a racing team, 

recruited a marquee in the person of Eric Heiden and the public said,  "that's odd, isn't he like a swimmer or something?"   1984 marked the single most significant change I have seen in cycling in this country.  Enough interest in racing had developed that the US had not only developed a racing community, they brought it public by sweeping gold medals up at the Los Angeles Olympics.   On the street, people honked at us, then waved rather than flipping the bird.  People on their front porch would cheer for me as I worked my way up a hill (I didn't have the heart to tell them I was just going to work).  That really did improve things.  Americans are all hung up on athletic competition and those victories translated into real improvement on the streets.  The mid nineties' success of Greg Lemond in the Tour De France captured the public attention and reinforced the validity of cycling.   That led to greater acceptance of cycling as a recreational sport.  It was now socially acceptable to dress up in spandex and race about as if we were superheroes.
     Those of us on the street during this twenty year period enjoyed a new respect in the form of curious but condescending attitude from our non biking friends.  There was a renewed interest in road/racing bikes in the stores, and people have adopted it as a social alternative to the gym membership.  Then along came this guy named Armstrong, an incredible athlete with an agenda beyond his own success.  His dominance in the Tour De France has been the glue that tied bike racing to America.  Expensive bikes are being bought and weight loss goals are being set to coincide with the schedule of the the grand tours.  The bike has become bling.  Being into biking and racing around to experience the thrill of speed, wind, the scent of ripening fields with sweat pouring from their bodies has become a new yuppie paradigm.  More people are riding, club and charity rides have expanded and run about like herds of ferrule hamsters loose without their training wheels, it's all good.
    Did I over look anything?  Oh yeah, there have been some technological changes, but those things happen. Brakes, shifters. derailers, handlebars, bottom bracket units etc. etc. are all better and lighter than they used to be.

There are whole bunches of sexy electric toys to tell us our health, speed, direction, distance,when to shift and what we should think.  Lugged steel frames have been challenged by tig welding techniques, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber.  Carbon fiber technology seems to be the most promising to replace steel alloy, but still seems to be in it's infancy.   After talking to John Shalta (owner, designer, builder and painter of Landshark Bicycles) I am convinced that carbon fiber is a viable material, but the current mass produced  frames are on the fragile side of practical and the carbon frame is still for the spandex hamsters.
    So where have we gone over the past forty years?  Mikael Colville-Anderson on Copenhagen Chic recently said it was instructive to compare the Raleigh USA and Denmark websites; the American version is full of racing and quasi racing equipment while the Danish version replete with transportation and utility rides.  Americans can watch racing on TV now and consequently have accepted cycling as a sport.  A lot of improvements are happening, cars have given up some of their real estate (although begrudgingly) to bike lanes.  States are adopting "complete streets" initiatives to improve safety and the last Federal highway bill contained billions to develop and improve bike trails and lanes.
I haven't been spat at for a long time, although insults are occasionally strewn from pickup trucks.
Things have changed a lot, but not much.

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