The Ideal Cyclist has been determined.
(Sarcasm aside, this a a great piece)
The Ideal Cyclist has been determined.
(Sarcasm aside, this a a great piece)
It's been quiet, but for good reason:
I bought a house!
While I paint, tile and paint some more, I'm also doing this
Yep, over about a month of home renovations I'm moving by bike. But when it comes to the sectional couch and mattress, the bike's not cutting it.
(I did try to find Smooth Movers from Portlandia, but the clip is inexplicably not on YouTube)
I'll share some before/after pictures once the dust (literally) settles..
Keeping up with local news on top of national news is pretty much a Sisyphean task, but the Coastal Conservation League does an excellent job of summing up both in terms of environmental related news. And although it’s focused on the Lowcountry (aka the coastal side of South Carolina), most of what is recapped reflects what is going on in many other parts of the country as well.
In the most recent installment, Dana hit the nail on the head when talking about how ludicrous our neighborhood planning is:
“Without belaboring the point, a dense, connected street network is the only way to reduce congestion. It provides trip options for cars; it makes bicycling and walking more practical, and it supports public transit. There should never be another development built on the coast, or anywhere, without a dense road network that connects seamlessly to the larger system.”
Case in point? This elementary school just Southeast of Greenville has over 1,000 students, and fewer than 5 students walked or rode a bike the year that I worked there. It’s surrounded by neighborhoods whose developers apparently assumed that the only way to leave one’s house is in a car. There is simply no functional connectivity from the neighborhoods to any stores, schools or other neighborhoods unless you are driving (and when you are driving, you’re going the same circuitous route as everyone else).
Thankfully, this area is getting more bike trail extensions and bike lanes as it is feeling the negative impacts of the cars-only planning. I used to commute through these roads, and if I still worked in this area I would be relieved to have more options on the way. At the same time, it’s incredibly frustrating that efficient neighborhood design and connectivity isn’t a no-brainer for planners and developers by this point.
This is just one example of the type of poor street design that fails everyone (except for perhaps the car manufacturers). Small businesses and rural towns miss out on customers, our children don’t have safe routes to school, and chronic disease and pollution levels continue to kill us. Transit may be a boring topic, but it’s central to our quality of life and goals for a sustainable and better future.
So what can we do about this mess?
I haven’t really mentioned the fact that I bought a custom built steel frame road bike earlier this year. Probably because I’ve been busy riding it.
It was a long time coming, as I bought the groupset for a steal online last summer. Then pondered what kind of frame I wanted and where I would buy it.
I wanted a road bike that would replace my 27 lb touring bike with something lighter, while still being durable and hardy enough for long distance riding and tours.
And of course, I wanted something pretty.
So a friend mentioned that there was a small outfit in Italy that did custom steel frames with Columbus Spirit Tubing, and I decided to give it a shot.
It’s an expensive gamble to do something like this online and across the ocean more or less on a whim, but when you don’t spend $9k a year on a car, you do have these luxuries.
Vincenzo did a beautiful job, and there were more details and options than I could have imagined. From the tapered head tube to the exact RA# paint colors to the placement of the cables, it was a treat to get to select each aspect of the bike.
One of my favorite details to select was the writing on the top tube. I selected “senza pareti”, which is Italian for “without walls”, after a particularly zen morning commute where I realized that I felt particularly connected and at one with the environment when on my bike, surrounded by cars where people are walled in and cut off from the world, stuck to the confines of doors and windows while on the open road.
The custom build process also forced me to learn more about bike mechanics and look up the pros/cons of each aspect of the bike. Most of my choices were focused on weight or aesthetics, but I did go with disc brakes because I’m a control freak about descending. Maybe about a few other things as well.
The finished built bike (with 11-speed Ultegra, mechanical disc brakes, some carbon fiber pieces like bars and seatpost, and Chris King wheels) weighs in around 20 lbs. If you’re in Greenville, Carlo at Velo Valets is your guy for custom builds!
I changed out my beloved Selle Anatomica saddle for weight, but I’ll probably try one of their new lighter models before too long.
We’ve already explored roads and trails in 6 states and covered over 1,000 miles, and we’re just getting started!
In unexpected ways, biking lets you be super lazy sometimes. For instance, why walk over to the community garden when you can ride out and fill a pannier?
Speaking of which, I’m really digging my Brooks rolltop pannier for my commuter. It’s waterproof, has a nice neutral tone look, and stays put nicely on a standard rear rack. I already have a set of Ortliebs for touring and grocery runs, but the simple hooks plus exterior pocket and interior organizer features on this pannier made it worth the impulse buy (and it was half price to boot!). Frustratingly I can’t find this exact model online but it’s most similar to the Land’s End Rear Pannier here (just with aforementioned pocket and organizer).
I loved this reading perspective from the Urban Phoenix on how cycling is seen so often as just a recreational activity or a last resort means of transportation. Most of what the author says has also been my own experience.
For example, the four main responses he summarizes:
#1 is typically from other people who currently or previously commuted.
Living in South Carolina, I probably get #2 the most (a combination of that and “how do you get groceries/how far are you from work”/other logistical and often incredulously intoned questions)
I rarely hear #3, and when I do it’s typically from the teenage boys in my mentoring group. Once I turned 16 I felt the same way, driving was new and exciting and way cooler than riding a bike. But I also lived in suburbia and that feeling wore off after a few years.
And #4 is often phrased after I myself mention that I don’t have a car, and get the response “… Like, by choice?”.
This attitude of “if she doesn’t have a car, something must be terribly wrong” is why I named this blog “Rebel Without a Car” instead of something like “Maniac Behind Bars”. Sadly, in the current cityscape you do have to be a little crazy to bike for practical purposes, since most of our roads where I live are built only for cars. I certainly wish I wasn’t some pedaling pioneer or workplace anomaly, but that my interactions could be more run-of-the-mill “oh cool, you ride too”.
This isn’t just a problem with getting local council members on board with the vision for complete streets (although you should definitely go talk to your city and county council members); living in car culture is something we all participate in, one way or another.
Which for me is what makes it so fun to ride around in non-cycling clothes, hauling my groceries or going to a meeting with some mild helmet hair (which is hard to suss out from what my hair would look like otherwise, #curlyhairperks). Because when we have visible, diverse bike commuting in our communities, we fight stereotypes and challenge the ‘my way is the highway’ mindset. Every single bike ride you take is a part of that.
The only asterisk I want to stick in this article is where the author refers to bikes as “like cars, only slower”. In urban locations, bikes are actually the most efficient means of getting around; when I studied abroad, I would always beat public transit (even the really nice European kind) and cars within the city thanks to the cycle paths, bike lanes and ease of parking. This phenomenon was also wonderfully demonstrated locally in Greenville last month for an Earth Day event:
Yep, that guy with the helmet beat out the driver (on the left) and the public transit user (on the right).
And when the results were announced on social media, the snarky comments weren’t far behind. “Did the cyclist obey all traffic laws?”* “I don’t see his bike.” ** “The city doesn’t provide enough parking for cars.”***
* Yes, or he would have been disqualified. And no one asked, but the driver did too
** It’s parked and locked at the rack that can be seen in the left side of the photo above, per rules of the contest
*** Just… no.
So in summation, I would argue that not only do we need to communicate that bikes are a viable means of transportation, but we need to realize that they also just make sense.
And that starts with a bike ride. So I’m off to log Day #148 for the year! (yep, still going strong).