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Pedal Power

October 10, 2009


Dateline: Orange County

I thought I’d give a commuting update. The new Trek is dirt covered, cranks layered in grease and rims coated in black dust from the new break pads. Anytime I touch the bike I’m rewarded by blackened hands. All looks well and pretty here in the land of oranges, but my bike collects the reality.

Riding in this area is both great and alarming. Riding in Orange County you see plenty of people on bikes, in fact you see a lot of people on bikes. But most of these riders are either students or sport, road riders out for a training session. What you don’t see are people commuting and running errands.

Now, there are a few others out there, but I can only remember seeing one, who was in the middle of Irvine, in the middle of a HUGE intersection, you know the kind, where like eight roads come together with four lanes each, a virtual SEA of concrete. He came from the opposite direction, saddlebags swaying from side to side, helmet on crooked. He looked up as he crossed the intersection as I sat waiting to cross. Behind me sat a huge diesel truck. As the other bike commuter reached the center of the interchange he saw me and the truck and began to furiously pump his arm up and down, in an absurd signal to the truck to blow his horn.

Now I used to do this as a kid, hadn’t thought of it since watching Dumb and Dumber, but it was pure genius. The truck never blew his horn but this bike commuter had left a lasting impression on all us. Not someone to be taken lightly, a real go getter.

When you commute, or run errands via bike in The OC you gotta be prepared for a few things. First, the air sucks. Time your ride with favorable winds, otherwise, you’ll end up with “lung burn.”

Also, people aren’t used to people coming into their store or place of business with helmet, gloves, etc. It can kinda freak people out.

And listen, I don’t wear biking shorts and spandex, I’m a shorts and t-shirt guy, but this does little to quell the urge for some people to hit that panic button. “I thought you were a alien being.” “I was close to blowing you away!”

I think the VAST majority of people have no feelings at all about a bike rider, but a few see you as a counterrevolutionary, a symbol of a society coming unglued.

You also have to be prepared for the power trip. Some people think you are riding because you can’t afford a car and are one pink slip away from being homeless. It’s no big deal. Typically, I pass these folks in traffic five minutes later. And besides, you get the same looks if you walk anywhere.

You will get the occasional “Get off the road a-hole,” but not as often as you would think. I don’t know too many people who don’t like bikes. Even those who don’t choose to ride typically don’t hate bikes, they just don’t ride them.

I’ve put about 400 miles on this bike in the last month, almost all errand miles, and the plan is to put even more next month and so on. I’m thinking the bike is going to become more and more of my life in the future, yes, even here in Orange County.

An average day for me, on errands is 10-25 miles. The future holds longer rides. Next week I see a 60 or 80 miler. A ride this long can take much of a day, at least for me, but the normal rides, the 10-25, don’t actually take that long, and in some cases take about as long as it would in the car.

A bike is so free, and is also a great way to break up the hours in front of the computer. My goal, keep talking about the bike lifestyle, without smelling like patchouli or growing dreadlocks. I don’t think I need to be THAT guy to get the point across. I eat meat, drive a Prius, am not opposed to hunting, love football, dig my wife, and sometimes I press all the buttons in an elevator before jumping out. Try to label me!

So, my message. Dust off your old warhorse and take to the roads. I would love to see my amigos, my clients, out there doing battle on the same concrete wasteland as me. Safety in numbers folks.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. David Wissinger permalink
    October 12, 2009 6:18 pm

    Bikes really are cool. Problem I have here in Northern California is hills. Big long ones that make riding bike a real chore. In fact, my house is at the top of a really steep hill, so wherever I go on my bike that climb at the end is on my mind, and not in a good way. I see lots of riders walking their bikes up that hill. Hike-a-bike, my sister-in-law calls it. That seems wrong to me. Like carrying your dog on a walk. So I bought a motorcycle. 60 mpg and kind of menacing, an unexpected feature that I like. That’s what I use for errands. The bicycle goes on the bike rack and pedaling happens on flat land. Much happier.

    • October 12, 2009 6:21 pm

      Yes, SF would be a challenge. I’ve got hills here but nothing like that. I can imagine that impacting the amount of time I’d spend in the saddle. I rode a motorcycle for years, and am lusting after another but living near LA on a motorcycle really isn’t much fun. I”ll wait till I move back to the country.

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