Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

This is another popular post from last year submitted by a reader. I heard from a lot of people who really loved the story of Matt riding with his kids. Do you have a similar story? Send it to moregardenslesscars@gmail.com. More details here.

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My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

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Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

This is the first in a series of Bicycle Love Stories that have been submitted by readers and riders. To find out how to submit your own Bicycle Love Story, click here.

We met on Craigslist. I had looked at so many other shiny faces, with various reasons why they were newly single. Their past sig-o just didn’t have time, found out s/he had gotten someone pregnant and had to set “priorities”, found out they were moving to Burma. I got a little sad looking for you. So many people had tried to find love here and, in the end, just wanted to try to re-coup some of their “losses.” You were so blue in your picture, shiny and shared my interests in soul music and b-movies. Wait, that was someone else.

First Date

I called your ex-boyfriend’s wife about you. I didn’t have a car, so I asked if she could bring you over for our first date. She said yes, but only if I paid for the gas money. You showed up, with your original seat cover, disintegrating bar tape, and water bottle–all from 1987, the year you were born. Most people lose something of themselves over the course of two decades. I was in grad school at the time, and had trouble keeping track of my feet let alone my water bottle.

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My Beautiful New Bicycle’s Internet Debut

My Beautiful New Bicycle’s Internet Debut

Now my bicycle is just over a month old and ready for her internet debut! Photos by the inimitable Elly Blue.

What Kind of Bike is That!

People ask me all the time, usually with an exclamation instead of a question mark. It’s the “Live 2” by Globe which is a new brand made by Specialized and tailored to people who ride for transportation.

This bike is not for racing, but it is perfect for life. That’s what I need anyway. I need to go to work, to the grocery store, to outreach events for my job, and I need to carry a bunch of stuff with me because I don’t drive Ever and this is my way to get around.

Hauling Supplies to Bikestravaganza!

See the giant silver circle in the middle of the back wheel? That’s my fancy 8-speed internal hub. That means that all of gears and everything I need to keep moving is contained INSIDE! Maybe, like me at first, you’d think, who cares about that?

I am telling you that it might be one of the greatest inventions since the bicycle

This means that you don’t have any messy greasy gears on the outside and your gears won’t get mucked up in the rain or snow. So if you depend on your bicycle to get you places even when the weather is undesirable, this is the ticket. (Not the only ticket, but the only one for me!)

The other incredibly wonderful part is that you can shift anytime. You don’t have to be moving! If you’re stopped at a stop light in a hard gear, you can switch back to a much easier gear for starting again when the light turns green.

I’m not kidding, friends, this has revolutionized my bicycle riding experience.

The fenders and the rack are integrated into the bicycle frame and so it’s possible to ride in the rain without getting muddy and while easily carrying tons of stuff.

This is my favorite of the five bikes I’ve owned since I made the bicycle my main form of transportation in 2006.

PS: Before bicycles I used public transportation and my feet because I lived in DC and Chicago and made my home in places with stellar public transit so I would never have to own a car. It was a great time and having the resources of public transit is essential to any city that wants to thrive and not be choked by motor vehicle traffic, air, and noise pollution.

But now I’m happy to make my own schedule and get there as fast or slow as I like.

Usually it’s pretty slow because I’m a meandering kind of gal and I like to take my time. Doesn’t mean that my time is less important than motor vehicle users, I just make my plans accordingly. And since I like my transportation, I don’t mind spending time riding slowly through the city getting where I need or want to go.

I love you bicycle!

Tell Your Story: Meeting People While Riding Your Bicycle

Tell Your Story: Meeting People While Riding Your Bicycle

Do you have any stories about people you’ve met while riding bicycles?

I met all of my housemates from my dream house in Washington, DC through bikes as well as dozens of other friends from dozens of other cities.

It’s so easy to people when you can stop next to them at a stop light and chat it up pleasantly for a second.

If you have a photo or story you’d like to share about some relationships you formed because of your bicycle and would like to share it, send it to moregardenslesscars at gmail.com.

That’s More Gardens, Less Cars.

Bicycle Traffic by the beach in Chicago by flickr user ifmuth. Prime location for friend mining.
Best Dressed Bike Commuter Contest

Best Dressed Bike Commuter Contest

Think you’re the best dressed bike commuter around? I’ve got word that there is a fancy lady in Richmond who might be the contender for that title so I wanted to open up the arena to see who else thinks their bicycle style surpasses that of the average city dweller.

 

"Vintage Bike Man" One of my long time favorite photos from the Sartorialist blog

Send pictures of yourself commuting in a stylish way to moregardenslesscars [at] gmail.com. I’ll publish 1-3 entries per person and activate a Voting Poll to determine who gets the most votes.

Why?

People are passionate and excited about their bicycles. I’ve been collecting bicycle love stories from people around the country but some people have insisted that they’re not writers, but want to contribute in another way to demonstrate their connection to the suavest, most sustainable, most economical, most healthy and most efficient form of human transportation.

Some helpful resources for inspiration are:

Copenhagen Chic

Sartorialist

Let’s Go Ride a Bike

Biking in Heels

Chic Cyclists

Gwadzilla

Let me know if you have a blog you’d like to be listed as inspiration or want to recommend one. Thanks!

Bicycle Love Story: Bicycle = Transportation = Freedom

Bicycle Love Story: Bicycle = Transportation = Freedom

The summer I was 9, I learned a major lesson in life: Bicycle=Transportation=Freedom. In doing this I also defied my parents and lost the privilege of using the bike for a while, but so what, a few lumps along the line are to be expected.

A local radio station in Buffalo, NY promised a picnic to anyone willing to drive to the ski resort area south of town. For most folks, this was about 20 to 30 miles, but I was already well south of the city. I desperately wanted to go, but my parents were adamant, no radio station picnics for me. This was 1968, and they knew there would be drugs.

The morning of the picnic my sister broke her collarbone,  conveniently distracting them. I hemmed and hawed and began wondering: Could I bike there? It’s only 15 miles. The route was uncomplicated, only one road, NY 240.

I decided to go for it. All 65 scrawny pounds of me rode off on my 20” single-speed, and I made it! It took about 90 minutes, but I made it! Problem was, as my parents had feared, there had been a drug bust and the event was shut down early. But what did I know or care? I made it! Ah, the innocence of being 9.

The trip back was somewhat less successful. A gang of kids who had taunted me on the way to the picnic didn’t miss me on the way home and beat me up. One of their parents noticed the fracas and the strange bike and luckily rescued me but not-so-luckily, called my father. You can guess the rest.

Accomplishing 15 miles on a 20” single-speed at 9 meant that the world was now open! I could go anywhere  and so I rode everywhere. Riding freely meant loving life, and I rode a lot.

High school years brought forth a unicycle, and before long I was unicycling four miles each way to school, a couple times a week. My unusual commute earned me a spot on the evening news one day. Through college, I rode one wheel or two pretty much constantly. I think all that exercise is what has helped me stay relatively youthful. I don’t feel my age, and according to many people, I don’t look it, either.

Now 51, I still consider myself free as a bird, as long as I have reliable wheels.

No money for bus fare or gasoline? No problem.

Just get on and ride.

Loading a bicycle on the rack of a green Port Authority bus.

Stuart Strickland is a public transit advocate and long-time cyclist living in the Pittsburgh area. His goal in life is to make it possible for Americans to get around via anything but the car.

Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

First Bike Ride

My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

I quickly hit a snag: a bolt was stuck. Right about then the kids woke up from their nap and my wife brought them outside. She loaded them into the stroller for a long walk around the block, assuming that I’d be nearly done by the time she got back. The pressure was on, so I went straight for the big gun: a breaker bar and a four foot length of iron pipe.

I promptly snapped that bolt right the fuck off.

I stood there for a minute in disbelief while I wondered what to do next. I couldn’t drive the car in that condition and the neighbors weren’t home; so I dug the old mountain bike out of the dark corner of the basement, hosed several years worth of dust off of it, put air in the tires, and rode to the Do-It-Best in Bellevue to buy a replacement. I stuffed the chain and Master Lock from our back gate into my pocket so I could lock up when I got there. Do-It-Best didn’t have what I needed, so I set off down the hill to the Advance Auto Parts on 65. The ride down was exhilarating!

I bought what I needed and started the trek home. I seriously thought I might die on the climb back up to Brighton Heights (and almost barfed near the top), but I made it without stopping and the feeling was incredible! I was instantly hooked again.

I rode into work (13th and Penn in the Strip) the following Monday. I think I biked in twice that week. I kept at it, riding in as often as my out-of-shape legs would allow. I loved every minute of it…I’d finally found a commute I could enjoy, and in the same amount of time as the bus but on my own schedule. I even bought a cheap beater for 80 EUR in the Netherlands on a business trip and did the 24 km ride from the hotel to our office in Zeist a couple of times, and used it to explore all over Utrecht.

The front derailleur on the old mountain bike finally gave it up last fall, and I decided that bicycling was something I was going to keep doing, so I pulled the trigger on a shiny new ‘cross bike from Pro Bikes in Shadyside in October. I gave up the car commute for good on 2 Dec and haven’t looked back.

Two weeks ago I took the little people out for their first rides on Daddy’s bike. They loved it!

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