The white man’s burden

I was reading Exploded Hub’s post on bike theft when I considered how difficult it is to elevate the status of cycling in a society in which you can get by without a bicycle.

Horse theft was a capital offense in the Old West because the horse represented an individual’s lifeline in a setting in which there simply were no other transportation options.  Today, automobiles nearly fit that role.  If your bike dies, there’s a car to pick you up.

It seems that the ideological goal of cycling advocacy is to elevate cyclists to “separate but equal” status.  A problem (aside from the obvious) is that not all bicycle users wish to be “cyclists.”  Cyclists love bikes and will go to the mattress for their passion.  Or obsess over suspension pressures and custom paint jobs.  Then there are people who ride bikes because that’s what they have.  This leads to a bit of a perception problem:

If cycling advocates work their tails off to get dedicated cycling lanes and oblivious bicycle riders use them incorrectly, who ends up with pie on the face?  Clearly, infrastructure improvements are meant for the uninitiated as much as they are for enthusiasts.  But would there be justice in trying to self-police bicycling behavior?  Even the obvious differences in SES creates philosophical obstacles.  And what can we do about our gangs of BMX-equipped teens who swarm on sidewalks?  Or the hard-working bearded bike messenger who sprints through red lights?  Tough.

Tangential question – many wheels are stolen in Boston; where would one go to purchase a stolen beater wheel?    I imagine the total number of wheels to bikes that need them works out to nearly a zero-sum game.  It’s hard to imagine that there’s an inner-city cycling squad that requires replacements of beater wheels that are regularly ridden into oblivion.  And if this team exists, are they also cycling enthusiasts?  Hrmmm?

Huffy Puffy

Huffy Puffy

1) A sound emanating from the face due to poor fitness secondary to academia
2) A /Euro/ training method involving hill climbs on a 45-pound mass-produced monster
3) An LBS attitude subsequent to a repair request to said monster
4) Because every bike deserves to be ridden … by somebody

Hello, world.  After doing some soul-searching, I’ve decided that I am somewhere between “enthusiast” and “dilettante” with respect to my life on wheels.  That being said, I’ve managed to commute to school/work each day for the past seven years on the most beater-riffic of bikes:  five years on a 2002 Huffy Alpine, then the last two on a refurbished pink/purple 1996 Diamondback Topanga.  I am male.

The goal:  To commute on a bike that appears shitty enough to be unstealable in Cambridge/Providence/Dorchester.  So far, success.

From this humble throne, I’ve attempted a great deal of interpersonal cycling advocacy and have dabbled in the more formal varieties in Boston and its vassal states.  I fantasize about riding in a Critical Mass.  Unfortunately, good Republicans don’t.

Most of all, I loathe becoming a *bike snob*.  Cycling excites me as it offers a level playing field:  independence, empowerment, exercise, and recreation to anyone willing to learn.  (And, for those who have quaffed the Kool-Ade, status).  In a city as compact as Boston is, cycling is faster and less expensive than taking public transportation – as long as your bike doesn’t get stolen.

I often feel the glow of camaraderie at the sight of teen mobs roaming on tricked-out BMX bikes – even with their blatant disregard of traffic laws and decency.  On a battered department store bike, I’d blend into the happy environment of delinquency.  Unfortunately, my subsequent acquisition of legitimate bikes and participation in college-level racing may have put me on my way out of that salt-of-the-earth state.  Spandex begets snobbery.  But the memories of true “community” biking are still warm.

The following list of honor is a catalog of all the bikes that I’ve acquired – as far as I can remember.

1988: 1988 “BMX”, blue with hard 12″ blue foam wheels, coaster brakes, training wheels. Dumped due to growth.
1991: 198x Ross Snapper 20″, yellow/red with coaster brakes. Dumped due to growth.
1994: 1994 Murray, blue with enormous bottom tube 24″, yellow front shocks. Stolen 1995.
1996: 1996 Huffy Enduro, black 24″ 18-speed thumbshifter. Sold 2005 in a yard sale.
2002: 2002 Huffy Alpine, gray/red 26″ 18-speed gripshift. Dumped 2008 after multiple-organ failure.
2007: 2007 Specialized Allez, 54cm black with 16-speed Sora.  IN SERVICE
2007: 1996 Diamondback Topanga, “amethyst swirl” (purple/pink) 17″ with 21-speed Alvio.  RESTORED, IN SERVICE
2008: 2002 Specialized Sirrus, metallic silver 50cm with 24-speed shifter. Sold 2008 to a friend – too small.
2008: 2001 Stumpjumper Pro, black with 27-speed Deore XT.  IN SERVICE
2009: 197x Schwinn Sprint, gray/red with 12-speed stem shifter.  Hobby restoration.

Dear Topanga gets drunk

Dear Topanga gets drunk:  Harpoon brewery

There’s a 1940s Elgin Airflow sitting in our basement, but that’s not to be touched.
Photographs some other time.

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