Sustainable Happenings April 2011
The Romance of the Two Wheeler
by Joan Gough
Bicycles have always meant freedom for me. When I was five my family was visiting an aunt and uncle on their farm outside Salmon, Idaho. My cousin, who was two years older than me, had a little bike with solid metal disks rather than spokes in the wheels. I wanted badly to ride it. Denny said it was all right with him and my dad offered the incentive of buying me my own bike if I learned to ride in the three days we were there. There were no training wheels, but it wasn’t far to the ground and the ground was dirt, so after many falls I got the hang of it and was riding by the time we left.
Since that first new, blue and white, Sears bike with which my parents paid up on their promise, I have equated freedom with riding a bike. It was a little big with it’s twenty-four inch wheels, but I could ride it around the neighborhood and to the corner grocery store for penny candy. Later, a bike meant going with the gang to the canal to swim, getting to school and the library quickly, and checking out the roiling carp in the lake shallows.
I put the bicycle away in an attempt at social acceptance in high school and didn’t really ride again until coming to Moab as a young adult. The mountain bike boom hadn’t hit here yet, in fact Moab had yet to see a fat tired, multi-geared mountain bike, but my husband had an old Raleigh ten speed which I took over and rode until I got my first mountain bike, a Bridgestone.
Today, there are hundreds of specialized bikes--from the heavy duty downhill racers, to the extremely light and pared down roadies and everything in between, which is where most of us find our favorite commuter and work horse. For town commutes, I ride an old beach cruiser with a large front basket, seven gears in an internal hub and coaster brakes. Crusiers are heavy, but the big tires and upright position save my back. And with their longer wheel base they are more stable than the short mountain or road bike.
Here’s the romance--the beach cruiser was designed and sold originally by a couple of surfers in San Diego to carry their boards to the beach. So, lean back and imagine the sound of the surf just around the corner as you cruise Moab.
Denise Oblak of Canyon Voyages says, “If I am going to commute on my bike, I want to be comfortable.” Denise has fenders (no muddy pant legs), a front rack, disk brakes, tires that roll easily but aren’t too skinny for cracks and potholes, easy grip shifts for multiple gears and a reliable kick stand. Seats can be big and comfy or smaller and more efficient, and the post can be outfitted with a small shock absorber to further the comfort. Then there’s coffee--a place to carry your mug could be the tipping point between a Prius and bicycle for some people and of course the cafe cruiser has one.
Consider these safety features--front and rear lights, a bell, and a good helmet properly fit. Riding with traffic is safer. Drivers are used to looking for cars so, if you are where they expect to see a motorized vehicle, in a left turn lane for example, they will be likely to see you. Go ahead and stick your arm out there so drivers know your intent.
For those who need to haul loads that don’t fit in a front basket, like children, there are trailers of many designs. The innovation that made trailers practical, especially for carrying children, was a hitch system allowing the bike to go down without turning over the trailer. Children are not the only awkward loads people need to carry. Dave Bodner, owner of Miguel’s Baja Grill, was using his bike to do errands for the restaurant, but the liquor pick up was heavy and awkward so he bought a flat bed trailer. The length is adjustable and he could literally carry a refrigerator if need be.
Local racer Jenna Woodbury has found that carrying two growing twins works best in a sort of reverse tricycle with a box on the front between the wheels. The customized big box is great for the kids, since they have a view forward plus back at mom when they need a little reassurance. The next time you order a pizza from Paradox, you just may see a modified bicycle out at the curb. This design puts the box between the front wheel and the crank. As an employee said, “If the customer is close, we just jump on the bike and make the delivery. It’s faster and lot more fun.”
The major bike companies like Specialized (Rim Cyclery), Trek (Poison Spider), and Cannondale (Moab Cyclery) have extensive lines of comfortable “rides”. Electra (Chili Pepper) has carved out their niche with the townie or cruiser. Salsa, Surly and Civia (Uranium Bikes) are all smaller companies that have focused more on the commuter. Maybe a vintage Schwinn Debutante from Mi Vida says freedom to you. Or, see what you can find at Wabi Sabi and do your own refurbishing. It is worth spending some time to get the bike that fits your commuting needs and fits you physically. Ask if the dealer will guarantee the fit when you order.
As we encourage a cycling culture, there are more and more amenities. We have enough bike lanes and walking/biking paths in Moab to avoid U.S. 191, for the most part. With good paths and lanes in town, imagine riding down from Cedar Hills and Spanish Valley on a commuter bike lane. It’s perfect with the no sweat ride to work and the after work workout on your way home.
Bicycling is a win for everyone--less pollution, less road wear, good exercise, fuel savings and the glorious breeze on your face--the breeze that says, “Your free!”