Get Thee to a City Bike (or Mountain Bike, or E-Bike or Unicycle)
There’s nothing like the feel of a well-tuned road bike gliding quickly, quietly and efficiently along a rolling swath of virgin blacktop. As mile after effortless mile ticks by, it sometimes seems as if the amazing contraption between your legs might actually be capable of flight.* It’s no wonder then, that the road bike has become one of the most popular ways to enjoy the sport of cycling. It’s also no wonder the road bike is the mount of choice for the overwhelming majority of folks who tackle an event like Cycle Oregon.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s surprisingly easy to become a one-dimensional cyclist who only pursues one type of riding – particularly with all the saddle time required to prepare for an event like this. It’s easy to lose track of the fact that the bike is a multifaceted tool that can serve as a piece of sporting equipment, an object of leisure or a pure – and highly functional – mode of transportation. Many would argue the bike is also a functional piece of art (some folding bikes and recumbents, perhaps, being an exception but, hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder). It’s also far too easy to forget that there are many different types of riding beyond a typical training ride.
This all became apparent to me the instant I threw my leg over the city bike I bought to celebrate my move from the suburbs back to the mean streets of Portland. I was amazed at how a slightly more upright position, different gearing, a wide straight handle bar, and pedals that can be used with or without specialty shoes completely changed my perspective on things.
In a few short miles swooping through the neighborhoods with reckless abandon while wearing regular street clothes, I felt a lot more like a kid on a bike than a “cyclist.” This is a feeling I haven’t truly experienced since I was, well, a kid on a bike, and it was truly exhilarating. That feeling, in turn, made me appreciate being a cyclist all the more. It also made me appreciate the value of a good pair of bike shorts, but that’s all I care to share on that subject.
If you read a lot about any particular style of biking, you’re very likely to come across several stories by those who have either converted from one style of cycling to another or have added a new one to their repertoire. Virtually every one of these stories is filled with passion and glee. The editor-in-chief of Bicycling magazine even recently professed his love for an e-bike, which came as a surprise since that very publication would have nothing to do with e-bikes just a few short years ago (their readers, one reporter told me, simply wouldn’t be interested in the least).
So if your regular training rides start to feel like a job rather than activity and you come to realize that you have allowed yourself to become a one-dimensional rider, simply mix it up. Try riding through the city at night just for fun; try a leisurely 5-mile ride with a non-cyclist or your spouse or the neighbor’s kid; hop on a mountain bike; take a bike messenger’s fixie for a spin around the block (get permission first); test-ride an e-bike; commute; or take a touring unicycle for a romp. Find your inner kid and you’ll find renewed passion for the bike as a whole.
* Traffic, chipseal, potholes, headwinds, lack of nutrition, lack of fitness or the horrific sounds emitting from someone else’s less-well-tuned road bike can change this perception substantially.