Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bicycles are things, too.

A ride report next, I promise! But, I'm waiting for some photos to come back, and I've been in a "thinking" mood cycling around lately. I find I go through phases on my bike. Sometimes I'm a kid, sometimes (rarely) I'm a "serious cyclist," sometimes I put the legs on auto and just think about things.

Lately I've been pondering the yearly event that is the "one bike" thread on the iBob-list ( Every so often someone asks if one bike is enough, and I always follow the debate with interest. Replies usually break into 3 main camps. 1) One bike is enough, and I've done it. 2) More bikes are more fun, but one could do it for me. 3) And I good-naturedly paraphrase, "Why are you foisting your self-righteous views of one-bike superiority on me you hippy lout?!? I have 63 bikes, and THEY ALL GET RIDDEN!!"

I'm probably firmly in camp 2 now, though I happily lived in camp 1's tent for about a year. The original poster is often baffled by responses from camp 3, since he/she never said one bike was superior, just wondered if it were possible for a cycling enthusiast and/or wanted to pare down their possesions for a 1 BR apartment (I can relate).

From the latest round of discussion, I think it dawned on me that bikes, too, are just things. Brilliant, wonderful things with a tremendous potential for good, in my opinion, but still just things. I really feel that I would not be as happy if I gave up one of my two bikes. What if I had to give up bikes altogether? It worries me that my happiness is so bound up in a thing, even if it's a bicycle.

For me things are always posing as real interactions with the world and causing me to miss what's really important. Until now, I've never thought of bikes doing that. As I think back, though, there are times spent agonizing over parts and finding/building bikes. Times that would have been better spent with rachel, or actually riding, or writing, or hiking up the mountain to stare at the moon. That cycling is important I can accept, but bikes? Maybe I should move them down the list and think more carefully about my time.

Of course, this thinking comes as frameset #3 is in transit to me, a 1979 Trek 710, ready to be agonized over.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Linguistics and Riding Bicycles

Why "Cycler's Life?" I'm convinced that language matters a lot more than we realize, and bicycling (see, had to choose something) is not immune. I am a person who enjoys riding bicycles. I don't ride to train, to be fit, to race, or because I'm too poor and/or too far from the bus stop to get around any other way.

When people used to ask me what I do for fun, I used to say "I bike." The next question was always "Do you race?" To say "No" to most people means the same thing as "No, I don't currently race because I'm too slow/can't afford a nice enough bike, but as soon as I'm fast enough/have the right bike I'll be out there, man!" Since that's a long way from what my "No" actually meant, I decided I needed a better setup line.

If "I bike" means "I aspire to be Lance Armstrong" to most people, then I needed to adapt my language. "I bicycle" sounds a little more laid back, but I think that just makes people think you're even slower and have a longer way to go live out your dream of racing. I decided that maybe it was using those active verbs that was causing the problem, making people think of movement, speed, racing.

"I'm a biker" is clearly out in America, too much confusion there. "I'm a bicyclist" comes across sounding either very snooty or very dorky depending on your general appearance. "I'm a cyclist" cuts a syllable off the snoot scale, but something about that ending, -ist, just sounds class-ist. It doesn't invite further conversation. It doesn't sound like something you could do if you don't already do it--like being a physic-ist or a pharmac-ist. Maybe that's why there aren't long-haul truck-ists or weld-ists. But, the cycling I do is doable by anybody, and that's my point.

So, I've settled on a term I co-opted from Rivendell Bicycle Works. It never seems to make people think of racing. It seems to imply that I'm quirky but in a fun way. More important, it seems to make people think it's something they could do too, maybe just get a little quirkier first. Most important, it prompts the question, "Oh, where do you ride?" And, that's a question I have an answer to. That's the purpose of this blog-thing. I'll tell you where I ride, why I ride, and talk about things in a friendly way that occur to me on my rides. I am a cycler.