16 December 2008
What a bicycle means
I rode my bike home from work last night in a rain storm that was turning into an ice storm, despite dire warnings from the TV weathermen.
(Lexington TV weathermen treat snowstorms, high winds, patches of ice, rain, heat, cold and frost as mortal threats to the public well-being. If I governed my life by their forecasts I would spend most of September through March locked in my room, likely hiding under the bed.)
It wasn’t dangerous out there, or even particularly unpleasant — and this very possibly will have been one of the worst nights of the year to ride.
Toward the end of my 3-mile trip, the wind was in my face, there was a little ice in the wind and the going got a little tough. At such a time one might ask himself, “Self, why do this?”
“Self,” I would reply, “Here’s why: Freedom.”
The other day I was buying a toilet, of all things. The proprietor (Day’s Plumbing, the best plumbing store ever) mentioned water conservation as a reason for the purchase. He had noticed my bike and asked me: “You’re green, aren’t you?”
No, I’m not green.
I don’t ride a bike to work every day because I buy all that nonsense about carbon footprints. I don’t think global warming is man-made, and I think Al Gore is a glutenous gasbag.
Thanks to the green movement, there is a certain tight-lipped puritanism and a cloud of fake morality about bicycle commuting these days.
I ride a bike because it’s fun (more about that later) but mainly because it saves money. Lots of it.
Saving money means saving time. Time saved means freedom — freedom to spend more time with my family, to work on church stuff, to remodel the garage, to write on here a little.
If I weren’t riding my bike, my family would need a second car. That means either a car payment (we don’t have one now) or shelling out $5,000 or so for something dependable.
There would be, what, 50 bucks a month or so for insurance.
That second car would need gas, oil changes and tires. It would need to be washed and vacuumed now and then.
That’s a lot of money, which means a lot of time, because it takes time to earn the money.
There are less tangible savings as well.
Since our driveway runs through our back yard, there would be another car parked out there — less room for the kids to play.
Then there’s the fact that I don’t have a gym membership. Without bike riding, I would need to get one, find time for another form of exercise (there’s that time angle again!), or go to seed (more than I am now).
You can get a fantastic commuting bike and all the gear you would need for $2,000 or less — much less, if you get a good used bike. That’s it for your costs, until you need a new tire ($20) or a tuneup once a year or so (around $50) — although I recommend you buy a few tools and learn how to do the tuneups yourself.
For less than $2,000 you could very well be getting freedom from a second car. That’s significant. You might also be gaining freedom from gaining weight. That’s significant also. It’s expensive to buy new clothes every 6 months to a year, as your waistline expands.
I consider the fun of cycling to be a bonus (since I would probably be doing it anyway). I love it, plain and simple. It’s a great stress-reliever. I like the self-sufficiency. I like the wind and sun on my face. I like having to pay attention to the weather and figuring out what to wear.
I realize not everyone lives within biking distance, and that biking might or might not be practical for most people.
That’s fine with me. Drive a Nissan Armada, if you want. Drive it two blocks each way. More power to you. (I’m not “green,” remember?)
If you ARE thinking about cycle commuting, or if you’re trying to remember why you are doing it, forget about the environmentalist noise. Fake morality keeps most people going for maybe a week.
From years of personal experience, I can tell you: Lasting motivation comes from remembering that cycling means freedom. And fun.