Good Deal. Comes in Three Speeds.

Let me just say: I’m pretty sick of driving to and from work, five days a week, along the I-25 corridor. There’s the traffic, the lame FM radio that seems to play the same 15 songs over and over, the bad drivers, the jarring roads. Not to mention the significant car troubles we’ve endured lately slipping transmission (estimated replacement cost = $4,500); overheated car and shot ignition coils ($600); clogged catalytic converter ($1,200). And so on. Not to mention my vague discomfort at our gigantic carbon footprint, as the drive is around 22 miles each way. And the cost of gas–around $1,500 a year. (Cripes, that’s a lotta cash.)

So when I found a deal to sign up for half off a Denver Bike Sharing membership, I leapt.

So far, it’s been great. I take the bus, which picks me up just 50 yards from our front door, downtown and then I grab a red bikeshare bike, and ride the 4 miles or so to work. The bike’s only got three speeds, which has opened up a completely new and radical idea: to take my time, rolling along. To look around and notice my surroundings. To actually enjoy the journey.

Which has been so nice, I must say. It’s like discovering a rainbow in the sky every morning.


Photo from Bike Share website.

Rambling Existential Questions, Inspired by a Bike Show and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

eliotI really want to go to the North American Handmade Bike Show here in Denver this weekend, but then again, I’m not in the market for a new, handmade bike made of bamboo, ash, titanium, vibranium, or compressed coffee grounds. Plus, it’s $20 bucks just to get in! (That bothers me. I wish it didn’t. Here’s a clip from the Denver Post.)

Just thinking about such decisions–should I or shouldn’t I?–sometimes gets me into an existential funk. I often overthink things, and suddenly the decision is not about going to a bike show, for example, but about the kind of person I am. Am I a good American? (Buy! buy! buy!) What do I believe in? (Art and commerce, or hanging out at home doing nothing?) Do I believe in heaven and hell? (You die and you’re pretty much dead. Or: you go to heaven and float on clouds and eat all 70 virginal Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups each day, etc.)

Maybe there will be beautiful art at the show. Which makes me think of T.S. Eliot, of course.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

Right! maybe it’ll be like that. So why not dare to eat that peach?

Maybe I should allow myself to approach, as Eliot said in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,”an overwhelming question…”

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” / Let us go and make our visit.

Okay! Heck, I might swing by, just to see the beauties and the beasts.

Speaking of beastly, seems like fat bikes are now all the rage–ever since I wrote about them in an earlier blog post. (To wit, another Post article.) Even so….

I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled….

Yes, I do wear my trousers rolled, because I’ve been commuting via bike to the park-n-ride bus station and nobody likes to get their trousers caught in a chainring. Anything to avoid the long drive to and from Denver each day for work. Anything to avoid contributing the climate change, which has me suddenly very freaked out.

And how should I presume?

Well, after all the recent apocalyptic weather here in Colorado and elsewhere, I just can’t abide driving 24 miles to work, and then 24 miles back home again, every freaking day. So the bus it is, even though it’s almost $4 each way. (I grow old, I grow…. cheapskate-ish.)

I presume that’ll make a tiny bit of difference. Then again…

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

See, how I endlessly question myself? Just go to the bike show, just ride to and from the bus station. Stop thinking all the time!
Sure, I am no prophet. So why not go, you and I, while the evening is spread out against the sky, for a nice, easy ride, then?

Maybe. As soon as the snow melts. As soon as this happens [month changed by me]:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October [March] night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.




A Meditation on Gear, In List Fashion

The equation biking + capitalism means that I ride, and I buy stuff for riding. I’ve even created a line item in our family budget for bike stuff. Mostly, I try and keep it within the dollar amounts that my wife spends on her: a. hair; b. clothing. I figure, that way, she can’t exclaim that I am wasting too much money on this frivolous avocation.

Boy, it adds up though. In a way, I miss those old days when I was a runner and all I needed was: 1. pair of flimsy running shorts, 2. running shoes. Simple. Clean. Unencumbered. Cheap.

Mountain biking requires gear. Or maybe the truth is this: Men, as they age, require more gear. (Is it because we fear death, as Olivia Dukakis said so well in Moonstruck? As if more gear will make us immortal?)

I suppose the following are true:

1. Men do fear death, and some gear does help allay that fear (helmet, gloves, good brakes, giant suspension systems, automatic seat post elevators, navigation systems, padded shorts to protect one’s taint, etc.).

2. Biking is a complex task, and the mere fact that a bike is involved means there will be gear involved, because things wear out, such as: chains, cassettes, seals, racks, tires, grips, locks, and such.

3. Gear is cool–and we are conditioned to believe that said gear is cool and very, very necessary. We need these things because: i. they help us ride better; ii. in capitalism, if you can sell desire, selling the product is so much simpler.

All that said, I really like my new socks, from Mountain Flyer Mag. I got them with a new two-year subscription.

Acquisition = Good Citizen?

At our house, now that Christmas is over and we are finished cleaning up the detritus of plastic packaging, shiny bows, torn wrapping paper, and the like, we can play with our stuff. And, like most, there is a lot of new stuff.

Yesterday, my two daughters opened around 12 packages each; we tossed out at least four garbage bags of packaging. Most of it went into the recycle bin, but still, that’s a ton of waste.

I know this supposedly makes us good parents because it makes the kids ever so happy, but still it seems a bit, um, unseemly.  All that excess. All those little plastic dolls that they covet so much. All those tchotchkes we don’t need (Snoopy earmuffs? Thanks, but you really shouldn’t have. Really.) And yet, all day, we were enthralled by our new stuff. The girls were enthralled by their new dolls–Liv dolls, and several Monster High dolls, which are pretty cool–and played together all day, without incident.

My big present didn’t come in packaging, of course. And while I didn’t park the new Felt Virtue under the tree, the idea of it sitting in the garage certainly enthralled me. And yesterday, on a gorgeously and oddly warm and sunny morning, I rode White Ranch with my riding bud, Ed. The new Felt frame handled amazingly. Since it’s a tiny bit smaller than the old Rocky Mountain, it’s a little bit easier to handle in technical sections, though downhill was a bit scary, as the front tube angle is a degree or so steeper. I’ll have to be careful; this will probably make me more prone to endo, which I am so so tired of doing. I am tired of landing on my face. (Note: the YouTube vid is not me, but certainly could be.)

I suppose you could say that biking is a green sport; you use no gas or other resources when you ride; you don’t destroy anything, you don’t make piles and piles of waste.

But I do drive the car to the mountain. (How I wish we lived close to a trailhead!) I do have a big pile of old rubber tires in my garage; I do have the old Rocky Mountain frame hanging in there, too.

Perhaps I will use the frame as yard art, or make some kind of plant stand. Perhaps I will strip the shock and anything else I don’t need and try to sell it on ebay, for cheap. Perhaps I will find a good use for all those worn tires. And perhaps I am a good citizen because I just paid around $100 in taxes on the frame and build, and supported a local bike shop in the process.

Perhaps I should let my consumptive guilt go and just be happy.

P.S. After some web searching, I found a cool use for old tires–though it’s another thing to buy–at Alchemy Goods. Or, you can make your own sandals. If you are still using tubes, you can make some handy tie apparatuses.

Felt, But Not the Super Soft Kind

Now that my old Rocky Mountain bike frame is RIP, there is both sadness and glee in my riding heart. I will miss that old frame. And yet, now I am free to purchase a new one.

We can’t really afford it. However, I have impressed upon my wife that I am a riding shark: I must move forward (on wheels, on dirt), or I shall surely perish.

I’m happy that she believes this is so, because it is true. Riding is my drug of choice. And need.

So, after a few weeks of checking craigslist, ebay, and local bike shop (LBS) sales voraciously, I have found a new oh-so-sweet ride: a 2010 Felt Virtue Team, size large.

It’s way light, way cool looking. Chosen by Outside Magazine as the best ride of the year–in the 2007 Summer Buyer’s Guide.

It has a one-of-a-kind suspension element, called the Equilink. It’s supposed to eliminate all pedal bob when climbing, and then, when you aim it toward sea level, it’s said to handle like a downhill bike, with 5 inches of suspension.

I haven’t ridden one, yet–I know, stupid, but what the heck, I’m no expert in feeling out subtle gradations of machinery and geometry, I just ride. But I’ve been interested in the Felt for a while now. And I like how the Equilink looks like a large wad of bubble gum that’s been stuck to the frame and stretched to its limit. And perhaps this is mostly a guy thing, but it’s very much fun to check out gear. And buy new gear. Impulsively. After much research.

We’ll see how it goes. The mellow, friendly, and unpretentious guys at Golden Bike Shop are stripping down the Rocky and building up the new frame. It should be ready by Tuesday, and if I’m lucky and don’t catch my wife’s gnarly cold, I might squeeze a ride in sometime this week.

Like a kid in a candy store, I am. With a gob of new bubble gum.