Friday, September 23, 2011

Up for Sale

I've made the remarkably difficult decision to sell Shadow. I've put her on Craigslist, and am asking $700, which considering her retail value at purchase, the minor upgrades I've added, and the level of care she has received makes her a hell of a deal. So if anyone in the Austin area is interested in a 47 cm Cannondale Synapse Feminine with a Tiagra drivetrain, one very beloved but recently unridden bike is up for sale. She needs pavement under her wheels, she deserves better than to sit motionless in my kitchen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Would That It Were

This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Austin City Limits music festival. As I'm sure you have guessed, I attended con velo, and was able to take some astoundingly mediocre cell phone pictures of the truly impressive bike parking facilities. In all sincerity, the quantity and variety of bikes at this music festival was truly a feast for the eyes for a bike nerd like me. I apologize for the worse-than-usual quality of these pictures - you must understand I was drunk for most of them. For instance, behold!

It's a Gazelle! Live and in person! I had never actually seen a Dutch bike in person, but somehow, sitting chained up to a pole outside a music festival, wet from a brief rain, it looked right at home. Welcome to Texas, Holland!

I attended ACL one day last year as well, which is when I was initially struck by the availability of bike parking. As in, two areas each respectively the size of a football field, nothing but bike racks. Is this what the entirety of the Netherlands looks like? What if it were normal, whole parking lots of bikes. I had to look for parking, for crying out loud. That's no surprise to car users, but to a cyclist that's grounds for shock. Check it out.

The TARDIS hangin' out with all the other bikes.

An admittedly glare-riffic picture, but ignore that. Look at the pure scale. You had to wander around and look for your bike.

This one I took before drinking on the third day. This is actually on the opposite side of the park. Yes, there were two parking lots this big, For bikes.

I want every street to have one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A whole new commute

I am in the process of transitioning jobs, which brings with it a whole new commute. My new one is a little under 6 miles each, which is longer than my previous one by a couple miles. After my first (admittedly non-rush hour) try with it today, I am begobsmacked at how much of a pleasant ride it is. It's a bit hilly, but barring a total of about half a mile, all neighborhood roads. I pass houses, apartments, elementary schools and the occasional taco place.

This commute is interesting, though, because the more direct, car-friendly route also has a gigantic bike lane. There's a grocery store, banks, and everything else I could possibly need to swing by on my way home, all on bike-friendly routes.

Compare this to my previous commute, which had basically no bike lanes whatsoever, no conveniences in a direct line to my house, and an extremely busy freeway crossing. To boot, the bike before the freeway crossing vanishes exactly right before the turnoff for the service road - i.e. one of the places I'm most likely to be cut off by a car.

Sometimes, it turns out, longer is easier. Who knew?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paying It Forward: Part 2

As of this weekend, I have a new cycling buddy! That is, my sister moved to Austin this weekend, to my great jubilation. In honor of her arrival, I have given her Grey Bike, and all it's many accessories, so that we can go for bike rides and generally cause non-motorized mayhem.

Two things about this that leap out at me - one, the Grey Bike is the nicest bike my sister has ever had. Two, she's never really ridden in the street. I'm super-proud, she's moving to new places, trying new things, making it happen, all that jazz.

Last night we hopped on our bikes for a ride to the pub (hey, the beer was cheap and there was football on). The ride to the pub involves a rather large hill, a descent on the way there, and a long climb on the way back. The alcohol helps the climbs go by faster, I admit.

The thing that astonished me is that while my sister has all the characteristics of someone who is new to biking, she looks comfortable on the bike and is utterly fearless in traffic. Perhaps this is a result of her driving tendencies, which have recently included a ticket for driving nearly 20 mph over the speed limit. Maybe it's the same inner fire that makes me want to break a car in half rather than yield. But holy damn it was fun to ride with someone whom fear is not a thought. She stops with balance, she takes the lane, and climbing the hill on the way home, she stood up and gutted it out until the purpose of shifting became more apparent.

In summary, while I consider this to be paying it forward, it sort of feels like the universe is paying me back on this one.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

How Time Flies

Several important milestones in my cycling life have passed recently! It's very exciting. As of now, I've been riding bikes as a grownup for over three whole years! It all began with my much-loved Schwinn purchased at Target for what then seemed like the herculean sum of $125. I did try to do some minor research before I before I bought this bike, which sadly, was stolen from its locked home under my porch before it even got a name.

Very soon after my bike was stolen, I graduated college and moved to California, which I consider to be my spiritual bike-riding home. I got a free, equally crappy mountain bike out of someone's garage. Then I got a Free Spirit from a shady Irishman in a parking lot. This picture is not my bike, but a bike that looks just like it:

This bike was replaced by my first ever good bike, Grey Bike. Grey Bike is the oldest of these bikes that is still with me, and good lord what a workhorse. Grey Bike is a 2008 Novara Buzz V I used as my primary form of transportation in California. I moved back to Texas and it became the bike I gave my mom, until she got her Townie. It's been my guest bike. And now, as of next week, it goes to my sister to hopefully bring her into the fold. And as of this month, we've been together three years, outlasting all my relationships excepting that with my dog.

Old Reliable. You deserve all the respect in the world.

In March of 2009 I acquired Shadow, my roadbike. I'd taken rides as far as 25 miles on the Grey Bike, but Shadow truly opened my eyes as to the possibilities in the world. On her I've conquered physical barriers I hadn't even thought I could take a stab at - I've climbed several thousand feet. I've ridden more than 50 miles in a day. I've trained for distances I hesitate to take my car. I learned to ride in drop bars, I learned to ride clipped to the bike. She gave me the only sport I've ever been any good at.

Through it all though, I had my eye on the Surly Long Haul Trucker. The bike I could ride for groceries and for distance. A platform. It could be anything! A cargo bike, a commuter, a piece of art or a roughneck. So in June of last year, after 2 years of staring and saving up and planning, I ordered the bike that has gone through so many names before I realized it's my spaceship. While it's certainly a stately bike now, when I got it, it looked like this:

It's grown up a lot.

As of June it's been a year with the TARDIS. As I celebrate these little milestones, it's becoming more apparent to me how large a part of my life riding my bike everywhere has become. But it's just too much fun to quit, especially with all the lovely choices of bike in the world. So I guess I'll conclude this post by saying, just keep on pedaling.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Sense of Place

Cycling is by its very nature something that is local. While bikes are portable (and I certainly take mine on many of my trips out of town), at the end of the day you walk out the door, swing your leg over the frame, hop onto your bike and pedal away. You are immersed in your environment - smells, sounds, and sights are all enhanced by the fact you're cruising by slowly enough to take it in.

Something I never realized until I got out of my car is how isolated an environment a car can be. You're surrounded by metal and glass, with climate control typically listening to something you like. While there's a certain beauty in rolling down the road with the windows down singing along to the radio, I get the same sensation almost every time I get on my bike. I am not typically one to listen to my headphones while cycling, so I have committed several songs to memory so that I can provide my own (off key, off beat) soundtrack as I roll down the road.

As of today, it's September - for many parts of the country, the start of fall is almost here. For those of us from Texas, September is the light at the end of the oven-like tunnel that is high summer. It stays (by most people's standards) hot for a few more months here, but 90 degrees is, for us, a 15-20 degree drop from our most severe temperatures. It feels downright cool by comparison, like spring come again. It makes me want to ride, rediscover my sense of place.

I love riding with a destination in mind - something that makes the journey just a little bit sweeter. Sometime in the next week I think I'll take a bit of a picnic and go visit the Hi How Are You Frog. It's one of my favorite spots in town and of late it's been too hot to go joyriding. It's the joyrides that for me create my sense of place. You ride, with a destination that's purely for fun. Ride to the pool, ride to a piece of art, ride to a restaurant or a park, visit a friend, go to a festival.

The TARDIS cools its heels outside the 2011 Austin Hot Sauce Festival

Fall is almost here! Go outside and play.