I got a note a few months ago from someone who saw my Oakland, California skyline photo and wanted to use it on a website for bicycle advocacy (http://walkoaklandbikeoakland.org/). They were so polite, how could I say no? Besides, I was flattered.
It was taken in February 1996 overlooking Lake Merritt from the upper balcony of 407 Wayne Ave. Now that I’ve checked out their website, I’m inspired to put in my two cents advocating bicycling. I’ve been commuting and running errands on my bicycle for 24 years or so.
I know it’s an old story, the story of me and my bike, but it bears mentioning again. While I could say that I’m being eco-friendly, I really just love getting out in the morning on my bike. Here are some tips for staying in shape, helping the environment, and saving some money.
- Get yourself a nice comfortable cheap city commute bike. You can pick up some great end of the season deals right now for as little as $350 (http://performancebike.com. Or check out your local bike shop). That’s a nice entry level bike with all the fixin’s. The key is to not get sucked into the "high end." High end is just a synonym for light and expensive. A lot of times the cheaper componant, wheel-set, shifter, brake, etc, is much stronger and more durable. It just weighs more. This is not a problem however, because we don’t care about a few grams of extra weight, as we are not Olympic class racers. Besides, if you want your bike to weigh less, it’s probably a better idea to drop some pounds yourself first, huh? So buy cheap and tough, not expensive and light. Got it?
- As I’ve said before, I have some Rob Beckman bags and a Bruce Gordon rack (great stuff – both) that mount on the back of my bicycle. They’ve served me well for at least 10 years and make grocery shopping a breeze. I head out every morning for a short but hilly ride that takes 40 minutes. On my way home, I stop at a local grocery store and buy the days’ items. There are six of us – two parents and four kids – and I’m able to accomplish nearly all the grocery shopping by doing it daily on my bike. There’s a lot of satisfacion in that, let me tell you.
- The last point is of course the gas savings angle. I’ve estimated that I save maybe $6/week in gas doing this (10 miles at 20 mpg 3 times a week with $4/gal – I wouldn’t head out every day if I was driving). With the prices of gas as high as they are, the monetary gains start to actually impact. Think about it for a second; that’s $312 a year in gas savings. That’s the purchase price of a nice Trek or Giant aluminum bike, and it pays for itself in the first year AND you can pocket your gym membership. You’re getting a great aerobic low impact workout for free. How many more reasons do you need to get on a bicycle for your daily errands? Commute to work? Commute to store? Fun on weekends? Win! Win! and Win!
- Last point: ignore the little bike shop snobs with their shaved legs and snotty attitudes. They don’t truly love what they do. True love doesn’t judge, it says, "Cool, let’s go for a ride."