Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #5

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation
Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses

Reason #5 – Independence and Self-Reliance

Motorists frequently cite "freedom" as a primary reason for their choice of transportation.

I guess the perceived ability to get in and go any where, any time they want, gives the impression of "freedom."

Respected automotive columnist Brock Yates put it this way:

"As the urban highway glut increases and average speeds on major intra-city freeways dip toward the single digits, Americans still choose to drive …
"The reason is obvious. It is called freedom. It is called mobility. It is called privacy. It is called flexibility. It is called being American."

So, what is freedom? Are you free, just because you have the ability to choose a life of confinement? Was Howard Hughes "free" during those years he locked himself away in a hermetically-sealed hotel room? After all, he was there by his own choice.

For me, freedom and independence and self-reliance are closely-related concepts.

As a person who has experienced both:
- You are NOT independent or self-reliant, if you rely on a motor vehicle for 100% of your transportation.
- A bicycle, and the ability to use it for a major portion of your typical daily transportation needs, can grant you substantially more independence and self reliance.

By choosing a bicycle, I have cast off the shackles of:
- fuel prices (which fluctuate wildly, and which motorists have essentially no control over)
- insurance, registration, car payments, big-ticket repair and maintenance expenses, parking fees, and numerous other nickel-and-dime transportation expenses
- dependence on all other people using the "grid" to do so successfully. (If somebody crashes on the freeway, a motorist 5 miles back is likely to be affected. By contrast, on my bicycle I never have an obstacle I can't ride around, or carry my bike over.)

My great-great grandma, Margaret McNeil, walked across the plains from Omaha, Nebraska to Ogden, Utah, when she was 13 years old! She crossed rivers by clinging to her jersey-cow's tail and swimming! What would she think if her sissy-boy descendent couldn't go 2 blocks to the convenience store, without firing up the family truckster?

Here is more of Brock Yates' definition of "freedom." (Although I enjoy his writing talents, he scoffs at the notion of bicycles-as-transportation, so my opinions are far different from his. But he helps me make my point for "independence and self-reliance.")

" … Being bottled up in gridlock is, in the end, our choice, for better or worse.
"To be sure, trapped in a crush of steaming iron on a stretch of asphalt is not exactly dream street, but at least it offers the victim the option to tune to whatever he or she chooses on the radio, to scratch bodily parts in privacy, to yammer on the cell phone in high decibels, [and] to choose departure times at random …"

Some freedom!

(Brock Yates' words are from an article, "Hit the Road, Jack," published on TCS in September 2002.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Smile! You're on Candid Camera!

I don't know why, but almost every morning it still surprises me when the traffic report guy (on news/talk radio) starts reporting slow-and-go conditions on the Interstate... beginning around 6:30am! You'd think I'd come to expect it. People do that with their cars every flippin' morning? Wow!

Of course, those same people have to do that same thing every afternoon, when they're homeward bound. ACHD has internet traffic cams that show what it's like. (Just click on the camera. I snagged a couple photos from this afternoon's Rat Race.) How would you like this to be 2 hours of your day, 5 days a week?

[Pity the poor slobs driving those big trucks! They're probably traveling from Salt Lake to Portland, and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (50 cents a mile, whether you're traveling 65mph, or 6.5mph!)]

The little commercial jingle was playing on the radio this morning: "There's a price you pay, to get away." It's all about the joy of country livin', and shoppin' at the Farmer Store. Is this what the guy is singing about?

Thanks but no thanks! I'll take my bike commute, and urban slum-livin'.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Man's Ruin

On Sunday, I went to straddle my bicycle to ride to an early (6am) meeting.

No cigar! I had fallen victim to the deadly Goat Head, and the back tire was flat. I murmured, and took my emergency Beater Bike.

Time for a religion lesson.

You may have heard of Adam and Eve. They lived long ago, in a fabulous garden, and naked as jaybirds. Which was a good thing, since Adam had "abs of steel," and Eve could have been a swimsuit model, if only she'd had a swimsuit.

But alas, they succumbed to temptation, and ate the forbidden fruit.

God evicted them from the Garden of Eden – the party was over.

But not only that! God told Adam, "… Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

"Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…" (Genesis 3:17-18)

Yep – it's Adam's fault that I get flat tires!

Goathead, or puncture vine, is the bane of bicyclist's existence in these parts. (And dogs and barefoot people, too.) I consider myself very fortunate for having completed almost 3 months, and 1200+ miles, before my first goathead encounter of the year. (It won't be the last.)

Surely my weekend goatheads were leftovers from last year's crop. This year's batch won't get mature and crispy until late summer.

Here's my goathead gallery, just in case you don't know what the plant looks like. (The best remedy is avoidance.)

A step closer to Motor Vehicle Independence

A couple years ago I purchased a BOB trailer, to tow behind my bicycle. (BOB? "Beast of Burden." I got it at a bargain price, and dreamed of someday using it for some bike trippin'. For example, I'd love to go to northern Idaho, and spend a week riding the 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in both directions, camping along the way and taking side-trips.)

Since then, I've used it only a couple of times, mostly to get a feel for how it affects handling, how hard it is to tow, etc. But that has all changed.

I've installed the special quick-release skewer permanently on my bicycle... and will begin regularly running errands using my BOB to haul stuff.

The BOB is good for loads of up to 50 pounds or so. It could easily carry 3 big bags of groceries, for example. So, it's suitable for most errands. (I'll still need the wife's minivan, and sometimes my old beat-up utility trailer, for sheet-rock runs, bringing home a new washer, family day trips, etc.)

(I wish somebody made a BOB-like motorcycle trailer. There's one called the Uni-GO that I would dearly love to have. It's gorgeous, with a nice fiberglass body. But it's $2000+; I'd settle for a "frame"-type trailer like the BOB that I could strap my gear onto, if it were maybe 1/4 that price.)

On Saturday (a gorgeous day in these parts!), I ran my first real errand. I needed a replacement part for my Toro rototiller. (An ancient beast - it was purchased brand-new by my father, when I was a kid. So it's probably 45 years old. It's on its 3rd motor, and could die any time, but as long as I can avoid replacing it, I will.) I hooked up the BOB (a 30-second task), put my old part on board and bungeed it down good... and ran to the Old Mower and Tiller Graveyard in Garden City. I found a suitable replacement part among the weeds, paid my $10, and strapped old and "new" parts on, and rode.

I ran a couple other errands on the same trip - to Circuit City on Milwaukee, and to the Harley shop down in Garden City. (Boy howdy - the Harley shop was FULL of Posers and Poser-wanna-bes. They really come out on nice days!)

I huffed and puffed a bit more than normal, riding up the Curtis hill from Garden City... but the fact that I completed the 12-mile trip with ZERO gas burned made up for it. (Nothing wrong with a bit of huffing and puffing... too bad our culture seems to dictate that physical work is best avoided.)

The replacement part worked just fine. The garden spot is lookin' good! Peas and beets will go into the ground any time... tomatoes and peppers are still at least a month off.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #6

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation

Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses

(They're getting EASIER now!)

You get in your car (or SUV, truck, etc.) – a climate-controlled isolation pod. Windows rolled up, air conditioner or heater humming, but not quite drowning out the sounds of the power plant. So you turn on the drive-time radio, or CD player. You pull into traffic on the nearest arterial… and you're off.

I get on my bike. It's 33 this morning, and as I embark on my journey I'm puffin' steam, and feel the bite of that brisk morning air on my cheeks. (A face mask covers my ears; gloves insulate my fingers, so I'm fine.) My heartbeat quickens ever so slightly as I begin pedaling and pull out of the driveway, heading due east up the road. (Some people seem to avoid that "elevated heartbeat" at all costs! Too bad.)

I greet my neighbor – he's walking down the side of the road, headed for the park with his cocker spaniel, just like 'most every morning.

A block up the street, I see a couple mallards coming in for a landing at the ditch. They join a hundred other mallards, quacking contentedly.

The sunrise is rather ordinary this morning, due to the clear sky. Every now and then it's truly spectacular, and I'll alter my route just to ride into the sunrise for a bit longer.

Further down the road, I smell the unmistakable fragrance of roasting coffee beans. (The breeze must be coming from the west this morning.) In another couple weeks, I'll smell the lilacs and tree blossoms.

The scenery is constantly changing. (If I were in a car, I'd most likely be looking at the back end of the car in front of me. You know what they say about sled dogs – "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.")

Oh – I hear the sound of a diesel coming up behind me. Not nearly as pleasant as ducks, or birds twittering, or even the wind whistling past my ears. But it'll come and go quickly. (Not so for the poor pathetic guy driving it.) Yep – it's that giant maroon Dodge super-cab pickup. Criminy! What a racket! And what a stink!

I love the FEEL of bicycling. The cold in winter and hot in summer – even the wet on those occasional rainy days. Much better than life in a hyperbaric chamber. Sure, it's nice on perfect spring and autumn days… but variety is the spice. I love the "burn" as I ride up a hill, and the exhilaration of coasting down the hill. I love the wind at my back! It feels great to ride – it feels great to stop riding at my destination.

I love the SIGHTS of bicycling. The changing seasons; the treat of a glorious sunrise or a million cotton-ball clouds floating overhead. Sure – you can see some of it through the windshield of a car. (You can see it in the movie theater, too.) But you're more likely to see that big truck you're tailgating.

I love the SOUNDS of bicycling. The faint whirr of the chain and wind-noise – oh, and breathing – are the only sounds I'm generating. I'm not surrounded by materials specifically designed to insulate me from all sounds. So I hear birds, squirrels, the ripple of the river at times, or the breeze in the treetops. Sometimes I'll run over a flattened aluminum can in the roadway, just to hear the clickety-click.

I love the SMELLS of bicycling. (Except for exhaust… which unfortunately sometimes goes with the territory. I ride right past bumper-to-bumper traffic jams… but I have to breathe their stench.) The subtle fragrance of flowers in the springtime. The pungent aroma of fallen leaves in autumn. The intoxicating smell of somebody grilling a T-bone steak nearby. (Women tend to name "vanilla," "jasmine," etc., when asked about their favorite smell. Men lean more toward steaks and cookies.) The best smells (and some BAD smells) can be found out in "the country." There's nothing like riding downwind of a summertime spearmint field, or just-mowed alfalfa.

Motorcycle riders know somethin' - they refer to the cars, SUVs, etc., as "cages." But they don't know ALL of it. You're only part-way there on a motorcycle.

Would I trade my bike-riding experience for 72 climate-controlled degrees, tinted windows, leather upholstery and a cell phone? Nah.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bicycles on the Local News Radar Screen

The fair-weather cyclists are getting their dusty, rusty $89 Wal-Mart Specials down from the hooks in the garage. LOOK OUT!

As more bicycles start showing up on roads and trails in the springtime, the local news takes notice, for a day or two. And that's a good thing.

Natalie Bartley contributed a story in the Statesman about riding safely. One of the major perceptions that keeps more potential cyclists off the road is a perception that it's unsafe... Bartley's suggestions are good ones.

She also refers to the "Street Smarts" booklet, available at local bike outlets (for free). If you prefer the online version, it can be found here. It is an EXCELLENT resource, filled with valuable information. (And I'd also strongly encourage participation in the "Road I" riding course.)

There's also a story about a local cyclist who had an accident early this morning. He was riding mainly on the sidewalk and collided with a turning car. He was injured and cited for failure to yield. THE SAFEST PLACE TO RIDE IS AT THE RIGHT EDGE OF THE TRAFFIC LANE! (AND RIDING WITH TRAFFIC, NOT AGAINST IT!) That is where motorists will see you; if they see you, you're generally NOT going to get run into.

Ride safe!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #7

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement

Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation

This one is somewhat related to #9, "The Environment," but deals with consumption, rather than the side-effects of that consumption. Hopefully my reader can understand the distinction.

One of the enduring lessons I learned from my years in Boy Scouts is – leave a place at least as nice as you found it.

Am I doing that with Mother Earth? (Are you?) Will this beautiful planet be none the worse for the wear, on account of my having been here? I believe that's a meaningful question.

Another concept that relates closely to conservation is that of "sustainability." Am I using resources more quickly than they can be replenished?

Let's compare a bicycle with a Ford Excursion for a moment.

Now, ideally, Ford would want that Excursion loaded with passengers (perhaps even Boy Scouts!) and gear… under those conditions, it's quite an efficient form of transportation. At least way more so than when it's being used to convey Junior Executive and his briefcase, alone to the office. And that seems to be what the vast majority of Ford Excursion trips are for. (The exact same job my bicycle is doing, 'cept I've not attained "junior executive" status, and don't have a briefcase.)

My community – Boise Idaho and surrounding area – is reeling under the impact of thousands and thousands of new houses, out in the sprawl. It's mind-boggling to listen to the radio traffic reports in the morning, and starting by 6:30am, it's already "slow and go" on the Interstate coming into town. There's no relief in sight.

Take a survey. Look at those vehicles. The vast majority (I'd guess 90%, maybe more) each has one occupant. When you figure the fuel burned and the infrastructure required to carry that traffic… can you envision a less-efficient transportation model? It's absurd! (And then many of those drive-alone people complain about traffic! Duh!) And think of the space required to park all those vehicles. That is a LOT of dedicated blacktop!

Also, the price of gas is driven by supply and demand. Naturally, all those single-occupant vehicles cause fuel prices to stay right up there. (So when I have to buy gas, I pay the price that's dictated by everybody else's insatiable appetite for the stuff, rather than my own. But I oughtta quit my whining… I don't buy anywhere near my fair share.)

I like riding a bicycle because, to the best of my knowledge, indeed the earth will be as nice as I found it, when the time comes for me to check out.

(Photo by Dan Burden, from

Oddball Close Encounter

I was headed home yesterday, riding south on 12th Street. I was stopped at the intersection with Idaho Street, waiting for green. A lady came up next to me in a bee-yoo-tee-ful long, low, shiny white Jaguar sedan. I was a little nervous, because her front wheels were turned slightly, as if she might be going right on Idaho (into my path, since I was southbound). But when the light turned green, we both went straight.

She got to the Grove Street intersection ahead of me, and pulled up properly behind the other cars that were waiting. I was approaching from behind.

Suddenly, she decided she was going to turn right (apparently), and rather than wait to get to the intersection, she'd use the space between the traffic lane and the curb. (Which is also the space I've grown accustomed to using… but it's legal for me on a bike, not for her in a car.) So… she pulled right out into my path. (As is fairly typical, she never signaled a right-hand turn. Perhaps you don't need to signal your intentions when you don't know what they are until the last second. Or perhaps those quirky British cars don't have turn signals.)

Now… I'm always wary of that sort of thing happening. That's why I'm still alive and somewhat healthy after so many years in the saddle. So, I grabbed my binders and hollered my traditional horn-substitute "HEY!!!"

Her passenger-side window was part way down, so she heard me. She slammed on her brakes… she was blocking my normal path, but I had room to squeeze between her and the curb, and proceeded on around.

She was obviously upset with me that I had startled her out of her traffic-induced stupor. "Ohhhhh! I didn't even see you!" she whined, in a strange, high-pitched voice. But I got the distinct impression that it wasn't apologetic, but accusatory. Since she didn't see me, I had no right to use my "HEY horn" on her.

I watched warily in my little helmet rearview mirror - she had made me nervous with her unpredictability. But she was soon lost in the traffic far behind.

Monday, March 12, 2007

1000 miles for '07

March 12 is the day I rolled over the odometer to 1000 miles for '07. And a lovely day it was - 70 degrees, gentle breeze from the east. (They talk about Global Warming like it's a bad thing!)

Almost every year, I arrive at 1000 miles by the first half of March, 2000 miles by mid-May.

Also last weekend I removed the "winter" tires and installed the "summer" tires. No studs on either set... but the winter tires are lower pressure and almost twice as wide. The skinny tires are more harsh-riding, no good at all in snow and ice, and are more vulerable to goatheads and such... but the lack of rolling resistance is a beautiful thing! They seem to just kind of skitter along, like a drop of water on a hot skillet.

Gas prices UP!

According to a widely-circulating story in the news this morning, gas prices are up about 20 cents in the last 2 weeks.

The lowest average price is $2.22 (Anchorage); the highest $3.10 (San Francisco). (Based on my ride-by casual observations, the "budget" stations here in Boise seem to be at the low end of the range, at least for now.)

Since I mostly ride a bike, it's mostly just a matter of curiosity for me. The last time I bought gas was just before Christmas, when the Missus sent me to Twin Falls to fetch her momma up here for the holidays.

But if you drive a Hummer or a Ford Excursion... get ready! I'm no Nostradamus, but I'll go out on a limb and boldly predict that gas will be more NEXT summer, than it was LAST summer.

Pickup driver = Neanderthal?

It's totally unfair to stereotype, but we all tend to do it. Pre-judging people based on their appearance or behavior. In this case, I'm talking about stereotyping vehicle drivers.

I tend to stereotype people in pickup trucks as idiot rednecks. More often than not, when I have a negative encounter with a motorist, it's some yahoo in a pickup truck.

Here are some of my most-likely-false assumptions:
- Pickup people can't communicate in strung-together sentences; they use grunts and hollers instead (like when they're dealing with their pigs 'n chickens and such).
- Pickup people are ignorant of the rules of the road… both the legal rules and the rules of common courtesy.
- Pickup people think they own the road. And the bigger, and noisier, and shinier their pickup is, the more ownership they claim.

I was bicycling up Americana Boulevard one day, and some ol' boy in his pickup truck drove up next to me, slowed to match my speed and rolled down the window on the passenger side. Then he began to lecture me about bicycling. I believe it was mostly how I was spoze to be on the sidewalk. (Which immediately proves that he's clueless about the laws and the dynamics of bicycling… and this from a guy who probably hasn't sat on a bicycle for at least 25 years.)

On Saturday, I had a brief encounter with some young Neanderthals-in-training.

I was bicycling on Gowen Road, out behind the airport. Beautiful day, ideal conditions. (It's a fine place to ride, particularly on weekends, because the road is wide and traffic is light.)

Suddenly… I was pelted with dried corn! By some late-teen, early-20s –types… in a pickup truck (duh!). Evidently the bumpkin in the passenger-seat threw a handful of corn at me as they approached me from behind. Which totally surprised me… it's been more than 20 years since somebody last threw something at me as I rode a bicycle. (Orange - and they missed.)

Now, it didn't hurt. (It could have been way worse – you occasionally hear a horror story about juvenile delinquents randomly shooting strangers with paintballs and the like.)

As they drove on, they looked back at me over their shoulders with stupid grins – I'm sure they were expecting me to flip 'em the bird. Huh-huh… huh-huh-huh…

I didn't oblige. I just rode on.

I'm assuming it was pig-food they threw at me, since they looked like and behaved like a bunch of trailer-trash pickup-driving pig farmers.

I resent JERKS ON BICYCLES (those who don't obey traffic laws either due to ignorance or arrogance) because motorists tend to see all cyclists as ignorant, arrogant jerks. And I desire in the worst way to get along with motorists – their vehicles are bigger than mine.

Normal people who choose to drive pickups should resent the fact that so many idiots also choose pickup trucks.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #8

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment

Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement

I'm somewhat a slave to my bike computer. For those of you not familiar, it's a little gizmo about the size of a pocket watch, attached to the handlebars. It keeps track of all sorts of things – miles (both trip and "odometer"), riding time, top speed, average speed, etc.

There's no denying I've slowed down a little since 15 years ago… either that or miles have gotten longer. I used to average 18MPH or so; nowadays it's dropped off by a couple MPH. (Sure, those European elite cyclists would snort with derision... but I figure that's fast enough for a middle-age fat boy.)

The computer generates a certain amount of compulsion to ride as far as possible, and on as many days as possible, etc.

I've set the bar somewhat high. The last time I drove a car to work was September 1997… I certainly can't break that record now!

I felt it in particular – that sense of achievement – on the day I hit 100,000 miles. (PDF)

It's easy to choose bike transportation on a perfect late-spring or early-autumn day. Not so much in mid-winter with temperatures in the single digits, or in the dead of summer with triple-digit temperatures. But it gives me that sense of achievement to do so. Occasionally I get surprised by heavy rain, and arrive at my destination with pants so wet I can wring 'em out, after I pour the water out of my shoes. (When rain is forecast, rather than a surprise, I've got the Gore-Tex.) Even on the wet days, I feel a sense of achievement to be at my destination. (I confess - sometimes it's nice to bike-ride, because it feels so good to stop!)

On those bad days, I'll occasionally get asked, "How can you do that?" Just the question gives me a sense of accomplishment… apparently not everybody can do it. (Or perhaps my cognitive reasoning is being questioned… I don't know.)

Invariably it's asked by a 365-day motorist.

I feel like responding, "How can you do that? Drive your car, even on the most gorgeous days? Put yourself at the mercy of the Oil Barons? Car payments, insurance payments, registration payments? Sit in traffic, five days a week, going and coming?"

Sense of Achievement. I rarely got it driving someplace... but I sure do when I arrive on the bicycle. (And the older I get, the more I'll feel it!!) (-;

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I want this T-shirt

It's available from (Motorcycle) Rider WearHouse, a purveyor of awesome accessories for motorcycle riding. (I love motorcycle riding, although perhaps not quite as much as bicycle riding.)

They suggest, "Try wearing it at a Corvette or hot rod event."

Monday, March 5, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #9

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"

Reason #9 - The Environment

If you believe Algore and his corps of scientists (and frankly I'm quite skeptical), the earth is warming and our warm-living ways are to blame.

Regardless of whether Algore is right, it can't hurt to NOT spew hydrocarbons and toxic stuff into the air we've gotta breathe.

My air* is getting worse. The numbers don't lie. A "yellow-alert" air quality day is when they advise no open burning, limit driving (a joke, right?), people with respiratory difficulties quit breathing 'til it blows over, etc.

- In 2004, we had 48 "yellow or worse" days in Boise.
- In 2005, we had 58.
- In 2006, 83.
- We had 15 in the first 38 days of 2007.
(Source: Federal EPA; State DEQ.)

The air quality is largely dependent on climatic conditions. Normally, the pollution disperses fairly readily. But when the dreaded "inversion" sets in, the bad stuff kinda stagnates in the vally, sometimes for days at a time. If there weren't any bad stuff, it wouldn't stagnate.

According to a DEQ info sheet, "What can you do to help reduce air pollution?", the number-1 thing is "Drive less." Inconvenient truth.

One guy riding a bike compared with thousands and thousands of single-occupant cars, SUVs, pickups, etc. Looking at it that way, it could get discouraging. But… one guy riding a bike for 22 years – has resulted in a LOT less pollution in our air over time.

The operation of a motor vehicle also contributes tires, discarded motor oil and filters, broken parts, and ultimately tons of scrap metal, etc., into the environment. Far as I know, that is another UNDISPUTED "inconvenient truth." (Sure… bike tires and parts get replaced, and bikes eventually get scrapped… but compare the scale.)

It's a good feeling to NOT be part of the problem. So I included it on the list.

* - I call it "my air" because I breathe it 24/7. Most of my time is spent here in Boise, Idaho. I'll gladly share my air with you… but you have as much responsibility as I do to take care of it.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #10

[Over the next month or two, I will attempt to define a "Top Ten List" of reasons why bicycling is my choice in day-to-day transportation, roughly in order of importance. Let's get started.]

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"

Pride is a dangerous emotion.

Ezra Taft Benson explains it this way: "Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We are tempted to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: 'Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.'"

Cyclists regularly get accused of snootiness. Criminy! They ride around on those bikes like they're better than everybody else!

And why not?

They're convinced they're socially superior to all those selfish car-driving slugs, because Algore says so. He says that by giving up the car, they will help delay global meltdown by a few more minutes.

They feel mentally superior, because they haven't fallen for the Madison Avenue TV claptrap that you need a sweet new car (or SUV or pickup) in order to be happy. Those people in their cars, jockeying for position in the daily rat-race? They kinda seem like scurrying rats in a maze. (The stupidest are obviously the ones who punch the gas, so they can be the first ones to the next stop light!) Plus – it takes a certain amount of mental toughness – call it "will power" – to get out there and turn those pedals every day, when it would be so easy to just turn the key, crank on the A/C, and step on the gas.

They obviously feel physically superior. Those balding midlife-crisis guys in their red Corvettes? Those rugged, working-class "git 'er done" macho types, driving around in noisy pickup trucks so high that you need a stepladder to get in? They look like girly-men from the saddle of a bicycle, particularly on a blustery day!

Prideful sentiments indeed. I'm not saying Reason #10 is a good reason to enjoy the bike-transportation choice… but it's a reason.

February Report

I rode 371 miles on my bike last month, on 28 days. I commuted to the office 20 days… 100% bicycle.

My cumulative miles (since 01/1986, when I started keeping track) went over 114,000 in Feb.

(Compared with January, I rode slightly more per day, average. 13.25 miles, compared with just under 13 in January.)

The "shortest" days were likely my 2-mile (round trip) ride to church each Sunday, or possibly running an errand to Walgreen's or Rite-Aid or Fred Meyer (around 1.5 miles round trip). The "longest" days were over 20 miles, under 25 miles. (I keep track using a little Excel matrix, broken down in 5-mile increments.)

I love this time of year, when the conditions are generally getting better all the time. (Of course, March weather is unpredictable in Idaho. In years gone by, it's turned on me. I've stood under a tree, waiting for the torrential downpour to end. Once I was out on Gowen Road in T-shirt and shorts when a freak hailstorm blew up out of nowhere. I was being pelted by half-inch hailstones… and the biggest available shelter was a sagebrush, so I rode on, head down. Pleasure ride? Yeah, right!)

I expect in March 2007 I will ride on 31 days, 22 commutes to the office, 400 or more miles. (Maybe 500, if we get some sunny, warm weekends.)