Tuesday, February 22, 2011

10W/30 Is The Drug

Yesterday on my commute home from work, I crashed on the bicycle shown here on an icy patch going downhill at about 20mph. I'm okay, just a wee bit sore, and I knarfed the bar tape, but otherwise, everything is fine.

Why is all of the above important to this discussion? Because 95% of Americans (a) couldn't ride to work on a bicycle, (b) and even if they could, they wouldn't unless the weather was "perfect", and (c) if they did and crashed, most would give up cycling forever. (Assuming they weren't injured for life anyway.)

Why is that true? Well, all you have to do is go out to your garage, driveway, or street, peek inside a vehicle, and see that the creature comforts and opulent luxury we all can have at our disposal is head and shoulders above the suffering one must accept and become accustomed to in order to ride a bicycle. It is much more enticing and serves our sensual natures to simply give over to the siren call of the automobile. Cultural heroin, it is, and you have to be outta yer tree if you think "America" is giving up on that drug easily. No sirree!

Many years ago I was invited to go see the Swedish Royal Treasures at a museum in Minneapolis. It was the first time any of these artifacts had ever been seen outside of Sweden's borders. It was an amazing experience. I saw the actual battle mask of Gustavus Vasa, replete with notches and scars, presumably from enemy swords and spears wielded at close quarters. There was also a Royal Carriage. Now mind you, this was a country that at one time was considered one of the richest in the world, and certainly in Europe. This was no ordinary carriage.

Be that as it may, it pales in comparison to the coddling a driver gets in a modern F-150 pick-up. The King bounded down unpaved roads, or rough cobbles in a cabin not sealed against the elements, and certainly not with his own personal symphony, communication devices, and cup holders. Heck, the King had to scour the countryside for a worthy cup holder he could trust, while the F-150 has several of them. (Another job lost to "high technology", alas!)

Yes- we are rich beyond measure, and our chariots prove as much, not to mention the rest of our accouterments. Why, if your 3G phone fails you almost would think the whole world was going to crumble. Can't download that You Tube video? Feeling frustrated? Really?

I've been reading a lot about how the predicted gas price increases are going to "force people out of their cars and on to bicycles, mass transit, and other forms of alternative transportation".

Ahh................no. Not without a big, huge fight. People will throw hissy fits, asking the government to "fix" the problem, and will claim that their "rights" are being infringed upon. Just wait and see. If oil runs out, gets scarcer, or is limited in supply, America is going to whine, and if you think we're "soft" now, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. It'll get ugly before anybody takes to a bicycle by "the forces of price", as some suggest.

I mean really, how many non-cycling Americans are going to ride to work on a bicycle in 33 degree temperatures with mist, sleet, and snow blowing in their faces in late February? (Besides me) I'm betting most would rather die first, and the sad thing is, many have, and perhaps many will, just to insure our "right" to be little kings and queens addicted to 10W/30.


Wally said...

Funny, I was just making plans, plotting actually, how to incorporate my bicycles more into transportation versus riding for enjoyment, or fitness. i'll still ride for those reasons but I want to use my legs to get places when I can this year.
Yes, as the US currency devalues prices across the board are going to rise. The US will be lucky to remain the world reserve currency but as it does prices across the globe will stabilize meaning ours here will increase. I am very interested in seeing how this affects our spoiled population. Too many it will seem incredible but the government will not be able to do anything and I guess that too will start people thinking about why. These next years will be telling for sure. So I'm plotting how long a ride it is to Iowa from here :)

Bill G said...

Amen Brother - keep on preaching it. When I see a fellow commuter (which in Buffalo, NY there are not many of them) I go out of my way to say hi.

Glad you are ok and the bike survived.

Joe said...

Another epic post!!! You nailed it!!!!!

Dave said...

Very well said.

MG said...

Gnarfed... That's a funny word. Sorry to hear you bit it brother, but thanks for keeping it all in good humor, and also trying to put it into perspective of the larger picture.

You're so right... You could have easily become one of those people who "used to ride a bike... until I had a nastee wipeout that day in Feberaraaaaay."

I love the fact that, on sketchy days I actually feel safer on a bike than I do in my car.

And no, people are not going to HTFU and get onto bikes in zero degree weather common in winter in the northern half of the US... Heck, forget 30 degrees! And I know a lot of cyclists who consider themselves "hardcore" who don't ride when it's 30 degrees...

You can only control your own destiny and hope it inspires the actions of others, but that truth is an empowering fact.

You're doing good work. Have a great day. Feel better. I hope your body and bike aren't too banged up.


FlatSlide said...


Glad to hear you are none the worse for wear. Ice, 20mph, and bicycle tires are a sketchy mixture to say the least. Once our perspective gets re-set in the way you just re-set mine, it is amazing how spoiled rotten we see ourselves as being. As the old saying goes..."thanks, I needed that!!!!"

Will said...

A set of studded tires would cure the ice problem, Cedar Falls is extremely talented at hiding ice when you least expect it.

paxtoncoyote said...

Funny you mention the coach from Sweden as my daughter has been living there since last July & has most likely seen the same coach in a museum over there (she has seen a lot) she has rode a bike to school, to the store, to "fika" (Swedish for coffee break) & to meet friends. Now she is more rural & utilizes the bus/train more in winter but she always comments to me how most families over there only own 1 small car & most bike a majority of the time. She will be 18 when she returns this summer & has told me many times her disinterest in obtaining a driver's license (something she never got around to before she left) or her lack of interest in owning a car!

now what miffs me is I live in a town of 600 & you can stand in the middle of town & throw a rock & nearly hit the country yet folks fire up their big SUV's to drive the kids to school, go to work a block away or go to the store or cafe/bar, makes no sense to me yet I witness it DAILY! I don't ride a bike to work as my workplace is a block away, I walk it then when I get home in the evening I get on my bike & ride out to the country & ride to the store for groceries, or to the local winery for a glass of wine with the wife or to school for kids stuff yet folks look at me funny when I'm biking & it's cold, snowy, dark, whatever like I'm CRAZY! I got news for them, THEY'RE THE CRAZY ONES for pissing all their $$$ away on driving their wheels off in a one-horse town!

Yep, they just can't even try to step out of their comfort zone or get off their asses & at least TRY IT! I've got to admit, I'm DAMN PROUD of my daughter & the way she is thinking now!

saddle up said...

Rule 9:
If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.


oldmanandhisbike said...

Until i moved West this past Fall, i was unfortunately one of those who only bike commuted to work when it was "nice" or i didn't have a meeting out side the office. Never in the winter (it was 21 miles one way back then) unless by winter you meant a odd, 40 degree day with sunshine and clear roads.
I have done my share of biking, crashing and getting back up again too. That would never deter me from riding. But the luxuries of the automobile are sweet and convienent and relatively painless.
Until i came to the pacific northwest (seattle). I drove one day to work and back and i was so pissed off i immediately signed up for a bus pass and started planning my bike commuting routes.
The bus has been a savior and as soon as the rainy season is done (and we get a little light in the night sky after work!), i will either be riding my bike or the bus every day. Because i enjoy it, because it's good to take another car off the road and ultimately, because it saves me money. a lot of money. money for parking, gas, wear and tear on the car and monthly payments to a psychiatrist to listen to me vent about the absolutely stupid people on the way to work!
keep preaching to the choir and the unwashed (and unbruised!) alike. i am right behind you. in your draft. wheelsucking. it is so much easier that way!