Colorado's Bike Month
Sends BRAIN's Columnist
Spinning Down Memory Lane

"I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part."
— Tim Matheson as Eric "Otter" Stratton in National Lampoon's "Animal House"

By Patrick O'Grady

  Bike Month doesn't come to Colorado until June, largely because winter often hangs around through May. And I generally don't pay it much attention, because there's not much I can do in the way of making an honorable sacrifice on behalf of the two-wheeler.

  Working at home means there's no auto commute to forswear in favor of a sweaty ride to the office. In fact, I don't drive that much, and since the Forester gets decent mileage, I gas up infrequently, about every three weeks.

  Still, there are groceries to be fetched, and grog to be gotten, and with regular unleaded at $3.25 a gallon and rising, even an occasional motorist must take notice.

  And then it struck me, while trying to decide which bike to ride the other day, that it has been exactly 30 years since I quit taking the two-wheeler seriously as a means of transportation.

  Here's Your Truck, There's the Road, What's Your Hurry? The occasion was my graduation from college, which had been starting to look like something of a career, sans paycheck.

  Elated that their long educational nightmare was finally over, my parents presented me with a 1973 Datsun pickup, which I instantly drove to Vermont for a job delivering pizzas. So much for the value of higher education.

  But until securing that diploma with the truck attached, I spent years getting around on foot or by bicycle. I rode to school, and to work, but not for fun. I needed to get somewhere, and the bike was how I did it, especially after a mishap involving me, a '64 Chevy and a train rendered me radioactive as far as the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles was concerned.

  Smello Velo. Once I had my license back, something to drive and a slightly more upscale job back in Colorado as a reporter with the hometown newspaper, the bike quickly took a back seat.

  It's one thing to pedal a dozen miles to a night-shift janitorial job, where the only person who has to smell you is you, but it's something else to cycle to a newspaper gig, which may require you to dash at a moment's notice to fire, flood or famine, and look vaguely fresh doing it.

  After I moved over to the copy desk, I rode to work now and then. I didn't have to be anywhere other than the backside of the newsroom, where the public never caught a whiff of me. But turning the key in the Datsun was a whole lot easier than turning over the pedals on the Schwinn, especially in winter, and after a few years and a couple changes of venue the bike got left behind.

  Don't Try This At Home. Some years later, after I got into racing, I did the occasional tub-thumping ride just to make people go, "Ooooh." Like dropping off a truck for service in Pueblo, then cycling back to Westcliffe, a 50-mile ride with about 4,000 feet of vertical in it. "Don't you need a lift?" "No, sir, not me, I need to do a long ride today anyway." That sort of thing. Grandstanding, is what it was.

  And that may be part of what keeps people from seeing the bicycle as a viable form of alternative transportation. It just looks too damned difficult. Or we make it seem so.

  So my sacrifice to Bike Month will be this: I'm gonna park the car for a spell and ride my bike. Not the nifty racing toys (well, them too), but the heavy, utilitarian Bianchi Castro Valley, with its rear rack, Rhode Gear trunk and Shimano dynamo headlight.

  I'm gonna ride it to the grocery and the grog shop, the bank and the bar, in clothes that normal people with unshaven legs might wear.

  If it sounds like a midlife crisis, well, it makes a lot more sense than hair plugs, a Ferrari or a 19-year-old girlfriend. A guy generally has to explain a sudden impulse to cycle more just once to the wife, especially if she's taken to calling him Chubby.

This column appeared in the June 1, 2007, edition of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

u n c o l l a r e d

  "Mad Dog Unleashed" is the column I write for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade mag based in Laguna Hills, California. When I started writing it in the early Nineties it was called "A Consumer's Viewpoint," because while I had spent a good deal of time in bike shops over the years, I had never actually worked in one. Plus it was plain to management that while I was willing to work cheap, I had all the business acumen of a banana slug. The column was rechristened "Mad Dog Unleashed" when it also became apparent that I had a ravenous appetite for the hand that fed me, and over the years it has devolved into a platform for me to expound at length on all the other topics about which I am entirely ignorant. Occasionally bicycles are mentioned.

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