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Five years by bike

It's been five years since I got the sudden wild idea to buy a bike. Since then I've lost 65 pounds, sold my car, reduced my transportation expenses to $75 a month, let my driver's license lapse, and, in a not-entirely-unrelated development, retired1.

In the same five year period, Portland has gone from the Number One Bike City in the US to lowly Number Four (not by getting worse so much as being surpassed by more ambitious cities). It's still an awesome place to ride, though.

When I started, I was the only overweight, gray-haired lady on a Dutchie in the whole damn place. Now I'm not even the only one on my street. I like to think I had something to do with tipping the balance. It's still a young white guy's game, but not by nearly the margins I witnessed five years ago.

My first bike was Clyde. Though it was kind of a crappy bike (sorry, Clyde), it got me started and made me fall in love.

I upgraded to a Dutch bike, Eleanor, six months later, and we've been happy together ever since. I gave Clyde away this past spring.

In all this time, Eleanor has had a grand total of two flat tires. I've replaced her:
  • Pedals
  • Headlight (from incandescent to LED)
  • Saddle
  • Rear wheel
  • Wheel lock and chain
  • Mud flap (a couple of times)
  • Gear hub (an optional upgrade)
  • Shifter (also an optional upgrade)
  • Brakes
  • Tires
(all of which accounts for that $75 a month average transportation cost).

I've added:
  • A cupholder
  • A bell
  • A rearview mirror
  • A phone mount
  • Three (removable) baskets
  • Christmas lights
I've ridden to:
  • Work
  • Grocery shopping
  • Theaters
  • Community bike-activism meetings (okay, meeting, singular--not really my thing)
  • Concert halls
  • Cinemas
  • Liquor stores
  • Zumba classes
  • Social events
  • Family visits
  • IKEA
  • Landscape nurseries
  • My hairdresser
  • My doctor
  • My dentist
  • My nail salon
  • The hardware store
  • Restaurants
...basically, everywhere I go. Except the airport. I take a taxi to the airport.

I've ridden:
  • In the rain (so much rain)
  • In sleet
  • In snow
  • In ice
  • In the dead of night
  • In 100 degree heat
  • On perfect autumn days
  • In high winds
  • In summer crowds
  • In car traffic
  • In depression (actually what happens is that I ride out of depression)
  • While listening to loud rock 'n' roll
  • With friends
  • Across bridges
  • While under the influence of (very modest amounts of) alcohol
  • With voice navigation in unfamiliar parts of town
In all this time I've never:
  • "Graduated" to racing, competition, or group rides
  • Bought any bike-specific clothes
  • Toured, or gone farther than 20 miles in a day
  • Gone camping by bike
  • Been tempted by mountain biking
  • Collected additional bikes
  • Been in a wreck
  • Looked back

1A not-insignificant contributor to my decision to retire at 58 was my steeply reduced transportation costs.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 3rd, 2014 11:55 am (UTC)
Sep. 3rd, 2014 07:08 pm (UTC)
Sep. 3rd, 2014 02:07 pm (UTC)
I remember Clyde!

Look at you! Such changes! You are still my hero. ♥
Sep. 3rd, 2014 06:13 pm (UTC)
Aww, naw. But thanks. And I adore your Sam and Dean on a tandem icon. <3
Sep. 3rd, 2014 03:57 pm (UTC)
How interesting! What started you thinking about getting a bike in the first place, do you remember? And what is it about a Dutch bike which makes it special?

I'm so impressed with all you've achieved over five years.
Sep. 3rd, 2014 07:07 pm (UTC)
My younger sister has been an avid cyclist (of the touring, racing, and group-riding type) for many years. With her support and encouragement, I eventually took the leap. Riding for transportation in the city required some skills that tooling around the neighborhood as a kid didn't impart. She helped with all that.

The Dutch bike was so perfect for my use-case that I've never found a reason to "collect" other bikes. It's big, for one thing, as am I. It has a step-through frame and upright geometry designed for riding in skirts or overcoats--which stay clean even in wet weather because of the fenders, mud flap, skirt guard, and chain guard. No need for special gear.

It's low maintenance: enclosed drive-train and chain, and enclosed drum brakes, mean they need attention only once a year. Super heavy-duty tires practically never puncture. The steel frame is designed to live outdoors in all weather, handy since there's no way I could bring her indoors.

Safety and convenience features seal the deal for me: a dynamo hub powers the built-in lights so I never have to think about batteries; a built-in locking system means I never forget my key and can always lock up; the brakes never need attention and never squeal; the heavy-duty rear rack can hold about 30 lbs of groceries; and--here's the clincher--there's an absolutely stellar shop not far from home where I can take her for service. I do not work on my own bike, any more than I worked on my own car! I tried it with Clyde and I hated it.

It's kind of the Mercedes station-wagon of bikes.
Sep. 3rd, 2014 09:13 pm (UTC)
Wow! I had no idea; I thought it was just an upright frame. Would I be right in thinking it's a bit heavy for hills?
Sep. 3rd, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
It's a heavy bike, to be sure. The gearing is excellent, and I can get up the hills in low, but it's probably not the bike for a truly hilly environment. If I lived in a really hilly place, I'd opt for a similar bike but with electric assist. The utility features that are important to me add weight, and I'm not likely to find everything I need in a fast, lightweight bike.
Sep. 3rd, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
One other thought on hills: Gearing is more important than the weight of the bike, unless you're racing: the key is whether you can get up a hill, not how fast you can do it. Heavy cargo trikes full of cargo can still get up slopes because a) they have some super-low gears and b) they don't tip over so they can go quite slowly.
Sep. 3rd, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
Love this story!!
Sep. 3rd, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it!
Sep. 8th, 2014 07:09 am (UTC)
I was going to say that I'd LOVE to start biking but our weather - blazing hot, up to 40 to 45C midday with more than 80% humidity and random thunderstorms any time of the day - but then you had rode in rain, sleet, snow, ice and heat so no excuse there, yeah? :)

Go you and go Eleanor!!

Sep. 9th, 2014 12:04 am (UTC)
I certainly couldn't ride in your climate--not without a long period of adjustment! Riding a bike makes its own breeze, but there's a point where the "wind chill factor" just isn't enough. That said, people do ride in tropical and equatorial zones. I've seen pictures. :D I admire them.

My favorite weather for riding is when it's super cold and not too windy. Because riding a bike also generates its own heat.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 24th, 2014 05:48 pm (UTC)
Am I? Thank you!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )



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