Check out my beautiful new bicycle! (New to me, that is! I purchased it “gently used” from a lady whose husband bought her too tall a bike. BTW the buy-sell area of the NextDoor app is wonderful for buying other people’s great used stuff, selling your used stuff you don’t need … and meeting your neighbors in the process!)
Until a few days ago, I had been without a bicycle for 2-3 months. During that period, I just pretty much went everywhere on foot. If I couldn’t get there on foot, I didn’t go.
My bicycle is my car! This was the longest I had gone without a bike in my life. I didn’t set out to go without wheels for so long. In fact, if you’d asked me “Could you do without a bicycle?” I’d have answered “No way!”
But somehow, inertia set in, and one day turned into months. I was having trouble deciding whether to get my existing bike fixed (it had broken down bigtime), buy a new one, or (my usual favorite option) buy a good used one. But none of the used ones I was seeing were grabbing me. So it was that a short-term circumstance ended up turning into an interesting longterm experiment — which ended up bringing many rich yields!
First, I walked more. Upped my mileage; got a bit more fit. Which is important because out-of-shape-ness has sort of crept up on me, and I want to keep my body fit and strong. I’m using it! For my own good, as well as for the good of people I’m trying to help, my body needs to be in shipshape working order, not be slow and heavy and creaky.
Also, I saw more details. Riding a bicycle, you see more detail than if you were speeding by in a car. And walking is even slower (4mph if I’m really booking it), so I see even more detail.
And, I ended up meeting more people.
And, I got more knowledge about which roads are seriously in need of shade trees.
And, I noticed that walking, while it’s more work than cycling, can also be less stressful because instead of being out there on the road dealing with cars, I’m a pokey pedestrian on the quiet backwater of the sidewalk.
My new bicycle is a sleek beauty. Single-speed like my previous one, but with skinny tires. A road bike rather than a commuter bike. Unlike my old bike, it only has one brake, a front brake. This makes the rear tire easier to remove, which is good for two reasons: 1) because back tires go flat more often, and not having a brake there makes it easier to take off the wheel and change the tube; and 2) because the back wheel can be flipped over to turn the bike from a freewheeling coaster into a “fixie.” This makes it safer to just have one brake. Riding in freewheel mode with just one brake felt a little sketchy to me.
Today after flipping it into fixie mode I started out doing an easy errand on flat terrain, then advanced to riding down the steep slope of the ISB bridge. (Which I refer to as one of the Daytona Alps.) I was gratified to find that I only needed to wuss out and use the hand-brake for a couple of seconds at one point on the downhill; otherwise I was completely able to moderate my speed just via that essential fixie skill of using the rear wheel to slow down.
A single-speed skinny-tire bike is super lightweight. Ah, I am finding it so refreshing!! I had become so dependent on having panniers and baskets to carry pounds and pounds of stuff. But I think I’ll do without for awhile, and just carry groceries and such on my back. I am loving it so far.
For heavy hauls and long-distance trips, I’m considering a Burley cargo trailer. They are very lightweight. Interestingly, the only solo multi-day bike trip I’ve ever taken, a six-day trip from Austin TX to Santa Fe NM, was on a road bike towing my stuff on a Burley. You wouldn’t think a road bike could be used for that but it was actually great.
Or I could be the wheeled version of my minimalist travel hero Ray Jardine, who routinely hiked the PCT for three weeks at a time, or more, with an 8-pound backpack!
Since long-distance public transport does not feel like a good idea right now, I’m exploring my options for traveling by bicycle to visit faraway loved ones. I would probably start with a trip across the state to the farm of some fellow permaculture folk.
Then who knows: By summer, I might even be fit enough to make the 759-mile trip to my family in Virginia. (I have already mapped it out on paper.)