Friday, November 9, 2007

love on two wheels

With the price of oil at $96 a barrel, I've been thinking now might be as good a time as any to make a serious effort to cut back on the driving. Since the spring, I've been keeping my brother's bike around, but I have to admit I haven't really been using it. It's a big-box mountain bike and I find it a little hard to ride in any useful capacity.

On top of that, the neighborhood food co-op is only a few blocks away. Walking there is easy...walking back with the groceries, not as easy. But I feel like such a tool every time I drive there.

I knew what I wanted. A basic, all-purpose bike for getting around. Not too cheaply manufactured, but not an expensive newfangled city bike with lots of bells and whistles. Well, actually, a bell might be good. But anyway, what I wanted was a simple and tough vehicle like the ones people use in cities with lots of bike traffic (e.g. cities in China and some parts of Europe). Fenders to keep the mud off, a chain guard to keep my pants leg from getting caught. For me, it's not a sport; it's a way to get from one place to another wearing normal clothes without burning up some more fossil fuels.

The better bike manufacturers all have some sort of "city" or "commuter" model available. And I'm sure they're great if you have a few hundred dollars or more to throw around. Trek recently unveiled the iMac of bikes, an automatic shift machine called the Lime. I have to confess that I think these are really cute, and they've sort of got the right idea with their "everyone can ride!" ad campaign. And the idea of automatic shift (powered by an on-board generator) is pretty neat. But oh, the sticker shock once again! Guess not everyone can ride.

You knew where this was going...Craigslist to the rescue! Today I took the bus and the Metro down to Alexandria during off-peak hours and picked up a 70s-era steel-frame Schwinn Collegiate. Not the fanciest, not all-terrain for sure, but it's got fenders, a chain guard, and a kickstand. I rode it home from the Metro in a chilly drizzle and I wasn't miserable. And it's my favorite color!

Pictures forthcoming on a prettier day. I've got some big basket panniers to attach, too. Perfect for all those groceries.

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