Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A quick look back at my commuter bikes

I'm a little bit obsessive about bicycles. I like to think that it's because of the experiences they afford me, but I'm also a gearhead. In the stone age, I'd be the guy who was stoked about the discovery of flint, and could tell you about all the different kinds. I've been commuting on bikes, on and off, for thirteen years. I've been riding mountain bikes for nine or ten and riding road bikes almost as long. I entered my first race, a cyclocross race in 2000 or 2001. Lately, I tend to ride bikes for from five to fifteen hours a week, depending on how much time I have for fun riding and where I'm working.

I've tried a couple of different setups for commuting on bikes. In high school, it was a road bike converted with flat bars for a while, and a hybrid for a while. In college, it was a mountain bike with a rack and panniers, then a touring bike with panniers, then a touring bike but wearing a messenger bag. Discovering messenger bags was a revelation - suddenly I could stabilize a load on my back, lower than a backpack, and still ride in an athletic position. In New York, I rode a stripped-down ten speed converted with a BMX driver.

Here in Seattle, I have a mid-'80s road bike with a rack and wire baskets, and wear a messenger bag but put heavy items, like hand tools, in the baskets. I think that I've got the cycle commuting thing fairly dialed for my circumstances now, so when someone tells me they've got a better way, I tend to doubt them. My bike can't carry as much as a longtail, but I can get it upstairs. It may weigh more than a bike without permanently installed baskets, but I can't forget to bring my pannier and I don't worry about them being stolen. It's not as fashionable as a fixie, but I value my knees. It's not as comfortable to sit on as a cruiser or a hybrid, but when I had to commute twenty miles to a far-ish gig while my truck's brakes were out, it was up to the task. Some days, I decide I want to go for a bit of a cruise on my way home and it's a fun enough bike that I can do that and enjoy it, and that's a big part of why I commute on a bike - because I enjoy riding bikes.

Specialized, who made my mountain bike, have a new brand of bikes and I have to admit that most of why I'm writing this post is that I want one. The Big 'S' is going to give some of their new line to bloggers, and one of their bikes is very very close to my idea of the ideal commute/utility bike for someone like me - something I can ride to work, with a bag of hand tools and a drill on the racks and off my back, use to pick up groceries, and still enjoy riding. They seem to think they've come up with a product like that and I think it would be cool to try one. If it's actually better than my current setup... So far I've got two of my friends onto different bikes because they believed me when I told them they'd be better than their previous rides. They both seem pretty happy with them too.

I don't think that having a different bike would necessarily change my life. I think I'm already pretty minimal about how I use my truck. But if it really is better than what I have right now, I won't hesitate to say so.

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