Biking isn’t really my thing

“I don’t really like biking all that much.” I said this the other day at the playground at my daughter’s school and was met with shock and outrage. So I thought I should explain myself.

I bike a lot. Most often, I am riding a bakfiets, with or without my kids. Because I ride an interesting bike, I talk to people every day about my bike. I talk enthusiastically. I love my bike. I feel happy riding it, and I like being noticed on it.

But I don’t really like “biking.” Perhaps that makes no sense, because I’m sort of a biking evangelist. Biking is a big part of how we get around as a carfree family. But here’s the thing. Think of all of the people that you know that own cars. How many of them love cars? Some of them do, but lots of them feel “meh” about cars, and I’m betting some of those car owners actually hate their cars. Cars are just how most people get around, you don’t have to be that excited about them to make use of them.

Bikes are different. Biking as an adult is strictly a recreational or sporting activity for most people. It comes with an obsession with gear and funny outfits. There just aren’t that many utility and family bikers (although our numbers are growing), and that means that most of us had to work hard and obsess a fair amount to find ourselves with the bikes that we use every day. Thus many of the family and utility bikers out there love biking and the biking culture because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have the lifestyle that they have.

On most days I get from place to place by biking on an 80 pound of bike with 90 pounds of kids plus my own weight. Frankly, that seems like plenty to me. I don’t usually want to take a bike ride on the weekend for fun, much to the sorrow of my husband. Weekends are for resting, not biking. I don’t want to think about bike gear. Actually, I do aspire to buy a nice bike for my own non-cargo, non-kid use, something that looks good and doesn’t weigh a million pounds. But I don’t care about the brand or what bells and whistles it might have. Like most car owners, I want transportation that looks nice, works, and isn’t more than I can afford. When it comes time to buy, I’ll talk to my friends and ask Carice at Bicycle Belle for advice.

I don’t want to do group bike rides, or hang out at most bike events. I tend to feel out of place at those because of the whole not-really-into-bikes thing. I do enjoy talking to other people who have a similar relationship to biking, like Stacy Bisker of A Simple Six, who I got to meet and chat with the other day. I have enjoyed the family biking events that I have been involved in, which have given me a chance to connect with other people in a similar boat.

So what do I want out of biking? I want roads that are safe for me, and that are built with my needs as a biker in mind. I want a bike that is comfortable to ride in the city, one that fits my small body, has a step-through frame, and lets me haul kids and other stuff. I want to be able to occasionally hang out and swap stories with other people that ride like me, because it’s the way they get around town. I want to sometimes ride my bike in a parade.* I have many of these things, and I am grateful for them, even if biking isn’t really my thing.

Woman on a bike made up to look like a boat

*This is what I love about biking

About Angela

Angela is an associate professor of mathematics and enjoys writing, reading, and talking to people about her bike. She's the proud mother of two cute kids, H and R.
This entry was posted in Biking, Biking with cargo, Biking with kids and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Biking isn’t really my thing

  1. John_on_central says:

    I am with you 100%. Despite being male and having a beard (sometimes) I couldn’t care less about recreational rides, rider breakfasts (though nice, I am always out of place, even at the Boston City Hall ones) etc. I ride like a mile on the weekend if that (usually use the bus or ride part way and take the bus the rest), only to get to the hardware store or over to the Whole Foods because I don’t feel like walking. I do about 100mi a week purely commuting. I am perhaps a bit more officially engaged than you (soon to be chair of the Bike Advisory Committee here in Newton) but my background is planning and I coordinate a health policy program for another community. I love my bike and am interested in upgrades if it means better lighting, a comfier ride, or I can carry more stuff. Weight? don’t know and don’t really care.

    Keep riding, we need cycling to become like owning a vacuum (I believe the Dutch use that comparison), there will always be folks who get the Dyson but really most folks are fine with whatever they got from Target or Sears.

    On an unrelated note, spoke with a very nice Dutch woman cycling in Downtown boston this morning on the two wheeled box bike (though not a Christiania Bike I was corrected…) She prefered the stability of 2 wheels in front for her larger kids (which maybe had just been dropped off?) there are more and more upright bikes and proper cargo bikes every day, and the great folks at Bicycle Belle will be putting more on the road every day!

  2. Charlie says:

    I agree as well. I love biking to get around, and I love my bike since it serves me better than any bike I’ve owned so far, but I’m not really into biking culture. I find most group rides to be kind of annoying either because the group is too fast or too slow or stops too much. I don’t want to ride long distances on weekends just to ride after having biked all week. (If the plan is to actually bike to a new destination, then I may consider it.) Bike-related events are okay, but even then I don’t find them all that exciting. I just like to bike to get around and do everything I need to do. That gives me the most pleasure.

  3. John Bailey says:

    Funny you wrote this now because just this week I put my road bike for sale after realizing that I don’t particularly enjoy recreational riding. I’d rather have the money than the bike. I’ve spent two decades using a bike for commuting and other day-to-day needs, which I still love especially when it can keep us to a one-car family. (A move to the midwest five years ago and a second kid shoved us into two cars for the last three years, but that second car lease will not be renewed Dec. 17!)

    While I’ve always been an advocate for better and safer biking, I’ve never gotten or understood biking culture. I’ve had those same interactions with the people you are talking about. In fact, one time somebody was shocked that I wasn’t watching the Tour de France! He just assumed I would since I bike to work so I must be into “cycling.” I certainly have great respect for the athleticism of the event, but the idea of sitting down and watching has to be stilltifyingly dull.

  4. EC says:

    Ha! Great post, Angela. Like a lot of people who use bike for most trips, I actually do love biking, but is important to know that you don’t have to love it to do it!

  5. Thank you for expressing what I think is a widespread sentiment. I have biked a lot since childhood, am 51 now, and still use my bike almost exclusively for errands or destinations that are under 10 miles from my house. If I don’t have a destination — a cafe, shop, meeting up with friends, or visiting my elderly dad — I don’t usually take my bike out for a spin. When every couple of weeks I go for a sight-seeing run — park, beach, etc. — I really enjoy that too. But I could never fathom the long road-biking treks. I did one 100-mile ride at age 17. I was in terrific shape, ran 50+ miles a week, and the scenery was gorgeous for just me and my friend to enjoy in those pre-road-biking-adult times. It was not physically taxing at all for us at that age. Yet, I never felt drawn to it again. Would rather hike quietly or sit and watch animals and birds off trail. As for biking culture — it feels alien to me. Nothing wrong with it, just not for me.

  6. Cafiend says:

    When I started adult bike commuting (out of school, working for a living) in 1979, I also delved into racing and had hopes of some long-distance touring. My interest in racing didn’t last, even though I had a resurgence in about 1990. My “training” was more like touring anyway. At the same time I was doing that I rode my bike to whatever job I had.

    As my job situation evolved I ended up working in a bike shop as a mechanic, starting in 1989. The mountain bike boom was just really boiling up into an ugly stew of frenzied design and marketing increasingly intended simply to separate consumers from money. I love biking. I hate the bike industry. At least I hate the part that derives its business model from cocaine: get ‘em hooked and make ‘em pay to keep getting high.

    Not every new development is garbage, but one should assume it is and then investigate. Most of it is poorly thought out and almost none of it is built to last. “Cycling” in many ways is the antithesis of what bicycling used to be. You used to buy a bike to be your friend for life. With good car and a bit of luck you could own and enjoy the same one for 20 years or more. I know that doesn’t keep the cash flowing for the industry, but maybe they need to rethink their role in society and start offering lasting value. Put their corporate weight behind improvements in infrastructure and education rather than simply trying to create addicts and strip them of cash.

  7. Mark Brewster says:

    I just have to politely disagree.

    I’m a carfree Dad/Uncle, with blended/extended family under my roof, and ALL of my travel (except for the ’round-the-corner Walgreens’ for treats for the kids) is by pedaling I commute, pay bills, take the kids to lunches, go to the park — all of it. And this past summer saw our rides go down for two reasons: 1.) I developed a bone spur on my right heel, costing me some recovery time; and 2.) my 10-y-o nephew grew to start using the rides as an excuse to indulge in some money-spending stop, rather than a ride for the pure pleasure of it.

    I will still check into various group rides, and take multiple 3-4 hour jaunts on my own every spring/summer/fall. It’s this simple: I’vve lived quite a few places, but I’m HOME on the bike.

  8. Stacy says:

    Oh this is refreshing to read. I am so happy you followed through with this post!

    It was an eye opener at Kidical Mass this weekend when I told those gawking at my bike that this is it, these are the bikes we own. We are not hobbyist. We are simply making choices that lead us to alternate transportation that happens to be joyful. As I waited endlessly in the bus today, I was longing for the bike, because it is truly most efficient. Even the 3yo agreed.

    Thanks for taking the extra time out of your Saturday for us. I could have stayed all weekend taking in the sights and marveling over Boston, big city, life.

  9. Lisa C says:

    Well put! I’m going to use the car/driving analogy when I explain our car free life to drivers… :-)

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  11. Joann says:

    I would love to get some bike buying advice from someone who doesn’t particularly like bikes but wants to use one to commute. I would like to buy one that I can use for short trips around town, but my bike fanatic friends assure me that I cannot make do with a bike from Walmart or Dicks Sporting Goods, and need to spend $400-$500 to get a decent basic bike.

    And I am hesitant, because I’m not sure whether I will use it enough to justify the expense, but I also don’t want to have one that’s so bad that it makes me not like it. What to do?

    • Angela says:

      I would look around for a used bike shop in your area. They will likely be knowledgeable about what you would need to bike in your area, and you’ll be able to get a setup for cheaper that you otherwise would. Another option might be to see if you can borrow a bike for a while, so you can get a sense if you will really use it. It is definitely possible to spend way to much on a bike that you won’t really use that much, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to necessarily throw a smaller amount of money on a bike that won’t hold up well. You may find that you want to spend $500 or so on your next bike, but I’d try not to do that right out of the gate, since you have no idea what you’ll really need! My husband’s bike was passed on to him for free by a friend and had already been through several owners and it is still going strong — its a crappy bike, but its a crappy bike that’s well used which makes it a great bike :)

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