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Sunday, April 20, 2008
Well, it should be. For those expecting a How-To article, bad news, this isn't it. Be warned, I'm pulling the soap box and I'm about to vent. So either you go back to Google or get yourself a drink and read on.
Back in January I participated in a "Bike Show" protest type of event outside the building holding the annual car show. I found it was a neat idea to have such an event in the cold of winter and decided to join in. The event was a lot of fun and to my surprise a lot of people attended. It was great to see that the City had some real hardcore people that believed in the cause. I figured if such an event was held for real during the warmer months in a more convenient venue, it would be awesome. Will it did happen this week end, a lot of people showed up, it was great with lots of cool bikes and...I missed it! No ones fault but mine. I tried to do three different things in one day, I planned my day poorly, got lost like an idiot and finally showed up when every body was packing.
This is where, in a nanosecond, this article was born. When I got there with my daughter, we were riding our scooters back from our first club ride. The looks we got from some of the attendees would have made you think we had just slaughtered a beluga whale or dumped a ton of bunker oil right there on the pavement!
We recently managed to pay off our big gas guzzling mini van that my better half loves profusely and that I hate with a passion. Our current situation makes it so that living without a car is impossible. I tried to motivate my honey to bike to work, but it just didn't happen. I even forked the bucks for an electric assist bike, but to no avail. After getting my daughter her scooter last summer, I figured that it would be a much better idea to get one for me and my wife so it could be used for her to go to work and for distant errands instead of the pos mini van. Using the scooter 7 months a year would also stretch the life of the gas guzzler so we wouldn't have to buy another car for a while. Being a newbie at scooting, joining a club is a great way to network, get educated and having some fun. low and behold, my sweetheart is crazy about it and now we will burn 10 times less fuel during those 7 months. Trust me, the fact that I managed to pull this off is close to a miracle, she just loves that mini van!
So by now you're thinking, "what's this got to do with bike advocacy?", absolutely everything. Those looks reminded me that bike advocacy has in it's mist some, willing and unwilling, snobs. Bike advocates are a great bunch, I know a lot of them. Some might say that they aim for Utopia and that's fine. Ever heard of somebody working hard to get to the middle of anything? Neither have I. However, this can be harmful to the cause where people can become purists and expect everybody else to do so. What happens is that the masses get pushed aside unless they completely adhere to the philosophy and the movement just slows down to a crawl.
Bike advocacy must appeal to the masses because the masses are the target, not just a few people who are willing to change their way of life completely overnite. If you keep going in this direction, you'll be preaching just to the choir pretty fast. What the movement needs to do now is to look at the "enemy" and start doing what they do, appeal to the masses. Wally World and the such use mass appeal to get people to buy crap and people do because it's easy. Anybody is welcomed to go in there and throw there money on stuff they don't really need, it's cool, it's great and it's fun. Is it really? Of course not, but people think it is. On the other hand, biking is easy and fun...I mean for real. There's half the selling job already done.
Bike advocates must welcome anyone that is willing to throw a leg over a bike, even if it's once a week. Why should we care if they don't recycle every thing at home or still drive the car because it's raining? Habit comes with use and those people might change their ways in a not so distant future. Even if they don't, at least they will have made a contribution where none was present before. A war is won with many little battles as well, not just big ones.
If you are an open minded bike velorutionary and welcome every one to the fold, I admire you and support you. I do hope that there are many of you out there and I tend to believe that there is. As for the bike advocate snobs, stop it! You are putting the tire pump in the spokes of a great and necessary movement. Sell biking, not how we should be living.
I shall now step off the soap box, peace.
p.s. The scooter has in no way killed off my passion for bikes. If anything it reminded me that you are totally free on a bicycle.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Bicycle maintenance is always important, but at some point it becomes necessary to organize yourself a regular, if not yearly, routine. Case in point, I recently had an interesting discussion with one of my readers, I will call him Robert (That's his bike in the picture by the way), who met this nice French woman, moved to France, ditched his car and started using his bike to get around everywhere. Now Robert, not his real name, is faced with the fact that his bike needs some well deserved maintenance and attention.
If you decide that your bicycle will become a more regular means of transportation in your life, there are some things you have to be willing to do. Now that your bike is not in the same category as lawn furniture priority wise, it is time to look after it with more regularity. When a bike is just used for recreation once and awhile, people take them to the shop or replace them when they break down. What you have to realize is that a well taken care of bicycle can last you a lifetime.
Chain lubrication should be attended to at least once every season and twice that if it sleeps outdoors (step AWAY from the WD40, use real bike chain lubricant). Schedule rear brake cable replacement at least once a year. If the cable is still good, rotate it to the front brake and get rid of that cable. Check your brake pads if they need to be replaced, rotate them fornt to back once a year. Rotate your tires front to back once a year to make them last longer. If you do any kind of serious mileage, replace your chain once a year. Take a look at your derailleur cables and schedule replacing if they are rusted or frayed, rotate them as well if you can. Put a dab of lubricant on every piece of exposed metal at least once a year and spot paint any paint chips on the frame. These task can be done by anyone with very basic tools. The only special tool needed in what I mentioned in this paragraph is a chain tool, you should definitely have one of those and carry it with you when you ride. Trust me it will pay for itself the first time you bust your chain in the middle of fraking nowhere! Clean your bike once a week, dirt is it's enemy. I use lemon Pledge furniture polish, it's a degreaser, it leaves a protective coat of wax so dirt doesn't stick on my frame, it makes the finish look very shiny and it smells nice too(make sure you don't spray any on your drivetrain, it will absolutely remove any lube you have on there).
Now you can always go for the big jobs like re-greasing all the bearings on your bike once a year. This will require some specialized tools and the knowledge dispensed elsewhere in this blog. If your are not confident enough to do the work yourself, don't despair, just farm out the work to your local bike shop. Since you are educated about the needs of your ride, you can be more specific about the work you want done to it and it will save you time and money.
Lastly, make simple verifications on a regular basis. A loose nut and bolt here and there is quickly fixed and will prevent bigger problems down the road. Also check your tire pressure once a week, you are the propulsion system and even 1 psi too low will affect how hard you have to crank those pedals.
When you own a car, you are a slave to it working long hours to pay the monthly bills that it generates, but with a bike it is the reverse. It is so low maintenance and low cost that it serves you. However, keeping it in good running order will make it happy and you as well in return.
Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.