so today i rode over to the grocery to pick up some things for the rest of the week. As i pulled up some guy asked me with fair amount of snark in his voice, "hey is that one of those bikes that pedal for you?" I looked up from locking miss Abigail Lucile to the awkward bike rack (seriously who thought this was a good design??? (Photo: Brian Eustis via Bike Portland) The big clunky square posts are really awkward to lock to and even harder to get more than one bike per rectangle even with one bike per side. but i am rabbit trailing...)
He was probably in his late 40's or early 50's,wearing all black and a well worn (i think band) t-shirt, unlocking his bike, which was what looked to me like a pretty basic hybrid or sport/mountain bike covered in dings and stickers with chipped paint; seemingly well loved and often used.
"No, just me and my 40lb behemoth. " I replied, smiling. I am wearing a high pouf of a messy bun on the top of my head, a pale teal tank and light weight cream cardigan, capri's and mary jane shoes, looking pretty girly overall. He then switched his tone from slightly patronizing and condescending to more of an 'oh hey, i guess you're cool' and said "Oh good, good. that's good. It's good that you just pedal"...I thought your bike might weigh about as much as mine but it might even be a bit more"
I think to myself, "ok, i'll talk to you for a bit." So i say, "It's heavy but solid and gets me where i need to go and I can carry what i need to. There is actually a bike shop in town that does make electric assists for bikes, Clever Cycles. I believe they switch on once your pedaling gets slow enough. I think they made them with cargo bikes in mind so if you have a big box bike with kids and groceries or whatever you are hauling you can make it around better."
"Well, for those people that's fine, i'll grant them they can use something like that but..."
"Um, yeah. Hmm". He hops on his bike and nods to me and into the store i go...
So this little exchange, while not terribly mean or confrontational or anything really got me miffed. Why is it that everything is a contest of power and legitimate-ness? It's not a physical contest. It's not a race and no one will be giving out ribbons on who was the most manyly/badass/powerfull/athletic...
A bike is a means of transport. In my opinion a way more fun, enjoyable, prettier means, but still, just getting me around. So make it work for you. If you are concerned with the ecological aspect, yeah it's great when people make some or all car trips by bike instead. The social one, yup bikes are cheaper to purchase and maintain than cars so are more accessible for more people. They make cities cleaner and quieter by reducing car trips...yup, they are great. But bottom line, a tool that is useful for getting people places. So if you need an electric assist to make the bike more feasible for you, then do it. it's still cheaper/more ecological/cleaner/quieter than a car. Given the choice you wouldn't drive around a tiny 2 door sedan if your life needed a big huge truck for hauling things around would you?
But oh wait, that can't be right. It must be that they are solely sport machines for the sole purpose of showing everyone how superior you are. Made for only the best people. the morally more upright, physically superior, smarter, and if i ride one then i too am in the right and should look down on anyone else who doesn't use one or who uses one with pedaling assist attached...
The following is what i said to the guy in my head as i mulled the whole conversation over while walking through the store getting dinner groceries. warning, snark ahead...
"hey is that one of those bikes that pedal for you?" - no. just a bike.
"It's good that you just pedal." - and if I did have an assist on my bike i'm suddenly in the wrong? Less of "cyclist"? lame? a poseur? Would you rather have me move to a traditional or electric car rather than make my bike work for what i need it to? And if i also own a car or used to? Or use a zip car sometimes when i need to or just don't want to ride? What am I then, oh man who gets to deem everything right or wrong or cool or lame?
"I thought your bike might weigh about as much as mine but it might even be a bit more" - yeah, my bike weighs a fair bit more than yours i'd guess and that's before the hefty front rack and basket are counted in, not to mention how much weight is added by library books/groceries/whatever i am carting around for the day. Oh yeah and while we're having a flop our wieners up on the table and measuring them contest, i personally probably outweigh you by about 75lbs... so yeah mine's bigger.
end of snark. thank you. we will now be returning to our regularly scheduled cute kittens/pretty things/crafting schedule... (seriously, click those links, i think you'll like them)