Over the past two days I have been cycling a lot around town on various errands. It's been cold but sunny, and the roads are entirely clear of snow. Cycling down a main road, I often get the feeling that I just want to keep going and going, picking up speed until I am faster than all the cars and not stopping until I reach some mysterious far-off place, like Western Massachusetts. Alas, there were errands to do.
One nice thing about winter cycling, is the availability of bike parking. In the summer, all the bike racks next to or even near the post office are usually full. But nowadays I am one of the few bicycles there.
Interestingly, the racks outside my favourite grocery store are full even in winter. When I came out of the store, there was a woman waiting for me next to my bike who wanted to ask some questions about it. She was riding a "winter bike" - an aluminum mountain bike with very wide knobby tires - and complained that it was much too slow, and that the chain often came off. How was mine? I summarised for her everything that I've described here, and she was excited - until she asked me about the price. She then told me that she is "not in a position to afford a bicycle in that price range". I asked how much her winter bike cost. The price she told me was 60% of what my Pashley cost. I decided to leave it at that, rather than get into a long conversation about "value".
This was one of several unexpected velo-conversations with strangers that I've had over the past few days. The second one happened when I was stopped at a red light. A cyclist on a road bike pulled up next to me, said hello, and asked whether I was riding an electric assist bike. "Oh no, it's just a regular bike," I said - secretly offended that someone would even think it was electric assist. He then asked what the hub on my front wheel was for, and I explained about dynamo-powered lighting. This seemed to be a new concept for the roadbike cyclist and he was pleased to learn about it.
I wonder now how many others who see me cycling think that I have electric assist on my bike because of that front hub! Hopefully, as city bikes with good lighting and drum brakes become more popular, such misunderstandings should decrease. As it is, even Shimano is all about dynamo hubs and drum brakes - as this advert I recently saw attests. It is nice to see a large manufacturer embrace the image of the upright city bicycle in its ads: It is a good indicator that city and transport bicycles have a future in mainstream cycling.
But the third conversation I had took the cake: I went to a cafe to do some work, and locked my bike outside in a way that was visible from the cafe windows. As I settled in with my coffee, a group of older ladies began a conversation with me that basically consisted of disturbing admonitions about all the horrible things that could happen to me on a bike. One of them had a grandson who was hit by a truck. Another knew "at least six young people" who had been involved in gruesome cycling accidents. And so on. I assured them that I was very careful on my bike and somehow managed to politely disentangle myself from the conversation. But my goodness, it is frustrating that cycling seems to invite unsolicited advice of this sort. On the one hand, I know that it's because people "care". But on the other hand, there is a fine line between "caring" and relishing an opportunity to dispense advice. I try to keep that in mind.