Tuesday, June 22, 2010

All Happy Bicycles Are Alike?...

According to the Anna Karenina principle, it might be said that all happy bicycles are alike and every unhappy bicycle is unhappy in its own way.

Jacqueline - a vintage Steyr Waffenrad that has become my "Austrian bike" - is happy. She has a relationship with a human who loves her. She has an idyllic work commute along the Danube Canal.

She has beautiful heirloom jewelry in silver and gold.

She feels useful and fulfilled, responsible for the safety and well-being of the people in her life.

Back in Boston, Eustacia (my Pashley Princess) has recently reached a similar state of happiness - interestingly, after the addition of some of the same components, such as the rear folding baskets and the speedy cream tires. It seems that bicycle happiness is indeed, at least to some extent, formulaic. When all the factors come together just right, it works. When something is off, it doesn't.

This brings the question of whether happy bicycles inspire being written about. When everything feels just right, there is nothing to say really. The sun is shining, my bicycle is running smoothly, my folding basket fits my briefcase snugly, my shoes don't slip on the pedals, the route to work is safe and beautiful, and it took me less time to arrive at my office than had I taken the subway. That pretty much describes my commute this morning, and it sounds rather uninteresting.

As I said to Anna from Cycling is Good for You the other evening - If I lived in Vienna and had Jacqueline to begin with, I doubt that I would have ever started a cycling blog despite loving bicycles. Maybe an image gallery, but not a blog. There would have been nothing to discuss.

After all, most posts are written about challenges, questions, restorations, the search for new components or better routes, and so on. But is bicycle happiness newsworthy?

17 comments:

  1. interesting closing question... and by extension, if the world were happy would it be newsworthy? would the media write headline stories about epidemic levels of happiness?

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  2. I feel that any information of note, and especially that of something positive, should be remarked and reported upon... fluff is fluff, but goodness is great.

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  3. Harder to write about, that's true (and maybe the germ behind Mikael's Vacuum Cleaner culture idea?). I write less and less about cycling exactly because there's nothing to say about conflict-free, comfortable cycling with good company on the same quiet roads. Maybe the odd celebration of the fact, but too much of that gets old.

    That said, being on the bike does open you up to a whole world of other observations, just not 'bike' ones, so the blog evolves...

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  4. "But is bicycle happiness newsworthy?"

    Yes, if only because others are not yet happy. The better you can tease out what those failure modes are and how you avoided them, the more likely others are to find happiness. Thanks for your blog. :)

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  5. nice post! I find that blogging about the happiness of a bike and personl happiness in riding a bike is a great form of advocacy :) I agree with you on a previous post (about copenhagenize) that at the end of the day cycling is fun and yes makes you feel good about yourself, it's not just a 'vacuum cleaner' lol! So, I think cycling happiness is definitely newsworthy! L x

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  6. Which is probably why blogs like Amsterdamize are almost strictly photos :) What's there to write about in a city where there are more bicycles than people and (basically) everything is safe and happy? :) I wonder what Marc (the curator of said blog) would say about that idea.

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  7. For me, one interesting thing that has happened, was that being interested in one aspect of cycling somehow pulled me into other aspects of it. So between all the different forms of cycling and bicycles I am interested in, it seems that I have an infinite supply of problems/quests/thoughts to discuss. But I am not sure this would have happened had I been presented from the start with a perfect-for-me, problem-free bicycle.

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  8. Happiness is contagious. Happy Clusters vs Unhappy Clusters. Check out this recent article.

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  9. "But is bicycle happiness newsworthy?"

    I don't think so. We're just nerds, let's face it :).

    Ok, a lot of emotions (good and bad ones) as well as hard facts, technical details etc. are involved when it comes to cycling, so it seems like a suitable topic for a blog. Plus, blogging is an alright hobby, isn't it?

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  10. sounds pretty newsworthy to me! after all, it's brand new information to a lot of people, and it's always fun for me to read about the adventures others are having on their bikes. i guess it's a different way of writing, though. Glad all is well with your lovely pashley!

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  11. Some of the blogs that I find the most interesting intergrate cycling with exploration and discovery. This can happen when you feel your bike is perfect. It can happen 5kms from home or 1000 kms from home. So, maybe when we are happy with our bikes what makes them newsworthy is where they take us and the perspective they give us.

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  12. You had me at Tolstoy.

    I agree. There are days when I don't have much to say because the ride was lovely, so I post photos and say that the ride was lovely. Such posts don't get the attention and comments of other posts, but I think they're essential to showing a true picture of riding a bike in the city. Lucky for me, Chicago is full of challenges (aka a-holes) that provide lots of fodder for blogging :)

    Like Dave, I'm interested to hear what Marc would have to say about the subject.

    I'm glad to hear that your Austrian bike is treating you so well.

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  13. Riding Pretty - Good point, but what they fail to mention is that emotions in general are contagious, which is why discontent and anger also spread fast through social networking websites.

    She Rides a Bike - Thanks!

    Dottie - I thoroughly enjoy your pictures of lovely rides!

    BB - I agree; I love reading randonneuring diaries and such.

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  14. In my world, a happy bicycle is rare enough that when encountered, is newsworthy indeed. Your bikes are truly special, loved and cared for. It is a joy to read about your perspective on these fantastic creatures, er, machines!

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  15. When my bikes approach a state of transient happiness, they get discontent, restless, and then something breaks.

    Hmm. I wonder what that means.

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  16. MDI - I bet it's psychosomatic and they are just looking for more attention : )

    Kevin - You're right. At least with new bikes, I know more people who complain about their bike than those who are 100% happy with it.

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