Friday, July 16, 2010

It's Like Walking vs Jogging

Imagine that you have just taken up jogging. You find jogging healthy, energising - a good way to clear your mind and exercise your body first thing in the morning or in the evening after work. You put on a pair of sneakers, leggings, a t-shirt, and off you go on your jog. At an intersection you bump into another jogger, who recognises you and exclaims: "Oh, I see you've taken up jogging! Finally smartened up and realised that it's better than walking, eh? And look, you're pretty good at it! Before you know it, you'll be jogging to work with a change of clothing strapped to your back - you'll see how much faster it is than walking and how much more control it gives you!"

An improbable and illogical scenario, yes? And yet, it is perfectly normal to encounter the same mentality when it comes to cycling. One question I get asked that absolutely puzzles me, is whether I am "moving away from upright bikes" now that I am comfortable riding a bike with drop bars. What?... Are joggers "moving away from walking"? Similarly, I am perplexed when some congratulate me on becoming a "real cyclist", now that I can ride a roadbike and a trackbike. I suppose that means that joggers and track runners are the "real pedestrians"?

Just like there are many forms of pedestrianism, so are there many forms of cycling - each serving its own purpose. The distinction between upright city bicycles, roadbikes and mountain bikes is not so different from the distinction between walking, running and hiking. Walking is a casual form of pedestrianism that is the most natural and low-maintenance way to travel from point A to point B. It is done in one's everyday clothing, while comfortably carrying items on one's person. Taking up jogging or hiking is all well and good, but you'll probably still want to walk to the grocery store.

My upright step-through bikes are my "walking." They are essential to me, no matter what kind of other bikes I ride for fun or exercise. I am more comfortable than ever now on a roadbike, but when it comes to work or errands or pretty much any kind of city or transportation I will always choose the upright bicycle with a step-through frame, fenders and racks. As with walking vs jogging, there is no "war" between these two forms of cycling as far as I am concerned. They co-exist, each in their appropriate context.

34 comments:

  1. I think people ask that not only because of your interest in other kinds of cycling but also because in US culture one is always expected to be doing the sporty thing immediately. In the way that "fitness" has taken the place of "activity" that has led to crazy people trying to run on a treadmill after not having been off the couch in years. The idea that it would be appropriate to walk does not compute for so many people. It's sad, as it's nice to walk. Anyway. Like you, I like the right bike for the right time.

    My father, a 20 miles/day road cyclist of 30+ years, was baffled by my bicycle until he rode my Retrovelo around my Brooklyn neighborhood. :) It's gonna be a while until Americans understand the city bike. We barely have cities we can walk in anymore!

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  2. A different bicycle type for different types of bicycling, amazing. Why, that would lead to a person possibly having several bicycles. Shazbot! I knew there was a reason I have eleven bikes!!! And want a tall bike too.

    Now if I could just figure out how to ride more than one at a time.

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  3. It's good to know that some people get this :)

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  4. Mrs. Gale is the first upright bike I've had since childhood and because of that, I typicaly gravitate to my other bikes, all of which require more of a drop-bar posture. Only my roadbike has traditional drop bars though - one bike has inverted city bike bars and the other has moustache bars. I'm just more comfortable on them and feel like I can put more power behind my ride in that posture.

    I want most rides to double as a workout, even if it's a minor one. With a busy career, two young kids, and a volunteer gig that takes a good deal of my time, if I can multi-task in a workout that's valuable time saved.

    Mrs. Gale definitely gets her share of use though. I just save her for those rides when I intentionally want to go slow.

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  5. The equipment for running (or jogging) is fairly limited. Bikes are mechanical. Therefore, there is diversity among bikes, their components, and cycling apparel. Thus, there are more bases for distinction. Humans are naturally distrustful of differences, and more ready to criticize them.

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  6. People fall into the cycling is sport trap and assume that people who cycle utilitarian cycles aren't "serious" or "real cyclists". I think utilitarian riding is probably the most serious use of bikes there is. These people are probably wanting validation of their (bad) choices of sporty bikes for largely utility use.

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  7. I agree with Mr Colostomy on his point about utilitarian riding being the most serious version of cycling. I have been exposed to both the sporty and utilitarian aspects of cycling through my boyfriend and my boss, who ride utilitarian and sporty bikes respectively. My boss complains about riding in the rain and doesn't ride in the winter, ever. The boyfriend rides to work year round despite the weather. Now that's serious.

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  8. Just want to add that this wasn't meant as a complaint against road cyclists, necessarily, as I see the reverse prejudice from city cyclists all the time. Women who cycle in skirts and heels making fun of guys riding aggressive roadbikes in lycra - i.e. "look, you don't need to wear that stuff to ride a bike!". It shows the same lack of understanding of the existence of different kinds of cycling, for which different types of bikes and different modes of dress are appropriate.

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  9. I've gotten that type of comment before in different aspects of my life. For example:

    I grew up playing the piano, I enjoyed it, but I don't currently own a piano, and I have never found an electronic keyboard to be an acceptable substitute. I can play them, and I can enjoy playing them, but there is something special about sitting in front of a piano, a piece of furniture, interacting with the keys and the pedals, feeling it vibrate beneath you, and the air vibrating around you that some computer chips and plastic keys can't replicate.

    A few years ago I decided I wanted to start playing an instrument again, partly as a tool for meditation and relaxation. I couldn't afford a piano. I tried the guitar, but hated it. I found it painful, frustrating, and completely alien. It's approach is just very, very different than what I was used to. Rather than give up however, I decided to try the mountain dulcimer.

    Eureka!

    Since the instrument is held across the lap the feel was much more comfortable to me. The left hand frets, the right hand strums or picks, just like a guitar, but the posture, and my association with the strings felt much more keyboard like to me.

    So anyway, I had an upstairs neighbor at the time who played the guitar (see where I am going here - LOL) who stopped down one night to see what I was playing. I showed it to him, he strummed it a bit, and told me to keep it up and maybe one day I would feel comfortable moving up to a "real instrument."

    I believe he meant well, but it just came across as so condescending.

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  10. Too funny! I like the eye-opening comparison with walking.

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  11. I know this is off topic but I thought you might enjoy the feature on vintage bikes in the August issue of Martha Stewart magazine. The only pics I've been able to locate online are here
    http://hgriffin.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/martha-stewart-living-august-2010/

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  12. I have a former art prof. who always drops by my shows and remarks on how much he likes my drawings(he even BUYS sometimes) but never fails to urge me to "explore painting!" because I have obviously gone far enough with line to enable me to push myself farther as an artist. Sheesh... I did try painting. In his class. I found it tedious, overly dependant on technical mastery(especially if one wants to be able to paint in a spontainious way)and brutally expensive to do at the level and frequency that I practice drawing. Anyway, I LIKE drawing and it makes my life nicer. Trying to become Andrew Wyeth so I can impress his crowd does'nt sound like much of a giggle.

    Anyway, this line of thinking would have everyone who ever got past 2nd base losing interest in holding hands and kissing...

    Spindizzy

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  13. Jefe said...

    The equipment for running (or jogging) is fairly limited.


    Hm I don't know. I know several people who are heavily into running and hiking, and they have tons of equipment, acessories and specialised clothing, plus they make distinctions between different versions of these activities...

    dagmara - Thanks for the link. That is quite a mix of bikes featured in the spread.

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  14. Spindizzy - Oh, don't bate me with art analogies! Personally, although I do both drawing and painting, I find them to be almost completely unrelated, so I am annoyed when they are grouped together - let alone when it is suggested that painting is a "better" or more advanced version of drawing. I would almost go so far as to say that painting has more to do with sculpture, because it is about layering and texture. Painting also inevitably leads to an obsession with materials that I find counter-productive and distracting in some ways, but that is another point. And yes, the price of good paints is brutal, especially considering my penchant for cerulean blue and vermilion red.

    The 2nd base analogy is interesting as well : )

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  15. Ah ever since I got my drop bar bike Alison, I've been neglecting the upright bike. But I find myself so much more comfortable on a faster bike.

    Soon, before you know it, you'll be venturing into the world of clipless...and you won't look back...I'm not...and it's even more comfortable now that I'm slowly getting used to it.

    :)

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  16. Does that top photo imply SPD cleats in your future? I looked at my gym and all the spin class bikes have SPD retention. It would be a "no risk" way to get used to and automatic about clipping and unclipping. Do not ride clipless in traffic until it IS second nature.

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  17. Steve - See here : ) I got them for the velodrome. Whether I will be able to use them remains to be seen.

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  18. Your post and the ensuing comments remind me of an experience I had during one of my bike tours in France.

    In Chartres, I met a very nice woman who was a few years older than me. I forget who suggested that we ride together, but we did for about a week.

    Along the way, she apologized for not being a "real" cyclist like me and for not riding a bike that was as "serious" as mine. I assured her that she and her bike were doing just fine: We were riding to experience the country, not to set endurance or speed records.

    Truth be told, I was enjoying the trip more with her than I would have with someone who trains when he's not eating or sleeping because she was very knowledgeable about music and art, which made our stops in the cathedrals and chateaux all the more interesting for me.


    She also apologized because, she said, she wasn't as "disciplined" as she thought I was: At the end of every day, I wrote in my journal. She kept a journal, too, I reminded her, and the fact that she was doing that and writing were what mattered, not the frequency, degree of intensity or the kind of equipment she was using.

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  19. Yesterday, Bikesnob NYC said: "Still, it is worth noting that, to some extent, the American interpretation of "chic" cycling is buying a whole bunch of stuff in order to ride a bike so that you can look like you don't ride a bike."
    I think that was an implicit criticism of an ideal you promote. Response?

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  20. Velouria,

    You say "I see the reverse prejudice from city cyclists all the time." but I don't think the situation is symmetric. I'll illustrate with an analogy. There is some guy who drives a Lamborghini around Cambridge and Boston. As much as I admire the car, I think that it's ridiculous to travel around the city in a car that doesn't have any rear view and cannot clear speed bumps. Similarly, while road cycling does have its place (as do supercars and racing cars), it generally makes no sense in places where city cyclists in skirts happen to ride.

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  21. Jefe - I wonder why you say that. I "promote" - if I promote anything at all - a love for classic and vintage bikes of all kinds, and for cycling in general. I do not align myself with the "cycle chic" movement, and nowhere on my site do I use the term or idea of "cycle chic" to describe my point of view. I do not buy "everyday cycling-specific" clothing, such as decorated helmets or skirts that pin between the legs or what have you. Neither do you see me cycling in high heels or advocating that this ought to be done. I do not even model outfits and list where I bought them as many female cycling blogs do (not that I am against this practice; I just don't do it myself). Instead, I explore my growing interest in different types of cycling - from city to road to track to god knows what's next - from the point of view of a self-admitted beginner. I am also interested in the history of vintage bicycles and their restoration.

    I don't know. I think that in order to say what you said, you'd have to either not read my posts but just assume things based on my gender and the outfit I am wearing in the banner image, or be intentionally teasing me. Hopefully it's the latter!

    Justine - Okay, okay. But what bike was she riding and what was your average speed? : ) I kid! You know, I have never been able to keep a journal other than when forced to for a class of some sort. This here is the closest thing to a voluntary journal.

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  22. I hate it when I don't agree with Bike Snob. He makes me laugh so hard sometimes when he is being vindictive that when I find myself as his target I get all defensive and want to somehow convince him that I really AM one of the cool kids.That is till I remember that all of us, the whole collective dork squad of people on bikes stand or fall on wether wer'e making our lives sweeter. If you are, screw em'! If you're posing, you're fair game. So "A pox on Bike Snob!"(unless you're reading this Mr. Snob sir, I love your work, we should ride sometime...)

    Spindizzy

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  23. Herzog - I agree with you, but what if the poor road cyclist is returning from, say a training ride to Concord to his house in Inman Sq and has to ride through a stretch of Beacon St on his roadbike while still wearing the lycra? I mean, I doubt it that anybody would intentionally plan a training ride through the center of Cambridge or Somerville or Boston; I think 80% of the time we see them on the road, they are returning from somewhere. What I meant was, that I have read/heard comments from utility cyclists who describe lycra-wearing road cyclists in general as ridiculous, as if there is no reason at all to ever dress like that on a bike.

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  24. Jefe - Okay, forgive the mildly hysterical reaction then. Happens whenever "cycle chic" or "the tweed ride" are mentioned.

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  25. @ the woolen typist:

    "Ah ever since I got my drop bar bike Alison, I've been neglecting the upright bike. But I find myself so much more comfortable on a faster bike."

    lately, i've been finding this as well... sort of. not so much a physical comfort issue as a mental one. when i hop on my city bike to go to work or run an errand, i don't fondly anticipate the journey, since i know i'm on my way to work or have to go to a store to buy something. but when i hop on my road bike for a jaunt with no particular agenda, there's a feeling of adventure associated with the act of riding the bike. i've even been riding my road bike to work lately (yes, through the city, even though some people would find that ridiculous). the reason, is that i then have the means to justify stealing away from work at lunch for a short jaunt. i can't justify it when i ride one of my city bikes to work.

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  26. I sometimes think that cyclists are their own worst enemies. My upstairs neighbor is a former bike messenger who loves all bikes and teaches spin classes, her room-mate is a current bike messenger who won't ride anything with gears or a freewheel, next door is another former messenger with a fixed, a mountain bike, and a vintage Schwinn 3-speed, the guys across the alley primarily train and race, and the vast majority of my cycling is of the transportation/utility variety. A pretty good variety of cyclists all around me.

    We (okay, I am referring to cyclists in general from what I have observed, I am not pointing out anyone in particular, certainly not anyone commenting here, and especially not the lovely Velouria) seem to have this great tendency to divide ourselves into groups - the roadie, the fixie-hipster, the cycle-chic chick, the hippie loaded down with groceries. I don't get the need for this. Sure the roadies go together on their centuries, and the fixie crowd holds their alley-cats, while the cruiser people are taking their moonlight rides - but aside from the group events I am just always happy to see people out and about on bicycles, be they mountain, road, cruiser, utility, recumbent, fixie, or what have you.

    I think that when the sub-groups start looking down at the other sub-groups, tossing out terms like roadie-douchebag, hipster-doofus, etc... we undermine ourselves. We all ride bikes, different types for different reasons, but the important thing is that WE ALL RIDE BIKES. Who cares why, or what kind? The more bikes on the road the better off we all are.

    Now granted, I am a solitary rider, I am not big on groups of anything on-bike or off, and I sometimes have trouble understanding human nature (a friend of mine tells me it is because I was left here by a race of aliens who will come back for me someday) so I don't understand the need to identify ourselves by the type of bike we ride, or the car we drive, or the music we listen to, etc...

    What I really enjoy is to see someone like Velouria dip her toe into cycling and embrace it with such enthusiasm, trying so many different things, and sharing her experiences and joy of cycling.

    See, this is why I rarely post, once I start I can't seem to shut up. I will stop now, thank you for your patience.

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  27. Thanks so much for writing that! This Balkanization of cycling is so silly. I choose to embrace it all and find something positive in all groups.

    I don't think Bike Snob is mocking riding Dutch bikes in regular clothes. He seems to love the fact that people ride without pretense or the idea that it's something special.

    Rather I get the sense that he's taking aim at those who market it as the only way to ride and how sometimes the proponents of "cycle chic" make ill-informed slights at sporting cyclists. You do neither.

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  28. Hehe this post gave me a bit of a giggle! Real pedestrians! :)

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  29. Indeed a good comparison. Of course, one bicycle is not enough to met all demands, but I wouldn't say that one is more important than another...

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  30. I agree with what frazzledglispa said. I may be a roadie most of the time, but I love all bicycles. I can even see a place for recumbents, just not for me.

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  31. I love my english roadsters even though I have a dozen other different bikes. I like riding my old ten speed racers from the 70's and my Schwinn Paramount track bike on occasion. But for an enjoyable ride around the neighborhood, a quick errand to the drugstor and an easy commute to work I go to the 3-speeds-pure enjoyment!

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  32. I have learned to love cycling again after being severely turned off by this attitude. My boyfriend (now husband) and I met on an on-line dating site dedicated to cyclists and runners. I had just started cycling to work and was immensely enjoying my new bike. As soon as we started to ride together though, he convinced me that I needed all new stuff...all carbon and Ti sub-16 lb bikes (of which he has bought me 2). Expensive hard saddles with Ti rails, clipless-pedals, $200 helmets, etc. And since he was paying, there wasn't too much I could say no to. (He even bought us a custom-built $15K racing tandem that I still don't enjoy)I tried my best to keep up with his intense learning schedule for me. He routinely signed me up for 100-200 mile rides (in a day), thinking they would be "fun". After a neurological issue completely knocked me off these 22mm-tired monsters for almost a year, I wanted no part of cycling. But then I felt guilty about having so much money in bikes and it was such a waste to let them sit there. I started riding my upright bike (wobbly, but I got going) and essentially learned to ride again. Now, some days I ride my crazy pimped out bikes with the many kits I now have, and some days I ride my roadster with a skirt and panniers to the farmers market or to work. All faces of cycling all have equal merit. Fitness riders, roadster buffs, messenger wanna-bees, construction workers on mountain bikes, stately women on loop frames, even painted-on lycra leg-shavers, are needed to make our roads safer and to convince our nation to create more cycling infrastructure. In the end my husband will always be an equipment-phile and I will always love the simplicity of the bicycle. As time as progresses, we are coming together in our cycling styles. Maybe one day we will meet in the middle?

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