The Cyclist's Dwelling
When I talk to cyclists who have recently moved or are looking to move house, most admit that bikes influence the location and layout criteria for their new place. Usually this admission is made sheepishly, with some embarrassment that cycling plays such a prominent role in their lives. Me, I don't bother to be embarrassed anymore. Cycling is not the most important thing in my life, but it is up there. It is also more intertwined with the other important things now than it was before. And it is crucial to my sanity. It follows that any place I live must be bicycling friendly.
As far as location, this can mean different things for different types of cyclists. For some it means being in the middle of a city with good bicycle infrastructure. For others it means being close to good roadcycling - hilly country roads, or networks of dirt roads, or mountain bike trails. For others still the ideal cycling location is climate dependent. And for others, it's dependent on proximity to clubs, races, randonneuring groups, "cycle chic" get-togethers, or other types of cycling-specific communities. Of all these things, for me it is easy access to good back roads and dirt roads that is on top of the list. While I love a city with good infrastructure and loved living in Vienna for that reason, I know that I can also function without it with fairly little stress. And while I appreciate a close-knit cycling community, at heart I am a loner and do just as well on my own. But when it comes to access to open roads, it's more than a matter of liking it or appreciating it, it is a matter of needing it. Living on the edge of town in Boston (rather than deeper in the city) is wonderful, because it allows for easy escape from the congested urban tangle. And living in rural Northern Ireland is a dream, because a network of country roads starts straight out the front door. I would not do well living in an area without easy access to good roadcycling.
As far as the layout of a house or apartment, I am pretty easy: I like a ground floor entrance for dragging my bike out the door. While I joke about having a farm with a bike shed, in reality I am quite content to cram my bikes into a small apartment space. But I do want to be able to roll my bikes out the door with the minimum amount of stairs and narrow hallways. As it is, I am covered in bruises from the narrow hallways in my current place - never failing to hit myself on the shin with a pedal or on the thigh with a brake lever whilst getting my bike out the door.
For someone who loves bicycles, I am unusually indifferent to "bicycle art" - cycling themed photos, paintings, sculptures, housewares and such. But I do tend to have bike parts and tools lying around in a way that they become integrated into the very fabric of the house. After two weeks in my current place, my roadbike looks wonderfully at home leaning against the book case. And the random bike parts scattered throughout look natural mixed with the household objects and appliances. It's funny, because I only have one bike in the house right now (okay, and one more out on the porch), but somehow the place still has that "bikes live here and they are important" feel to it.
Grabbing Desdemona, I roll her out the door, and - cursing affectionately as I bang my ankle lightly on the derailleur - I pedal away and head for the hills, thankful for the quiet, cloudy Sunday morning, for the emerald green sea, and for the warm tiny place that awaits me and my bike upon our return.