Monday, December 12, 2016

Would You Rather?



It's a game I inadvertently ended up playing over the weekend, and I now pass it on to you. In short:

Would you rather?

A. ride short distances for work and errands every day, but give up roadcycling completely, or

B. put in all the road miles you want, but give up utility cycling altogether?

It may seem like a silly and unnecessary choice. But actually the question was posed to me seriously, by an acquaintance who is moving. She is choosing between two different locations. One is densely urban and close to her new job. It's a good opportunity, in that the property is a partially work-subsidised, very nice townhouse. The neighborhood is cycling-friendly and full of amenities. But it is far from the edge of the city and will make setting off on her roadbike so inconvenient as to make it virtually impossible once her time constraints and work/family obligations are factored in. If she moves to this location, she'll be able to ride for transport all she wants, but will most likely give up roadcycling as a sport.

The other location is a house that is way out in the outskirts. It is sort of close to her husband's job, but the bigger consideration is that a family member owns it and has offered them a favourable deal. The house is beautiful, as is the rural location. She can go out on her roadbike straight out the front door. There is even a cycling club that meets down the road. Unfortunately, the area is purely farming/residential, with not even a village centre nearby. It is 12 miles from the city, and the roads in that direction are not cycling friendly. If she moves to this location, she'll be able to do a lot of roadcycling and other outdoor activities, but will most likely give up utility cycling, using the car for transport.

Of course the solution that immediately comes to my mind, is to compromise. Find an affordable, maybe not so glamorous property on the very edge of the city, so that it's both cycleable to work/shops and a good starting point for road rides? But I appreciate that logistics might not make this possible in all situations.

The polarised choice also brings into focus my own preferences. Because if pressed between A & B, I would choose A without even needing to pause and think about it.

"Ride short distances for work and errands every day, but give up roadcycling?" Sure. I mean, I'd rather not give it up. But if I had to, it would not be a catastrophe.

"Put in all the road miles you want, but give up utility cycling?" The idea of this makes me panic. I do not think I could cope.

It may seem odd to consider myself primarily a transportation cyclist, when my road milage dwarfs my utility milage. Though if I look at it in terms of trips rather than miles it makes more sense. I make many short utility trips throughout the day - compared to one roadcycling trip a day, at most.

But it's about more than milage, or numbers of trips, or any other quantifiable stuff. Roadcycling is a pastime, a passion. It in turn engages me, obsesses me, brings me joy, frustrates me, challenges me. But as fantastic as all of that is, I know that I can do without it.

Utility cycling... Hmm it is different. It is far less dramatic. But more solid. It is not a passion, and not a pastime, but rather somehow a physical part of me - like eating and drinking and sleeping and needing fresh air. I might take it for granted most of the time. But to even imagine being deprived of it, feels suffocating.


49 comments:

  1. You can get used to traffic. Twelve miles is not an impossible commute; I do it.
    The point is, your abilities change as you learn and grow stronger. So you shouldn't decide just based on where you are now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think to the city centre it would be more like 16 miles each way. But it is the type of roads (highway-like and genuinely dangerous) as much as the distance. It does not sound like a pleasant commute even if one is "able" for it.

      That said, you make a good point about not making assumptions about future abilities based on our current abilities.

      For me, the main problem with Option B would be, the lack of a centre. Even though I now live in an isolated rural area myself, there is a tiny village centre 1 mile from my house and this makes all the difference. I love riding there multiple times a day for quick groceries, mail, farm shop, even just to chat. Keeps me sane (arguably)!

      Delete
    2. Definitely an issue in Chicago.

      Some of the suburbs - as it happens, most are older and decidedly more pricey - have reasonably accessible bike routes into the city. Most, however, would require cycling along most unfriendly highways before reaching relatively sane cycling territory.

      Likewise Chicago area suburb to suburb. While one can imagine living in some suburbs and cycling to others, many are barricaded with roads and highways designed with only automated vehicles in mind. Even if allowed - and often they are not - cyclists, pedestrians and even a Vespa rider for that matter, would take unreasonable risks riding among many suburbs.

      Delete
  2. "I might take it for granted most of the time.
    But to even imagine being deprived of it, feels suffocating."

    Well said and exactly how I feel about transportation cycling. It has been 4 years now and I would summarize my progression as follows:

    Year 1: scary
    Year 2: exciting
    Year 3: comfortable
    Year 4: -

    As for your friend, it sounds as if she wants option A, but perhaps there is family pressure to go the other way. I hope whatever choice they make it works out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I live in a place where I do both, and I'd hate to give up either, but utility cycling does almost nothing for my body, whereas road cycling is the only reason I'm not obese.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Living in an urban setting is much better for the environment, which may also be something to consider. While she may be an avid cyclist, the other members of her household may not. So more driving, more air pollution, etc. I love utility cycling! I feel so much more connected to my community when I am cruising around, toddler in the back seat, hollering "hello!" to my friends as I see them on the sidewalk. It is a sense of freedom that I don't remember getting when road cycling (although that is fun too).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Easy decision for me: 90% of what I do is utility cycling, and if I could do more of it I'd be even happier.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've been pretty much A from '04 to this Spring when as the only single person among the siblings I moved to a distant suburb (fortunately near a train station) that happens to be near a number of what passes in Illinois anyway of decent cycling roads and paths.

    Before the move I would go months before heading out on my Spectrum road bike. It has been nice to get out on weekends. But boy oh boy do I miss daily commuting and just poking around town on my fendered city bike.

    So put me squarely in the A camp please.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not that it matters to the blog save for clarity, the move was motivated by the need to reside near my ailing Da.

      Delete
  7. As much as I love the "Would you rather" game(Would you rather eat only the food you love the most till you sicken of it, or Eat your least favorite till you learn to love it...) I hate the choice you've laid out.

    But if forced to choose I think I'd choose Transportation Cycling as well. At least it would still be integrated into my daily life in a manner that would allow the bike to be my constant companion rather than a separate compartment that required me to disengage from the swirl of life around me to enter. I could still have 60 bikes though, right?

    Making choices is stupid and I'm not going to do it any longer.

    Spindizzy

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ow! Painful decision! I have no interest in road cycling, I'm all utility, but if I had the choice I'd definitely go for the country property with my utility bike and hope I could make it all work. There's usually a way ... :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's an easy choice really, for two reasons. First, she's kidding herself if she thinks it's one or the other, because if she moves close and that negates her ability to ride recreationally, then she most likely wouldn't have time to ride recreationally in the other location either. Two, when you do have time to do recreational cycling, living in the city center will make it easier to get out in any direction. Also, Living 16 miles outside of town will require using a car most of the time and no doubt that will take more time then a short city ride, so in reality it's a choice between riding a lot or hardly at all! At that point it's simply a choice between how much you want to ride and how much you like cheap rent! - masmojo

    ReplyDelete
  10. I probably cannot classify my riding as utility or sport. I just ride when and where I am able. These days, it's probably just some combination of exercise and meditation time more than any sort of purpose-driven event.

    I am a bit of a bike nut, and enjoy riding as much as possible, and I miiiiggght be a little obsessed over bikes and finding different places to ride. And while "utility" cycling is probably more my speed (no pun intended), if I were to find myself in your friend's situation I would have no hesitation in choosing the house outside of the city. I am an outdoorsy person, and being in the noise and confines of a city would grate on me in short order. I need room to roam! Since the bike jones could still be fixed with road rides, that would sort me out, then having the option/location for other outdoors activities would suit me quite well. To each their own, of course. Things would get too crowded if we all liked the same spaces.


    Wolf.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Since I've never been a road cyclist, and have no future plans to be one, it's an easy decision for me. I choose utility cycling all the way. My one and only bike is a 90s era hardtail mountain bike. I think my next will be a folding one.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Is it not possible to get a bike rack and plan a ride on the weekends by driving out of the city? Perhaps not quite as easy as living close but with a little effort some road rides could happen. Maybe a couple times a month...? Or even plan an overnight trip on a couple weekends each month. There's no alternative like this for the transport cycling, so I'd pick the city accommodation and just make the extra effort to hit the roads when I can.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't understand this game. Am I supposed to pretend to be your friend or not supposed to pretend to be this friend? I know that my preference is to not own a car and live as close to where I work as possible. But if there are other considerations, such as spouse and children, schools, quality of life, etc. then it's always more complicated. The goal is happiness, right?

    I don't think in the ways you do in terms of your either/or question. I've a single bike which I use daily for errands and commutes but also use it for long pleasure rides outside the city. It's completely doable. If you're asking if I can only own one bike and the two choices in front of me are an upright bike with a wicker basket or a road bike I'd pick the road bike, no matter where I was living. It's the most versatile.

    ReplyDelete
  14. For me, there is no question. I'm a total convert to riding my bike for transportation. Don't get me wrong, I love taking long, recreational rides. LOVE. But there is no way I could go back to getting into my car for simple trips like getting to work, going to the grocery store, meeting a friend for coffee, or the dozens of other little trips I take on a weekly basis. It's good for my mental health and more sustainable for lifelong physical fitness than setting aside special time for exercise is. It's also good for the planet and the city. And on top of all of that, I would have to eat crow like I've never done before if I went back to using a car for transportation! Friends and family would never let me hear the end of it. How's that for motivation? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  15. If I could do ALL the road cycling (more like off-road, in my case) I want at a cost of commuting by bike, it's definitely 100% B. The reason is simple. Daily commute is very repetitive while recreational cycling means adventure and exploration. The problem is to find time for ALL the cycling I want.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Is the train an option to get out of the city?

    I live in an urban environment so do lots of utility cycling.

    However to get some miles in, I often put my bike on the train to expand the choice of routes and bypass some uninspiring miles through the suburbs.

    There may be purists who think the entire journey needs to be on a bike, but not me.

    However I'm lucky to live in a place with a decent train service!



    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh dear. What an awful decision to have to make. We can't really help your friend because obviously there are all sorts of personal, family, finance and house factors there, so I'll just take the road vs utility choice. For me, right now, it would be roadcycling (I like the way you've run it into one word so I'll do the same; it's a verb too, right? I roadcycle, she roadcycles, they have started to roadcycle... ). So I'm going against the grain of the comments so far, not to mention the blog, but living as I do in the central area of a large city with all the shops I need within a radius of at most two miles, all my utility cycling could easily be replaced by utility walking (or utilitywalking? ;) ). In fact, it often is, for various reasons. Arguably roadcycling could be replaced by running, hiking or similar, but ideally these activities are complementary not substitutional.

    Best stop now before it gets a bit Trainspotting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sort of in this camp, too. It's not an urban vs. rural thing for me, being single I'd choose to live in the city if that's where I was working, and assuming all the shops I needed were nearby I'd simply walk or rollerblade or find some other enjoyable means to carry out errands. Since riding a bike makes me happy, too, I'd settle for my only use if it to ride the roads of the city for no particular reason other than enjoying the ride. I'd have the best of both worlds.

      Delete
  18. I live twelve miles from city center. It is entirely urban here. My usual road ride, or what I call a road ride, takes me another 20 or 25 miles away from city center and that ride is entirely urban. If I ride a century from my doorstep the ride is entirely urban. If I ride a double metric century from my doorstep there will be glimmers of countryside but no respite from traffic. If I ride the 138 miles to visit my brother the second half of the ride will be mostly rural. There is notionally a bike path headed out of town, it passes through suburban slums where a bike path is a quiet isolated place for the unwary to be victimized.

    There are many American landscapes where the most dedicated and confident cyclist will not wish to ride a bike. Boston is nothing like most American urban areas. Much of America seems to have been designed and laid out by despots who would simply require all citizens to own and use an automobile.

    I live in an old house in an older part of the city. There are times when the car simply sits unused for weeks. 2016 mileage is about 2500 on the car and 7000 on the bike. On the other hand if I attempt to ride the bike one mile straight west there is no practical way to do it. The bridges over the channel are half mile long nightmares. There are sidewalks (much of America does not even have those) but they have had no maintenance in decades and are covered in debris. Motorists stuck in the never-ending traffic jams on those bridges are offended by the cyclist making progress when they cannot and are quick to throw trash at riders. And liquor bottles. Pistols are brandished. It is just too exciting to ride west so we always drive to the dry cleaner and the produce mart.

    A mere twelve miles to reach countryside sounds like paradise to me. But there are a lot of places where a twelve mile ride is not only unpleasant, it is impossible. The American way to cope is to load the bike into the car and drive to somewhere rideable.

    ReplyDelete
  19. My husband and I go round and round about this one. He wants to live in a rural environment at whatever cost while I can't imagine ever living in that environment because I would have to give up my transportation cycling, the mere thought of which creates butterflies in my stomach.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "It is not a passion, and not a pastime, but rather somehow a physical part of me - like eating and drinking and sleeping and needing fresh air. I might take it for granted most of the time. But to even imagine being deprived of it, feels suffocating." This is usually how I describe my relationship with my bike. I used to tie it to my mental and physical well being, to be without it would mean to die in some form or suffer much longer bouts of depression. Then I was forced to be without it for two years and found alternative ways to stay afloat and keep my rudder in order. Now, when making decisions about 'what next' I worry less about the bike issues and rely instead on making the most out of what I've got at the moment because I know it'll all change again, soon. I trust your friend will figure out something workable. It seems in your life it's never been either or and that's the way it is for most of us, right? Btw, you didn't share her answer and reasoning to this game. Did she play along? What are the consequences if one were to choose only road miles but got on their bike to visit a friend down the road….Will something explode? Will you lose a child? It sounds like you would suffocate if you made a wrong choice, but I found that not to be true for myself. Onward!

    ReplyDelete
  21. One of my favorite books to read to the kids was Tuck Everlasting. What is living? If it's only me (no spouse or kids to consider) I'd want to keep things as simple as possible which means no car but live away from the city. My errands may be longer rides but that's okay because I'll have my trusty road bike always with me. It's the ultimate utility ride, it's necessary and helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It's much nicer to not have this dilemma. Don't like or do any kind of cycling where one has to put on special and expensive clothes and shoes and spends hours at a time on the bike. All my riding is for the purpose of transportation. Some of it covers longish distances however but I don't have to do it quickly and I'm always carrying something. I'd never choose an upright bike however, it would be less useful.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'd go with giving up road cycling and having convenient road cycling. Not even a close call on that one. And of course you can always take the scenic route while doing shopping and such...

    ReplyDelete
  24. Until August last year I commuted within New York City, 4 miles each way on work days and used my bike for exploring neighborhoods on weekends. We moved to Northern Westchester county (about 50 miles outside the city):transportation cycling is out of the question on the extremely fast and busy secondary roads. There are some good gravel back roads but I can't help feeling the bike has gone from tool to toy.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.

    Bicycling is my life, not a hobby.

    ReplyDelete
  26. A! The world needs more "As"!

    Besides I would not be seen on the traveling advertising hoardings, especially the plastic ones, which seems to be mostly what is on offer for B now. Why does each and every piece if a bicycle have to be emblazoned with garish rubbish?

    ReplyDelete
  27. I saw this post and reacted to how I hate games and then thought, beware 'it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye…' Have you seen the short video SPIDER? Games have consequences ;) So I won't get involve with your game and hope it never comes up….But with regard to your friend and her choice I think it's less about bikes and more about relationships. Here's the link to the video….With apologies to my crazy mind and ways in which it works.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzVNkypaNKQ

    ReplyDelete
  28. For me transportation cycling. I have always tried to live 4-5 miles from my work (it has sometimes been much further), that way you always have to do that riding, riding for fun is fun, but things can get in the way. I have to get to work. That means at least 40-50 miles a week, whatever the weather, however I'm feeling. There's something about urban living too, even if I don't always take advantage of it. Nice to get out into the sticks, but it's very convenient to have short walk to the supermarket.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Sometimes there is no choice in this game of life so you take what is available and make the best of it. It's still a gift.

    ReplyDelete
  30. And once again, as I realize that I am way into your blog, but didn't you write before, re choosing where to live that "I would not do well without access to good roadcycling"...I'm curious, because the only kind of riding I know and love is cycling to get places, and tootling around town, but I read of your roadcycling exploits with a mixture of awe, envy, and admiration - so, have your feelings changed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Something like that. Which is why I looked very carefully for a place to live where I could have both. But if absolutely forced with a choice, it would have to be transport.

      Delete
  31. TCO…Put a fender on the right side photo and there are some issues. Wasn't there a time when all your road bikes had fenders?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I designed the front end to have just enough clearance (for me, in a size 38 shoe) with Crud Road racer mudguards. No issues when they are on; angle of photos can distort.

      Delete
  32. I'm lucky to live in a small city where I can easily have both (actually, most of my utility transport is done by foot these days, I'm 15 minutes from work and 10 from a co-op) I live here for a reason, I wouldn't make that choice. But... has she heard of Rinko? That's the Japanese thing where a regular bike can be broken down and put in a bag in 15 minutes, for train rides out into the countryside. It requires some special parts, and probably ideally a custom frame, but it's doable with any bike, mostly they do it with complex rando bikes.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I have the best of both worlds when it comes to cycling. My commute is an easy 2 miles on quiet streets. Restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, local brew pubs and even a new downtown movie house are within easy cycling distance. The gym is 2 miles away, and the ride makes for a pleasant warm-up. And, when I want to put in road miles, the edge of town is between 2 and 5 miles away, depending on which direction I leave from my house. A few years ago, my wife suggested that we should move into the country where it's "quiet." I'm glad we never seriously considered that option. I much prefer being closer to downtown. I never really warmed up to the idea of having to drive 5 miles when you suddenly discover you're out of garlic. Where we now live, bike-powered garlic runs take all of 10 minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Changing the subject a bit but just noticed that top photo shows two flat black bikes with silver accents. How did that happen? Is it a trend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Both are review bikes. I also had 2 pink ones recently to balance it out : )

      Delete
  35. B all the way because you get to live in the country rather than in town with the chavs.

    ReplyDelete
  36. My son drives me crazy with would-you-rathers he finds on the internet, but I really like this one. It's illuminating. Utility cycling and sport cycling both go way back with me. In 1979, when I was 12, I was delivering newspapers on a Ross Europa 3-speed roadster and going on rides with the middle school bike club on a Fuji Junior, which was a drop-bar 10-speed with 24 inch wheels. But sport cycling is the one with a beautiful style and an insistent rhetoric, and it colonizes your mind. It has taken me decades to begin getting over the visceral feeling that sport cycling is real cycling, and to begin training myself to stop having one type of feeling in my chest when I see a rider going fast on a racing bike and another when I see a rider on a coaster-brake cruiser going slow on the sidewalk.

    I have had something of a breakthrough lately after putting Wald 867s on two bikes, getting friendly with 12 mph, and reacting to stress-stimuli (wind, hills, being tired) by relaxing and going slower instead of adding effort. Also sometimes using a cheaper bike that can go more places with less fear of theft, using lighting that stays on the bike so parking and leaving are easier, using a rack, milk crate and backpack instead of more bike-specific luggage, using plain pedals, wearing more normal-looking but still comfortable-in-motion clothes. All these things are ways of getting the sport cycling ideology (or whatever it should be called) out of my head and habits so they can stop reducing the utility of my utility cycling.

    It's not that I don't still like sport cycling. I'm just sort of realizing something about it.

    My philosophical conclusion is that utility cycling is the fundamental kind, as walking is fundamental in relation to running as a sport. It looks like less and matters more.

    Walter

    ReplyDelete
  37. I guess it follows, then, that if asked 'you can only own one bike which one would it be?' the Brompton would stand out as the choice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me? Yup, it would have to be the Brompton.

      Delete
  38. I really don't do much road cycling anymore. Hills will keep you fit in the city and hills we have. The trail just south of town allows for more speed but it's a shared trail with pedestrians and skaters. I can get up to my top extended speed most times if I time my ride right. It's 16 miles long. As an older rider, I'm aware that you have to have other exercise options to keep the body working right, esp. for the upper body. Most of my bikes are more aggressive city in geometry, because of my reach length and injury. After riding a variety of wheel sizes I stick to the 700c as I like the speed and visibility in traffic.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Looking at your photographs and thinking it would drive me crazy if I had to look at the basket and contents within while riding. Do you bring the basket in the store or how do you transfer all those items from purchase to basket? There's a reason I put my kids behind me when transporting them ;)

    ReplyDelete
  40. At this point in my life I would choose "A", no questions asked. Thrity-five years ago it would have been BOTH!

    Aaron

    ReplyDelete
  41. I have actually faced this dilemma. I chose A. For me I like to ride every day, we ride to dinner, bars, museums, parks, picnics, movies or just about anything within 6 or 7-mile radius. This certainly helps with the being part of the community. I have discovered more of my city than I ever have before. Throughout the week I usually get in more miles combined than the one or two days of week I would ride for a “workout”

    ReplyDelete