The following feature by “BIKEBOY” is a bit long, but it took him years of huffing and puffing the streets of Boise to chalk up 200,000 miles. Here is his account of life on the street.
BY STEVE HULME
In 1986, I was a working-class guy, married with two kids and another on the way. And a dilemma. I had a new job – downtown. (Up ’til then I’d been in easy walking distance from the office.) With one car between us, suddenly we were competing for the wheels. Occasionally I drove to work; more often I took the bus, or Robin dropped me off and kept the car.
Betty, a friend at the office, rode a bicycle… and she lived twice as far away as me! Betty was always cheerful and energetic… and was an enthusiastic proponent of bicycles-as-transportation. Her steed was a pretty red Gitane road bike; she had a choice parking spot in the back hallway. (That was another thing about driving to work… sitting in traffic, finding a parking spot, etc., etc.) Betty really put me to thinkin’.
I told wife Robin I was going to get a bicycle and start riding to work. She was skeptical… confident I was just negotiating for some “new toy money” from our very limited budget. But I forged ahead, ultimately deciding on something that was new-fangled in ’86 – a “mountain bike,” they called it. Nobody was sure whether they’d catch on.
But – it caught on with me! That’s what matters. That bicycle became my primary mode of transportation. Riding up “Mount Protest Road” seemed like a daunting task at the time! But I got to coast down in the morning, and the rest of my route was pretty flat.
I immediately started appreciating some of the benefits – no traffic headaches… no parking headaches… no pumping gas! But as the days got longer and the weather nicer, my route started varying (at least in the afternoon, when I wasn’t pressed for time). Bicycling proved itself as recreation and exercise, besides transportation.
That first year, I ended up riding 2195 miles. (I spent $80 or so extra for another new-on-the-market gizmo – a Cateye bike computer.) 1986 was the last year I bicycled less than 4000 miles, as the bike became my primary transportation. (I still occasionally rode the bus, or a motorcycle, or caught a ride, but 95% of my commuting was on the bike – year ’round.)
The last day I drove a car to work was in September, 1997. I retired in 2019 – twenty-one years later, and exactly one year before the pandemic.
On September 6, 2004, I hit 100,000 cumulative bicycle miles.
Today – April 23, 2022 – I hit 200,000 cumulative bicycle miles. It doesn’t seem as momentous. I s’pose it’s like birthdays – after enough of ’em they lose a bit of luster. Bike miles are bike miles.
I still average about 350 “bicycle days” per year. I still ride about 5000 miles per year, and have no intention of letting up. 300K seems pretty unlikely, but I’d like to shoot for 250,000 miles, 9 or 10 years from now. Back during the employment years, probably 2/3 of my miles were transportation, 1/3 pleasure/exercise/recreation. Those numbers are reversed now… the majority of my miles are just because I love to ride! The best rides these days, are rides with my grandkids. (Oh, and 2022 Steve is considerably slower than 1986 Steve, despite all that “training”!!)
The number of HOURS spent riding over 36 years? That is a sobering thought! But consider how many hours a lot of people are sitting in traffic over the course of a year. Consider how many gas station fill-ups I’ve skipped. And – most of that bicycle time is combined transportation/recreation/exercise! Win-win-win!
There IS a down-side to transportation cycling. There is some effort involved (if you consider that a “down-side”). Cold and wet weather… really HOT weather… and slippery road conditions… wind… an unpleasant encounter with another roadway user, can take the gilt off the lily. You are severely limited in carrying capacity – no stops at the lumber yard on the way home from work. Probably a half-dozen times I got home… took my shoes off… and poured water out of ’em. I’ve had a few crashes – some painful! – fortunately never involving a serious injury. But the wonderful days far outnumber the marginal days.
One thought that gives me comfort: Lots of old geezers get to a certain age, and their kids intervene and take the car keys. For me, that won’t be too painful. (Now if they lock my bike up and hide the key… THAT might be a problem!)
If you are thinking about riding a bike to work – START TODAY!
I’d love to answer any questions you GUARDIAN readers might have – please submit them, and with help from Mr. Frazier, I’ll do my best to provide a forthright response. THANK YOU to everybody who is patient with bike riders, and gives us space to operate. Be safe – keep the shiny side up!
“Bikeboy” Steve Hulme
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