The summer is the one time of year when I seem to have an American approach to cycling. Last week, Cor and I donned helmets, sunglasses, bright-colored jerseys, and spandex cycling shorts. We slathered ourselves with sunscreen and made sure to bring along plenty of water. We loaded our bicycles into our minivan to drive to a parking lot near the trailhead we chose for our point of departure. And then we rode for 20 miles on a bike trail adjacent to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. All the way from the East Rim to Brandywine Falls to the Bedford Reservation — and then back again.
We were cycling in “Sport Mode,” and I can attest to the fact that it was fun.
But these sorts of rides are the exception for me, not the rule. I generally prefer to use my bicycle for transportation more than recreation. That is: I don’t wear special cycling clothes. I don’t try to sweat buckets. The bicycle is my vehicle for getting from Point A to Point B. And it’s usually just a mile or two at a time. It’s about riding around town and getting life done in a way that’s healthy, economical, sustainable, and fun.
To put it another way: I do it for Health, for Wealth, for the Earth, and for Mirth. This sort of mindset is pretty common in the Netherlands (where I used to live). But even knowing that different cultures simply think about things in different ways, I just don’t understand why more Americans don’t adopt a similar mindset when it comes to cycling. It’s totally doable! And contrary to popular belief, it generally seems to be as fast or faster when it comes to getting from one part of town to another (when that town is the size of Kent, anyway)!
I’ve had several conversations along these lines recently. Maybe now is a moment! While the sun is shining… while the pavement on Water Street is still shiny and smooth… while the Dutch and American experiences at at the closest point in their orbits of thought surrounding bicycles. Even if your bike needs a bit of repair to make this possible, it’s totally worth it (I recently had some pretty major work to replace the chain on my bicycle, the pads on my disc brakes, and the grips on my handlebars — basically the equivalent of major engine upkeep, new brakes, and floor mats — for a tenth of the cost that it would cost to do similar upgrades on an automobile). Seriously! What have you got to lose?
Give it a try. I’d like to think a month of adopting the bicycle as the dominant mode of transportation could be an excellent place to start a habit. Along the way, you might decide that you really like it. So I say, “Come on! Join the Revolution!”