Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bike commuting chic: Which bike commuter are you?

In my ongoing effort to investigate bike commuting, I've learned there are different styles of bike commuter:

1) Rusty old bike, hardcore -- Strong as hell rider, usually carries heavier as hell backpack and happily grunts it out on the old, crappy bike. Wears street clothes that are smelly. May work in a factory. May not have helmet, or, better yet, has old-school crash helmet stashed on bike. Usually holding bagel in one hand. Riding while eating.

2) The rigidly upright -- We have one of these in my neighborhood, so I have had ample opportunity to observe. Rigidly upright wears basically the same outfit every day: khakis and buttondown. Wears old school crash helmet (pre-vents). Sports a strap so pants legs don't get caught in bicycle. Rides a cruiser/hybrid that is shiny bright clean. Goes about 5 miles an hour and has timing like clockwork.

3) The I'm a bike commuter, hear me roar -- This type is just anal as rigidly upright, but they're out to make a statement that bike commuting is good, you are BAD. Yes, they will ride in -30 F and will blabber about it all day at work. They have the complete outfit, from head to toe. They have a bike that was listed as a "commuter bike" at the bike shop, so they thought it would work well. They have all the necessary safety bells and whistles, and then some. They might commute just a mile every day, but damnit, they're bike commuting and you're not!

4) The punk rock girl -- You see this girl riding around town, but you're not quite sure where she works. Then, one day, you go to your local coffeehouse (the fair trade one, not Starbucks, you nazi!) and there she is. You actually put it together before you go into the shop - you just go into the shop to confirm your hunches - as the pink bike with the Hello Kitty horn and handlebar streamers and spoke clips is sitting outside, chained up with a purple sparkley lock. She may wear leggings and cutoff jeans one day. Her hair might be in pigtails, but she usually wears a helmet.

5) The golden oldie -- He's a superstar. Everyone knows him or knows of him. He could have retired long ago, but he's still fit and smart as a whip, so he heads to the company that bears his name at least a few days a week. He wears a helmet (his wife would be quite upset if he didn't!) and cycling garb and just enjoys the experience. He does happen to have a rear view mirror attached to his helmet, but that's not a sign of dorkyness in this case, it's just endearing. His bike is newish and nice. He has clipless pedals. May show up to some Critical Mass rides for support.

6) I work on bikes. Can you tell? -- This person is probably the mechanic at your local bike shop. He (yes, it's probably a he) wears street clothes and an older helmet (unless he had to get a new one because he crashed in a race recently). His bike is quite fancy (I work there for the discount, man) with high-quality componentry. He zips through traffic like a messenger, but he claims he's a slacker and would rather be fixing bikes all day than "risking his life." Coulda fooled me by the way you negotiate the cars and trucks.

7) Art director -- His commute isn't too long, so why not clear the head and ride the BMX bike? The bike is at least a decade and a half old and not half bad. It's in fairly good working order. He wears street clothes - no need to wear something else on the short trip to work.

8) Because I need to -- This varies from the DUI offender riding the Wal Mart special (dude will hopefully gain some respect for roadway safety by riding a bike in traffic) to the Mexican line cook. I TOTALLY respect the Mexican line cooks on many levels, but of all the bike commuters listed here, they get the most props because they have to ride. They're often not legal citizens, but they've kicked so much ass just by working hard to get here. Then, that's not to mention that you see one of these folks pedaling away from their job at Dan Pablos or whatever generic restaurant you choose and riding on the very narrow sidewalk next to the busy road that even brave riders wouldn't negotiate because that's what they have to do to get home.

9) The nondescript bike commuter -- Like me. Not too hardcore (when it gets too cold or snowy, that's it). Not there to prove any point. Not especially fast unless chased by a dog. Not especially interesting looking. Middle of the road bike. Basic safety stuff on bike. Probably wearing newish helmet. Knows how to change a tire, but don't ask them to true a wheel. Does the bike commute just because. Not to make a statement, but just because.

10) The tragically hip -- Similar to "Rusty old bike" (#1), but different in a few key ways. Found their bike at Goodwill or garage sale and bought it because it would look nice in the living room of the apartment with character. The bike is perhaps a 1970's touring bike. Some stuff on the bike needs attention but this person wouldn't know it. In fact, when bikesmart friends suggest a tune up "for safety's sake", the tragically hip just throws head back and orders another round of imported beer. Seen riding on spring days.

11) The activist -- Posts fliers about local Critical Mass ride and may even have a website dedicated to local cycling information. Enjoys making a scene, but has incredibly good intentions and is well-loved because of that and the positive results of their activism.

12) The granny -- Has gigantic baskets on her bike, perfect for holding errand items. Mostly seen commuting to the grocery, as she's retired. She may have an adult-sized tricycle.


Blogger VeloDiablo said...

Wow. I think I fit in somewhere between activist, punk rock girl (but I'm a boy), and I'm bike commuter, hear me roar.

Yeah, you know it's really wonderful to see the variety of bike commuters in the morning. The guys with the big baskets and fenders, the fixed-gear fanatics, the ones that dress like it's the tour de france at 9am, the university students with taped-together helmets and rusted bikes.

10:55 PM  

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