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On Bicycles

I just wrote up the following for my online dating profile, on a site which seems to be awash with fixie-riding hipsters. Cute boys, but unfortunately bicycle-obsessed.

Many of you good-lookin’, smart, down-for-the-cause gentlemen appear to be into bicycling. I generally click through a cute picture and skim down a well-written, funny profile indicating how reliable your leftist bona-fides are, feeling like you are maybe The One For Me, and then at the bottom, I see “Big bonus if you want to ride bikes with me.”

I have a confession to make, honey. I hate bicycles.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a declaration of my desire to lock myself in a gas-guzzling, polluting, international-politics-disrupting metal box every morning and run over a half-dozen pedestrians while screaming words at my fellow drivers that they will never hear, in the name of soothing my xenophobic American sensibilities. That doesn’t appeal either. I am an ardent supporter of public transit, calling my senator with regularity to make sure transit bills get funded and not cut. I’ve been smug ever since we went to war, knowing that my daily life in New York requires far less gasoline than the average American lifestyle.

This is not about the environment. This is a declaration of physics. Bicycles have no intrinsic motivation to stay upright.

I do. I have an inner ear, bones, and a sensitive epidermis which generally do not like to be driven headfirst into the curb.

Horses also have an innate motivation to stay upright. I would like to ride a horse to work every day; I’ve schemed to make it happen. (They turned me down for the professorship at Appalachian State, though.) I would rather run to work any given day. Hell, I even enjoy riding Segways. Just please don’t ask me to get on my bike.

Yes, I do have a bike. I’ve had the same one since I was about thirteen, even though I’ve moved all the way across the country, periodically given it to other people, and once had it stolen from me. I keep the same one out of a terror that I will hate any other bike even more. This despite the fact that shortly after I learned to ride without training wheels (at thirteen, after a hiatus since the age of ten, when it became mortally uncool to use training wheels), the same bike pitched me headfirst into a curb.

I have a bike because my dad decided I needed one, and specifically needed one kitted out with super-bikey things which he, as a gearhead of the mostly-automobile-and-motorcycle variety, thought were pretty cool. Racing handlebars and toe clips, however, only worsened my feeling that the bike was forever about to tip over, grappling onto my feet to take me with it.

I rode it for a while when I was thirteen because I had a crush on a guy who volunteered at the Humane Society, and he biked there, so I decided I should, too. After I realized the guy was kind of a psychopath, the bike mostly served to get me over to some nearby stables, where I could hang out with other mammals who liked being upright so much they even slept that way.

My 1970s-era men’s Nishiki with mountain-bike handles is sitting here in my bedroom, glaring malevolently at me as I type. It’s in fine enough shape that I even ride it to work sometimes, to pacify the part of me that’s screaming that I need to leave New York City or at least try to spend some time in the sun more often.

I’m coming into the awareness that I would probably be happier if I had a Dutch-style grandma bike. But I hate the very idea of riding everywhere. I expect I might hate it less if cars did not have doors, or were made of silicone breast implants, or were unable to go over five miles an hour. Or if New York City was free of potholes and broken glass.

Then again, one of the more harrowing rides I’ve taken was across the Brooklyn Bridge, with all of you eager bikers zooming past my tottering form at top speed, so maybe an all-bicycle society isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, either.

So please — don’t make hanging out together conditional on me being on a bicycle. If you think we might get along, emphasize your resistance to tipping over. Or if you really want to impress me, buy me a horse.


  1. Roger wrote:

    I love this piece. However, re “forever about to tip over, grappling onto my feet to take me with it”: absolutely *everyone* who rides with toe clips or clipless pedals has a funny slowly-tipping -over story ready to tell. Usually it happens at a stoplight, while drivers of nearby cars watch amusedly and perhaps offer you a ride afterwards. Fits your metaphor, I think, that we all get clipped into a slow fall once in a while: even the hardest-core bike nerd should be able to realize that his balance is never perfect.

    (My nice shiny Waterford is still languishing in my mother’s basement, waiting for the day I move to the promised land, or at least somewhere I’m not terrified of homicidal local drivers.)

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  2. admin wrote:

    I’m hoping you don’t believe that LA is the promised land for bicyclists 😉 and I’m reassured that I’m not the only one who has problems with toe clips!

    Monday, April 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

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