Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two-wheel deal

For about 30 years, I've been a bicycle commuter to work. I started bicycling to work on a used three-speed Columbia with internal hub. I'll never forget the sense of freedom and uniqueness from tooling around Sierra Vista, Arizona, one summer during college on that heavy steed. Somehow, I barely remember the five-mile uphill daily commute.

When I settled in Sierra Vista after college, I resumed bicyling—in my business clothes—to my first job as a technical writer, less than two miles away. Of that commute, I recall seeing mesmerizing color combinations created by lights reflecting from anodized aluminum slats in chain-link fences. I never did figure out where that turquoise color came from.

In my mid-twenties, I became an avid cyclist, and bought a series of go-fast bicycles and carry-stuff bicycles, including an old, used Motebecane touring bike, of the latter type. I never appreciated the jewelry fitting-like lugs, cut precisely in a stylized M.

Not my Motobecane Grand Touring bicycle, but an identical model.
Next, from the LBS came a Schwinn Voyageur. I commuted to work many years on the Voyageur, and took at least one wonderful tour: a perimeter ride of the Gila Wilderness. Despite the fact that these Voyageurs enjoy a loyal following due to their intricate fittings, the Voyageur just never felt "right," so when one of the doyennes of Tucson's Greater Arizona Bicycling Association advertised to sell her Miyata 1000LT tourer, I was right on that. A true touring machine with strong 36-spoke triple-cross wheels,  relaxed geometry, bar-end shifters, nice triple chainring, long wheelbase, and lots of braze-ons. The handling of the bicycle improved with weight, especially with front panniers.

The commute was 8 to 10 miles round-trip, and I often headed out on the roller-coaster road to Fort Huachuca's West Gate after work. Eventually an entire cadre of my colleagues bicycled in, even a "non-bikie" woman named Charla who rode a harder morning than any of us: a 20-mile unrelenting uphill from the river to our building in the foothills.
Sometime during this, I also completed two El Tour de Tucson 109-milers in high style, along with 5,000 other cycling enthusiasts, on the go-fast Schwinn Super Sport road bike, as well as a few many centuries and double metric centuries.

I also owned a mountain bike, but my bicycle-handling skills were just a few degrees north of my intrepidness: not my cup of tea, although I loved riding the dirt roads in southern Arizona's San Rafael Valley.

After seven years of commuting to and working in the same place, I put all my worldly goods in storage, found a temporary foster home for my lovely cat, and flew to San Diego with my Miyata and panniers, bicycling east to the Atlantic Ocean: seeing America at 12 miles per hour, solo and self-contained.

For years at Texas A&M University, I commuted to work on the Miyata with panniers or my go-fast Demarais of the gorgeous pink Imron paint job.

Still I'm a bicycle commuter, a short 2.25-mile ride each way to Texas A&M University, but I enjoy even this short-and-not-scenic commute. I park my Downtube folding bike in the bike rack and change upstairs. After more than two decades, this packing/commuting/refreshing/changing thing is routine and second nature.

My Downtube folding bicycle: love it!

On September 3, I'm looking forward to participating in Courteous Mass, a takeoff on the urban Critical Mass bicycle demonstrations to raise awareness of the impact of cycling.  Ifound a small note about the event taped to my handlebars. The group will meet behind a popular college watering hole and ride en masse the 4 miles to downtown Bryan's First Friday event. I'm so excited.


Chile said...

You certainly are passionate about your biking! When I was cycling regularly, on a heavy Trek hybrid bike, the longest ride I ever did was 50 miles. Sadly, I can't imagine riding that distance now because life happened and I got out of shape.

I tried a road bike for a while but never could master the clipless pedals; I'm simply not that coordinated! The bike went and was replaced with the custom longtail with Xtracycle bags. I'm starting to ride again a little after months of not being on two wheels and looking forward to replacing local errands driving with biking.

Hope you have a good time on the mass event coming up.

Waitress from Mensa said...

Chile, Your Xtracycle fascinates me! I want one! While driving home a while ago, I chased down an Xtracycle, finally racing down a parallel street and beating him to the next corner just to see it and talk with the rider. I'm a carry-stuff, not a go-fast cyclist, although I love my clipless pedals. While all the go-fast riders in Sierra Vista were always figuring ways to cut out a few grams of weight (bladed spokes, drilling out QRs, titanium frames, minimum number of spokes), I was always looking for ways to lash more stuff to my front and rear racks and handlebar bag.

Have fun on your local errands.

Her Artichoke Heart said...

Very cool! My sister was into biking for a long time, and she had one of those folding bikes so she could take it on the train with her when she had to. How was Couteous Mass? Love the name. :)

Waitress from Mensa said...

Artichoke, good to hear from you again. I miss your blog updates! As it turned out, my job kept me at the grindstone well past the Courteous Mass departure, so i went contra dancing instead later in the evening. First Friday in October is the souped-up Art Step, so I hope to join the group and post a full report. Three cheers to your sister for the bicycle-on-public-transit commuting.