Why I Ride
I recently wrote, in another venue, that I ride to explore my environment, urban and rural wild places. What I didn’t write, because it only struck me upon reflection, afterward, is that I ride, I canoe, I kayak, because the nature of these activities is not only that they are self-powered, they are self-directed.
We live in a society that restricts our freedom by demanding insane degrees of commitment and effort in exchange for a wage, and that freedom is further curtailed by legal requirements touching upon every activity we must engage in to earn that wage and live within the boundaries of society – licensure, insurance, taxes on every purchase in addition to some types of property owned, and our tax diminished incomes.
But if I buy a used bike, or a used canoe, or used gear, and then put that stuff to a use I, myself, choose, and use it to go where I like, when I like, I wage war against the constraints of an increasingly statist society. I invite those who wish to constrain my movements and interests to experience the absurd extreme of their philosophical bent and make animal sounds moonward. And I tread upon the idea that I require the permission of others to move about freely and freely observe and consider the environment in which I find myself.
That said, I’d buy a new bike from a manufacturer or retailer if I got a really good deal and could justify the expense – two conditions that have gone unmet for a longish time. And if I win a bike or the use of a bike, you can bet I will subject it to frequent use, abuse, will photograph it and publish the snapshots and accounts of my exploits.
Eight wheels, I count eight wheels; two don’t count, though – I no longer have the Trek…
Sometime in mid-August fell my third anniversary as an adult cyclist. I took to two wheels three years ago while at a completely worthless employer mandated training at Murfreesboro. After the work day, on two consecutive days, I drove downtown to MOAB and I bought a couple of comfort bikes – one for my wife and the other for me. Since then, I have taken to riding really old, lugged steel friction-shifted road bikes. A couple of years ago, my father-in-law gave me the coffee-colored Raleigh Sprite he had while stationed in Honolulu in the early Seventies. I finally got the frame to the soda-blaster and need to finish sand it and get it to the powder-coater. I’m thinking British Racing Green with silver or gray fenders. A little over one year ago, I got a fairly serious injury that gave me an opportunity to rethink my hopes and dreams, to get back on course to reach goals I’d been neglecting over the previous year (2012 – 2013). Early this year, I bought my friend’s spare Bridgestone MB-4; its top-tube was too short for him, but the bike fit me fine. I spent a long time learning about headsets, hammers, mallets, woodblocks, jigs. The Bridgestone’s mostly sorted out, now, but I think the headtube may need refaced and the headset further monkeyed with. Still, the bike suits me fine so far and I’m not racing singletrack with it.
I got some 3M spoke reflectors for the front wheel
Also, back in 2013, I spent $40 at a garage sale for a Suteki Track 10 mixte in nearly NOS condition, and gave it to my wife. A very pretty blue, lugged steel frame with 27” wheels, Shimano 600 drivetrain, Tektro brakes, etc., circa 1979. A tune-up, some new cables, new tires, and the bike was as ride-able as the day it was first assembled.
Bikes versus Boats
That’s the RZ-96 on the roof of Thursday, probably the best car I’ve ever owned
Those are a lot of bikes. I’m down to one tandem kayak – a Pouch RZ-96 – and one canoe – a 1974 Grumman 18’ aluminum. I haven’t been paddling much since I started riding bikes. It’s the convenience factor, and I’ve mentioned it before on this site – I can set off from my driveway, spend two or three hours monkeying around on the road, and return to the house (Southerners say that a lot – “the house” – when they mean to say “home.” I have a theory about the tendency’s origins, but have not thought about it enough to write about it). With a canoe or kayak, even a folding kayak, I have to load boat and gear into a car (if I’m smart, I do this the night before), drive to a put-in, assemble or unload the boat, rig the boat, put gear in the boat, in cold weather change into immersion gear, set out, paddle about thirty minutes beyond the point where I know I can easily turn around and make it back, then turn around and paddle back to the put-in, usually against a howling, white-cap churning headwind. I do that to test my manly strength and determination – I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to risk their survival in tests of endurance? I feel pretty certain a lot of women do that sort of thing, too. But, since I am a man, it is my manliness that I put to the test – I’ve always come back without having needed assistance.
I brought this back for my wife from the furthest point I’ve paddled upstream on the Elk River
Serious or Recreational?
Because there’ve rarely been people of my personal acquaintance much interested in the things I like, I’ve corresponded via Internet message boards with others who share my enthusiasm for kayaking, or “messing about in boats.” There’s nothing half so pleasant as messing about in boats, to paraphrase, I think, Mr. Badger or Mr. Toad or another character from those old stories the names of which I now no longer recall, but which is the source of the phrase.
Wind in the Willows – found the name when I found the image
That’s a phrase I’ve seen used a lot by people at the Folbot Forum and at FKO – foldingkayaks.org. Many of the people who exchange ideas, information, comments on both boards don’t seem to identify as “hardcore” or “serious” paddlers (although some do) and, as paddlers of folding kayaks, most mainstream paddlers of Kevlar, plastic, fiberglass kayaks would consider us, almost dismissively, “recreational” paddlers.
Anyway, I’ll take the advice of my old friend, Diana Hardin, and let other people categorize me and my pursuits without giving the matter too much thought. Let others ‘define’ you; you go and live (a life that makes ethical and logical sense to yourself) without regard to their rules, strictures, and opinions.
I find there’s not much I like more than exploring waterways and wild places. In a kayak, or in a canoe (although a canoe is more difficult to manage in winds), you can get places where power-boaters cannot and hikers usually do not go. The drum-song of paddle drip rhythmically striking a folding kayak’s fabric deck or one’s spray-deck like a metronome marks the beat of each paddle stroke making forward movement easier when tired. Good it is to see and be present in places most people cannot imagine exist.
In the same way that I’ll not be categorized as a serious paddler, no one who categorizes will categorize me as a “serious” cyclist. I like monkeying around on bikes finding it a good way to explore the world around me and get to places others don’t or won’t go because it’s not convenient for them; it requires effort, some physical exertion. My most-used Cyclemeter route is “Monkeying Around.” I’ve done about 2000 miles, so far, this calendar year that I’d so classify, and the route changes every time I ride it – usually a route I choose when I’m getting under way.
Activities: Paddling; Cycling; Mulching Leaves in the Yard – this is how I look when I’m smiling
I mentioned, above, that I don’t usually find other people much interested in the same activities that interest me. I think that’s the reason I take photos of myself while out in a boat or out on the road – there’s usually no one else along to snap a picture of me doing stuff I really enjoy. This may be true of others and may partially explain the “selfie” phenomenon.
Okay. I did join the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and maintained membership for a few years, attended a couple of workshops, participated in a couple of activities, but most of those folks, locally, are interested in whitewater paddling, and I could care less about that activity. Also, a lot of them seem to be all into some kind of advocacy or other. I tend to be unmoved by that sort of thing.
I do prefer a Greenland style paddle and made one of my own out of Tennessee red cedar (it didn’t turn out very well, but I used it for a long time until I could justify the expense of one made by someone else with actual woodworking skills). When I take a day trip by kayak or canoe, I usually paddle boats designed to cover long distances, dress for immersion, carry a spare paddle, and carry sufficient gear and food to see me through in the event I get stuck somewhere overnight, paddling doesn’t occupy the place that religion occupies for people who adhere (more or less faithfully) to the tenets of a religion. I haven’t learned 83 different types of Greenland rolls, I don’t spell “kayak” with a “Q” – I mean, you’re spelling a consonant sound from a language that didn’t until recently have a written form using a 26-letter (it is 26 letters, isn’t it?) European alphabet, right? Why would anyone imagine it’s more “authentic” to write “q’ajaq” than “kayak”? Additionally, I don’t venerate my paddles, I use them to move my boats through water, and if I occasionally use the paddle to push off from the bank, I don’t imagine I’ve transgressed against the ‘spirit’ of my paddle by having used it like a “shovel.” Honestly, some people. But that’s the religious bent of humanity.
And I’m not serious about messing about in boats. When I got to the point that I felt guilty about not paddling on days I had time to do so, I backed off. And, truthfully, I’d rather spend time with my wife and son, most days.
Stepford Bike Club
I joined and maintain membership in a local bicycling club, attend meetings, and am slightly active in the club. I can do some basic bike maintenance. When I bicycle, I usually bring along a multi-tool, spare tube, a patch kit, a lot of times wear lycra bicycle specific garments, wear a bike helmet, wear cycling gloves, make it a point to be seen by motorists, have no fear of riding in traffic like a vehicle, ride every day, ride distances that would have seemed mind-blowing and impossible to me three years ago (but which are like a ride around the block for many cyclists). But I tend to think of myself as more of a “budget cyclist,” meaning I try to justify every expense and spend as little as possible on bikes, equipment, clothing, maintenance, and so forth. Sometimes, my wife is willing to join me on a bike ride. She hated monkeying around in kayaks and canoes. My son joins me on a lot of extended neighborhood rides. Until last week, the only bike we owned that was manufactured in the current century was my son’s Trek Jet 20. The only new bikes I’ve ever purchased where those two comfort bikes from MOAB about three years ago – both of which we’ve sold. Until last week, the only bike we owned that was capable of indexed shifting was the ‘89 Bridgestone.
On the other hand, I could care less about competing against other cyclists, I have blinking lights (fore and aft) on my bikes when riding because I want to be seen by motorists, I’m annoyed by glaring jack-ass cyclists who take up position in the middle of the only, fairly wide, directional lane of traffic to self-consciously and self-righteously ride 16 miles an hour while holding up a line of eight motorists trying to get to work, I wave “Hello” or speak to other cyclists I meet on the road, I tend to move over to the right side of a lane of traffic for cars when I can do it safely except when closing up the gap to a red light or stop sign or about to turn left, I stop to take pictures, I ride through neighborhoods because I want to see what’s in them, I don’t wear lycra sex-organ baring garments when I know I’m going to be riding around kids, and I don’t wear those clothes when I ride my bike to congregational meetings, I have no interest in banning automobiles, I like automobiles and like driving them. So, I probably don’t fall into a “serious” cyclist category, by many measures. Almost forgot – I don’t use clipless pedals.
Too much information, and too few pictures – another post published. A couple of more on the way, soon.