In part 1, I discussed why I bike even though I’m not a bike person. In some ways, that post was the good news or words of encouragement for others who don’t see themselves that way either. This one is more negative. I hope that it will serve two purposes. First, it’s a bit of a warning for others like me. Hopefully it can serve as validation that things are ok if/when someone else has experiences like these rather than scare them away. Perhaps more importantly, it can provide some perspective to those that want to encourage people like me to ride.
When I started biking a bit, I thought the “bike people” would be some kind of peer group, but I’ve found that to be pretty naïve. It turns out that we don’t really have anything in common to discuss. In retrospect, perhaps this was somewhat obvious. Take the example of waiting for a signal alongside another cyclist, perhaps both commuting home. I’m not sure what I expected, though it seems like it would make sense to converse with someone doing the same thing. But beyond a “hello” or some kind of general (i.e., not biking) question (“where do you work?”), what could it be? Or even if it’s a biking question like “how far are you going?”, I would find a long trip to be unfortunate just like most bike commuters would find my short trip to be silly. (On the flip side, someone running a long way would interest me.) I’m not going to ask about some bike component because it’s not like I know (or even really care) what I even have on my bike. Occasionally there’s something if the other person is way more outgoing than me, and I suppose it’s certainly some improvement because you don’t exactly see drivers exchanging pleasantries. One place where I do see some interaction is in the neighborhood. However, it’s usually with people walking, and it’s not about the bike. It’s just that we are people out and about and not barricaded in car cages. So that’s a plus.
There is a biking email distribution list at work. I joined it because if I’m using a bike as transportation of course I should. But, to overgeneralize, it’s bike stuff and I mostly don’t care. Or a route is “not too bad” that I find horrendously dangerous. So in the end I follow it because occasionally there’s something useful to learn, but if I follow it too closely I start losing interest to ride. To be clear, this isn’t a complaint. This list is for bike people, and it’s a good one. It’s just not for me, and it’s not intended to be for me. (On the flip side, a similar group for running would work because that is my hobby.)
I occasionally scan through the Seattle Family Biking Facebook group. This is closer – people using bikes for transportation. However, even it doesn’t fit, and I’ve struggled to understand why. But recently there was a post about trying to share bike-love (or something like that) with children, and now it sort of makes sense. I don’t love my bike. In fact, I’m not sure I even like it. It’s useful. Sometimes I just dislike it less than a car. And this is fine too. Of course conversation in this group is going to mainly be from people who are bike people (just in a very different way than the other group!) Again, to be clear, this isn’t a complaint. It’s a friendly and very helpful group.
Lastly, there are bike shops. Michelle and I have seen a huge variation in how bike shops treat non-bikey people. Our number of visits at many shops is pretty small, so I’m not going to name any poor experiences here, but I will say that we definitely have places that we prefer. Now, I get it. Most (all?) people who work in bike shops have a deep interest in cycling. And just like a mountain biking specialist might not seem excited about the needs of a road racer, none of them will fully relate with me. Furthermore, they know where the money is. Would they rather sell multiple hundred or thousand dollar components or try to convince me that I really ought to replace my chain? Hobbyists (any kind, not just cycling) can be happy to spend money, whereas for me these things are just expenses. However, I am willing to pay for something that will just work. I think I’d love to have a belt instead of a chain. I hate derailleurs. I failed to have a conversation about options at a local bike shop. In the end, I’m not happy when I need to stop at a bike shop, and I don’t think that’s a good thing for my continued riding.
So, bike-loving advocates and shop owners, if you want to encourage me to ride, please remember that I’m not going to love riding like you do. But, I think there are a lot of people like me in this way, and if you want to see big growth, you’ve got to take me seriously.