“I am not a bike person” – part 2

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.


3 thoughts on ““I am not a bike person” – part 2

  1. Pingback: #errundonnee Day 1 | The View from the Crosswalk

  2. I am looking to find your insurance agent, since it got posted on Seattle Family Biking and I want to get us properly insured. It is taking me a while to get to that post and in the interim I want to encourage you to talk to Michael Ingram at the City of Bellevue about the Level of Service problem you posted about that will block improvements for people walking and pedaling – he was on the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board with me and knows how to fix bureaucratic nonsense.

    Re this post – I am a little sad you do not find the FB book compatible. It is the only reason I am on FB really. I have considered posting this person’s blog post, which I was pleased to find as it reflects my thoughts too: http://carfreecambridge.com/2013/11/biking-isnt-really-my-thing/

    Maybe that is how you feel too?

    another parent of twins+


    • Thanks Molly. I trust that you were able to find him. I should edit that post because I verified with his office that he can write policies for the entire state of Washington. I hope it works out for you.

      I will keep Michael Ingram in mind. We’ve turned inwards a bit and focused more on Kirkland and Redmond, since they are closer and seem to have a better starting point. On the other hand, Bellevue is saying some aggressive things about pedestrians and bicycles, so maybe they will get moving faster on improvements.

      I hope I didn’t come across as negative about the FB group; I tried hard not to do so because it really is a good community. I suspect that any kind of biking group isn’t really going to be a fit for me. On the other hand, the greenways groups do seem to be compatible since the focus is more on the people traveling than bicycles specifically, though of the course bicycles are often involved.

      One big difference (I think) is that bicycling is an important part of who a lot of these people are, just like running is for me. I’ve been riding the bus instead of running on my non-running commutes, and it doesn’t bother me. Maybe I’ll decide I want my own schedule instead of a bus one and start riding to work again, but it’s not about the bike. When it’s about the bike I zone out. #30daysofbiking and Bike Month are like that for me.

      Yes, a lot of that post works for me too. I also like the attitude towards bicycles by https://wheeledpedestrian.wordpress.com/. #30daysofbiking is also addressed at http://carfreedays.com/2015/04/01/one-day-at-a-time-an-alternative-to-30-days-of-biking. I wouldn’t go as far as to even pledge to ride more but instead to make good transportation decisions (“good” being intentionally vague here).


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