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Sunday, March 27, 2005


You know how some people are about cars? How they'll talk about the new models, stop and stare when one of them happens along, and generally talk about them with like, or unlike, minded people longer than you'd consider strictly necessary?

I'm that way about bicycles.

I love them. I consider them one of the finest inventions of the nineteenth century. Bicycles are staggeringly useful machines. It's comical to note that, in the USA, they're considered kids' toys.
It's a revelation living in other countries where they are considered serious modes of transportation.
I rode a bicycle to work in all weather in Germany, except for when it was too icy to trust the roads. I never had a cold or flu and was in better physical condition than I've been since.
Berlin had great bicycle paths and it was easy to ride all over the city without much danger from cars. On my last stay there I took weekend trips with my friend Kuni, all through East and West Berlin and well into Potsdam. It was possible to put the machines on a train to get out of the city, and ride for miles in the parks.

Bicycles can carry a lot of weight in relation to their size. I remember going to a Cirque de Soleil performance and seeing twelve acrobats balancing in a pyramid on top of one bicycle. No horse would survive this. I am by no means sure that a car would, either.

I can routinely carry sixty pounds of groceries on the bicycle in addition to myself. There are two large canvas saddlebags and a removable basket on the handlebar.
I really can't say enough good things about these machines. The bicycle not only provides transportation with no fuel costs (other than a dime's worth of sewing machine oil once a year) it also helps you lose weight, stay healthy, and improve your physical condition.

There are not too many downsides. While they do make snow tires for bicycles, I felt they were a little too risky to use here. So I've had my bicycle out for the first time in about two months, now that the snow has melted.
I'm told that there is a bike trail along the Erie Canal that I should look into. Perhaps I'll do that when someone shows me the proper way to get there. In the meantime, it's possible to go to many places by judicious use of side streets.
I've still got my original Motobecane bicycle that I picked up in Berlin in 1988; the machine has great sentimental value for me, since I've ridden it in five countries and it was instrumental in restoring the use of my right knee after a major car crash. But it's old, there are problems getting parts, and it's heavy, with very few gears.

The new one pictured here was purchased last July and is doing fine. The "Cypress" is a 27 speed wonder that is made of aluminum and hence is very light. It has shock absorbers in the saddle and another set of shocks in the fork. The handlebars are adjustable as well--there have been many design improvements over the older machine. I could wish that it had a generator but I'm told that aluminum bikes can't use them. One must have a 'ground' to make them work. So this bike has a battery powered light. You can't have everything, I guess.

The older bike will probably be hooked up to a small electrical generator once I move this summer. I like the idea of being able to generate power to watch videos or run this computer off the will also be possible to exercise indoors during the winter.