It has become stylish to persecute cyclists through the media. There have been
editorial letters in major newspapers complaining about cyclists getting in the
way during rush hour, and in the course of such protests, the writers can't
resist taking a stab at how the cyclists are dressed as well. It's those "cute
little suits" and the "silly looking helmets" that drive irate motorists crazy.
Even Atlanta's syndicated
had a go at us. After some hardly original gripes about traffic flow and
silly-looking costumes, he said that there was at least one advantage to the way
we dress. The way he had it figured, since skin-tight pants can cause sterility
in males, we are the last generation of cyclists people like him will have to
I love Lewis
and I will continue to read his column whenever I see it. From now on, though,
I want everybody to pronounce his last name so that it
'lizard." He really hates it when people do that. Just tell him I said it was
They have a purpose
Yes, the cycling "costumes" are eye-catchers, because they are designed with a
specific job in mind. That job is cycling in comfort. All day. Every day.
Any other type of clothing will definitely wear holes in your body in private
places if you repeatedly rack up lots of miles. It's as simple as that. If you
don't ride very much, you can get by without the cycling garb. If you cycle
seriously, saddle sores will force you to buy the pants that do indeed look
dorky. A detailed description of why biking clothing looks the way it does can
be heard a the local bike shop.
jerseys have big, hungry pockets on the back. It sounds weird, but put one of
the the jerseys on and ride a bicycle. That's where the pockets belong. A
cycling jersey is a vital part of my equipment on any long ride, just because of
the pockets. During my ride to the Gulf of Mexico, my jersey became the
headquarters for my high-tech multimedia intelligence gathering system which
came together as I planned the trip. James Bond would have been envious.
In the right hand pocket lived my
dictation recorder. It would provide me with a verbal diary of what the scenery
looked like, how I felt, where I was, and so on. Once when I was in a
frustrating situation, I simply turned the recorder on and cussed. I'm glad I
bought that gadget. Right now I wouldn't take anything for those tapes I made
out on the road. I can listen to the tapes while I'm looking at my maps and I
have no trouble at all reliving the trip anytime I want.
The middle pocket on the jersey
housed the 110 camera, wound and ready. I took rolls and rolls of pictures
right out there in the
saddle A few of
actually came out
The left hand pocket stayed empty until I reached
north central Florida. There, the towns are 25 or 30 miles apart, and the
terrain is as bleak as any desert. It just goes on and on, over the horizon and
into oblivion. The road is flat, straight as an arrow, and completely
featureless. A dead armadillo in the road is an important landmark. It lets
you know you are still moving forward.
Then came an idea
It was somewhere in this area
that I came up with an idea to ward off insanity. In among my camping gear
was a tiny FM radio. I got it out, stuck it in my last empty jersey pocket,
and wired myself up with the little white earphone-one ear for wind and cars,
and the other ear music and news. I used that system between towns for the
rest of the trip. The music helped me beyond belief, and the news gave me the
feel of the region I was in. Inside cities, I shut the radio down and focused
both ears on traffic.
Down the road I went,
playing with the bike computer on the handlebars that read out time, speed,
and distance information in six different modes. I was a pedaling electronics
I enjoyed watching people
watch me whenever I arrived at a burger joint. It was quite a production for
me to make an official stop.
First I parked the bike. Then I untangled the radio. The earphone wire ran
under one armpit, behind my neck, the round and round one of the straps on my
helmet. Radio out. Telescoping antenna retracted. Recorder out. Camera
out. Cycling gloves off. Helmet off. Riding shoes off. Bag open. Pull out
and install walking shoes. Electronics into the bag where the walking shoes
were. Wallet out. Close the bag. A few more motions just for dramatic
effect, and finally I'm ready to order my lunch. On my way out, it was the
same program in reverse.
One morning I was rolling
along beside the surf at the Gulf of Mexico. I was thrilled to be where I
was. During this euphoric state of mind, it occurred to me that perhaps I had
discovered the best way to travel known to man. Everything was just so
perfect, I felt like I was guiding a time machine.
It came from behind
Suddenly, it got real dark real quick. I
looked in the mirror and saw a monstrous motor home cruising 20 feet behind me,
waiting for room to pass on the two lane. The thing has eclipsed the morning
sun. The pilot of the motor home waited patiently and swung out when there was
no more traffic left on sight. He then executed a parade pass that reminded me
of a starship at the movies.
This was the biggest motor home ever
manufactured. There was your basic, typical dad perched behind a windshield
that was as large as Rhode Island. He tooted the horn and gave me a happy wave
as the crew cabin slid past me. I watched aluminum siding go by until I felt
like an authority on the subject. Next came a door or two, and a roll-out
awning. After that I was greeted by the wife, two kids, Aunt Wilma, and Uncle
George, who were all playing cards at the table in front of the picture window.
I think Aunt Wilma had a poodle riding in her lap.
In any case, it was a real laid back scene
there in the living room. I was flashed by a few shiny mag wheels, and then
came the rear of the behemoth. The closed-circuit rear view camera seemed to be
staring down at the big satellite dish wedged between the bumper and the tail
lights. Last came the Volvo station wagon in tow. As the vehicle drifted
slowly away, I expected to see bold typeset following in its wake ... "These are
the voyages ... to boldly go ... etc."
It took me the better part of that day to
wrestle with the comparison between that mode of travel and mine. Aside from a
$250,000 discrepancy in the cost of equipment, there had to be a drastic,
drastic difference in the philosophy. We share the same highway, but we bring
home wildly differing interpretations of the same scenery.
I rode and rode and thought and thought.
Finally I put my finger on it. Uncle George might see California the day after
tomorrow with a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a living room, but I don't care how
many rooms he's got, he's got no room for personal accomplishment along the way.