The Chainlink

A recent post by someone who, as an adult, is just wanting to start riding, got me thinking.  I've been riding since age 4, and have always considered myself a cyclist, even when I lived in bike-unfriendly suburbs and didn't ride very often.

For those of you who went years without riding, or didn't start until adulthood, I'd like to know how and why you went from non- cyclist to cyclist.

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Bumping it as well, great thread.

Nançois 8.5 said:

This has become my new favorite thread! I'm bumping it up to the top in the hopes that more people will add their bike history stories...

Rode a BMX bike out in the country in Michigan growing up (we had a little race/stunt course carved out of the woods in front of our house and my brother built a 12 foot or so quarter pipe and was constantly building ramps).  My older brother was a tinkerer to the extreme, so was always passing down his bikes as he got new ones to play with -- recall having a couple Mongoose bikes, a Haro, etc.  In college and grad school I had a mountain bike (Specialized Rockhopper, ca. 1995) that I used somewhat sparingly (usually lived close enough to campus to walk and preferred that over dealing with having to find a place to lock the bike, etc.); when we left Boston after grad school graduation, I left the mountain bike in the bike room of our building (unlocked, with a note that it was up for grabs) because we did not have space to transport it in our U-haul, and it had fallen into disrepair.  Once in Chicago, I always lived close to public transport with a straight shot to work (no connections) and in a couple of cases within walking distance of my building, so a bike never seemed like a priority, at least from a commuting standpoint.

Eight or so years into our time in Chicago, I passed by the Dutch bike shop that used to be on Armitage after we had moved into the area from another Chicago neighborhood, and was intrigued by these good-looking, seemingly very practical/functional bikes.  I work in a business casual/sometimes business formal environment, and do not generally have time or the inclination to shower when I get to work (although we do have a gym and lockers/showers on site), so the thought of a commuting bike that would largely protect my clothes (fenders, coat guard, mud flap) and allow me to commute at a pace that would not turn me into a dripping, sweating mess really appealed to me.  Went in to the shop for a test ride on a nice, sunny day and just the joy of being on two wheels again really took over -- classic moment of "why haven't I done this in so long?"  Ended up buying a Workcycles bike that, while somewhat pricey (at least for someone who had not purchased a bike in nearly fifteen years), is still going strong 4 years in (very low maintenance, no major repairs) and has easily paid for itself in savings on CTA fares.

Two things from a cycling infrastructure/investment standpoint helped convince me to get into bike commuting and take the plunge on purchasing a bike.  First, my route to work is effectively all (unprotected) bike lanes -- more or less all on Lincoln and Wells.  Plus, there are enough stop lights/signs and traffic congestion on the stretches of these roads that I ride that cars traffic rarely gets too fast or crazy, and in my four years have never really had any close calls (although I pass by a ghost bike marking a fatality on this route every day I ride, so clearly not without risk).  The second thing is that my building has a locked bike room with security cameras and the aforementioned lockers/showers (which I've actually only used once).  Just very nice to not have to find a place to lock the bike, worry about theft (a friend with a similar bike has had two leather saddles stolen), worry about the elements during inclement weather, etc. 

I am hooked; I ride to work just about year-round -- sometimes take a pass on very hot days in the summer, but usually just start earlier and/or am more likely to bring a shirt I can change into at the office, and in the winter my main restriction is snow/ice (and the disappearing bike lane) as opposed to cold.  Last winter (2012-13) I can probably count the number of times I did not bike on both hands, whereas this winter (2013-14) I can probably count the number of times I did bike on hands + feet.  I find the commute home in particular to be a great way to decompress from what is often a stressful day at work, which allows me to engage my family more quickly on getting home rather than needing 15 or so minutes to myself.  Taking public transport got to seem to be such drudgery (it's really not all that bad, just comparatively speaking) that I bought an annual Divvy membership when it launched so I would have an option for days where I end up not having a bike at the office due to non-bikeable meetings or appointments out of the office to start the day.

In addition to commuting, I try to find excuses to run errands on my bike on the weekends -- between panniers and front rack, I can do our larger, weekly family grocery shop on my bike.  As I think about it, most of my biking has a specific transportation purpose (commuting, errands, getting to an appointment), it's not the type of bike that is particularly useful for recreational/exercise riding and my schedule and family commitments (3 young children, all of whom have been transported to school on the bike over the years) do not really afford me the opportunity to do a bunch of leisure riding at present in any event.

I biked as a kid growing up in GI nebraska, stopped when I turned 16 and would ride recreationally occasionaly. I picked it back up after I had lived in chicago for a year and realized that it took just as long driving vs biking. Now I don't have a car so I ride whenever I can.

GI?

Davo said:

I biked as a kid growing up in GI nebraska, stopped when I turned 16 and would ride recreationally occasionaly. I picked it back up after I had lived in chicago for a year and realized that it took just as long driving vs biking. Now I don't have a car so I ride whenever I can.

Upper or Lower?

Gene Tenner said:

GI?

Davo said:

I biked as a kid growing up in GI nebraska, stopped when I turned 16 and would ride recreationally occasionaly. I picked it back up after I had lived in chicago for a year and realized that it took just as long driving vs biking. Now I don't have a car so I ride whenever I can.
Grand island, nebraska

When I first came to Chicago from rural Iowa twenty some years ago, I didn’t have a car.  When I started my first Chicago job, three miles away, I quickly decided that it was much more convenient to ride a bicycle than to take the CTA plus a ten minute walk.  My parents provided me with a ’51 Schwinn Cruiser from a yard sale, which surprised me when I realized it had two speeds.  A few years later, I got a ‘real’ job, that required a car, and slowly stopped using the bicycle.  There was a slight interlude, when my wife and I picked up a pair of Eco Velo bikes in Canada, but they were quickly stolen within the next year or two.

About three years ago, my wife decided to buy me a Craigslist Schwinn Suburban.  She picked it up in Park Ridge, from a man who was telling her of his struggles with Morgellon’s syndrome, and scared her off buying things off Craigslist for a long time.  I started slow, with maybe 50 miles the first year I had the bike, and 300 miles the next year.  Then I invented my Irish diet and exercise plan, of bicycling somewhere for a pint or two.  Shortly afterwards, I started a five mile each way bicycle commute and have been cycling 3-4000 miles for each of the last two years.  Along the way, I discovered that it is nearly as fast as an automobile to travel almost anywhere on the north side of Chicago, and have been kicking myself for fifteen years of wasted cycling time.  I still have yet to upgrade from the Suburban…

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