Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gifts for the tentative utility cyclist

Has reading this blog inspired you to try utility cycling? I didn't think so. But humor me and pretend you've entertained the idea of using a bicycle for short errands and trips that currently put you behind the wheel.

Too far fetched?

OK. Try this: Imagine a family member, friend, coworker, or someone you saw on TV, who dreams about leaving the car in the driveway. Could this person be looking to get a little exercise without having to pay for a health club membership? Maybe he or she is troubled by the idea of financing both sides in the "War on Terror." Perhaps this person simply wants to become less car dependent. Does that make it easier? Good. I thought it might.

Next, let's imagine he or she already owns a bicycle that could be used as a utility cycle. It could be a mountain bike, a road bike or even a beach cruiser. It's your choice. Are you picturing the bike? Excellent. What color is it? Red? Mine too!

But now we have a problem. No matter what kind of bicycle you've chosen to imagine, it's probably like most bicycles sold in U. S. and A, in that it's not equipped for utility cycling. Since it has no lights, it cannot be legally ridden at night (at least not in my state). It cannot transport cargo, unless you count plastic shopping bags hung from the handlebars (I don't). In wet weather, its tires will spray the rider, fore and aft, with an undiluted coating of road grime (Good luck getting out those stains).

So how can this bike, designed for recreational rides on scenic thoroughfares, be transformed to perform practical purposes on city streets? We need a holiday miracle! This sounds like a job for Santa Claus you!

In the coming days, this blog will feature items I've used over the last 18 months in my utility cycling endeavors. You may consider them road tested and Bike Year approved. There's plenty of wonderful cycling gear out there, some of it handcrafted to last a lifetime. With this kind of equipment, utility cycling can be efficient, stylish and fun. Maybe even a little addictive.

But let's ease into this thing, shall we? Better to make sure your cyclist catches the bug before you spend bike-loads of bread on gifts that could wind up on eBay by March. If he or she is still at it by this time next year, it's probably safe to give the really nice stuff. Maybe next year I'll present "Gifts for the committed utility cyclist." But for now, we'll explore some of the more affordable, but still viable, utility cycling products. Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting episode: "Rear Rack and Panniers."

Photo credit: MSU Bike Project

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