Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cycle chat #1

The pedestrian/bike bridge spanning the Arkansas at the Keeper of the Plains. Flickr image by Cody Lee Dopps.

My post yesterday concerning my friend Russell's cycling, combined with my growing curiosity about other cyclists that I see out and about and the conversation with the motorist I mentioned here, got me to thinking last night that, as I begin to recognize other riders and they me, I should try to overcome my natural shyness and engage them in conversation about their cycling routines, their thinking about cycling metaphysics (here is an example of what I mean by that), their cycling rants or raves, or whatever else is on their mind that they don't mind sharing. In other words: something like "man-on-the-bikepath" interviews.

As it turned out, today I got a chance to do just that. I had just crossed the Arkansas via the newish pedestrian bridges that span it and the Little Arkansas at Keeper Plaza (my full route map is here, if you're interested), when I happened to run into a colleague of mine named Larry, out for a ride on his recumbent bike. This isn't Larry the Movie-Guy, a name familiar to readers of my other blog, but the present Larry also happens to teach math. Larry, who lives somewhere just to the west of Sedgwick County Park, is in his mid-fifties and was once quite the cyclist, from what I understand. But back troubles led him to recumbent bikes and, though he's not a bike-commuter per se (he teaches most of his classes out at Butler's Andover campus), he rode his bike from home to McConnell one day for a class there during finals week this past May, and here he was downtown, on his way to the central branch of the public library to drop off some books. "My excuse to do a little riding," he said.

Back in May, I had told him of my intention to get a bike and start commuting, and so he asked me about my bike (about which more in an upcoming post). I asked him about the recumbent bike; he said it took him about a month to get really comfortable with it. (Some journalist I am: I just realized I hadn't asked him how long he's had it.) It's an open-road sort of bike, he said, noting that you can't turn too sharply with it. Regarding its physics, he told me something that I hadn't really thought about before: he said all the balancing is done with the body, that the arms "just hang there" on the handlebars. He has an odometer on his bike; at the point where we met each other, he'd travelled 6 miles.

So anyway: Larry, I'd say, is something more than a recreation cyclist, but not exactly a a bike-commuter. But no matter: here he was, 6 miles on his journey with another mile or so left to the library, with his only way back home the bike underneath him. Props to him, I say.

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