Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bike, damnit, bike!

Why weren't you biking yesterday?

I was biking to work and couldn't help but notice that it was pretty much just me and the delivery men on two wheels (tip them big, please, so they can buy hats and scarves). I was looking at all the cars and pedestrians thinking, they probably think I'm a badass for biking in 20 degree weather. Actually they just think I'm stupid. But then I thought maybe I am a badass for biking in 20 degree weather. But I'm not.

I've posted before about how biking in cold isn't a big deal. Really. And only losers post about what to wear. So I won't. But I will say you never have to be cold while biking. Especially if you bike fast. The only thing that is worth repeating is that glasses are a problem. They get fogged up when you cover your face. I don't have contacts. I just bike a little slower when I can't see. And don't wear cotton next to your skin if you sweat a lot, like I do.

I was recently in California visiting my parents. A friend of my mom volunteers at the Getty Center. She said it has been tough lately because with the temperature in the 50s, her feet were cold. My mom, being of hearty Teutonic stock, asked her if she's tried wool socks. That struck me as the dumbest, most obvious, bordering on rude suggestion I could think of. Of course she's tried wool socks... her feet are cold! Except she hadn't. It never occurred to her. Such is why the people of Southern California will not survive any coming apocalypse. She said she’d give that a try. I couldn’t believe it! Your feet are cold and you never thought to put on warm socks?

So, badass or not, I was biking to work and looking at all these New Yorkers walking around with bare heads in the cold. I was feeling very sorry for them. Then it struck me: Maybe it’s never occurred to them. Dress warmer!

If you’re not a slave to fashion (and believe me, I’m not), being cold is a choice. I hate being cold. It’s really got very little to do with actual temperature. I grew up in Chicago and lived in Boston. Both places are colder than New York. I wasn’t cold. I worked midnights as a cop in Baltimore. It can get cold there. And when you work the midnight shift, you always look at the low temperature, because that’s what it’s going to be. The only times in my life I was painfully fucking freezing cold were in Athens, Greece and on the Nile in Egypt. Ironic, no?

So I don’t want to insult any of you, but maybe you need this simple lesson: Cold? Wear a hat and long underwear. Feet cold? Put on a second pair of socks. Feet still cold, get thicker socks? Then put on a third pair. Really. You just keep piling on shit till you’re warm. It’s not hard. It works.

Think about it. There’s recreation on cold snowy mountains. People work outside in Canada. You can always be warm. And once you are, bike, damnit, bike!


JOHN said...

Just wanted to drop you a note saying that I enjoy reading your posts. I've also read the first chapter of your book and will preorder it. Thanks for 1) reminding me of what's it like to live in Astoria and 2) your bike commuter tips/comments (being one myself).

Greetings from Athens, Greece. John

PCM said...

Thanks for the kind words (and for buying my book!)

Do you commute in Athens? When I lived there (15 years ago--by the Athens Centre and Plateia Varnava), it seemed crazy to bike in Athens. But now I'd probably give it a try.

I miss Athens. I always described it as a wonderful city to live but I wouldn't want to visit there. Since then, I think it's gotten better for visiting, too.

JOHN said...

I commute to work daily. I have a Swift folding bicycle (which is how I discovered your site after doing a search for other owners) that I picked up last year on a visit to NYC. I love the bicycle. I'm noticing more people bicycling and I don't think it has anything to do with rising gas prices but the fact that driving one's car and public transport (except for the metro) are really inconvenient. Just as when I biked in NYC one has to be very careful of taxis, mopeds and cars - which is where a bicycle mirror REALLY helps. The weather isn't a big deterrent other than when it rains (which is why I bought some Planet Bike fenders a few months ago). I work in an office so I bicycle with dress shoes and dress pants and change into my dress shirt at the office. I highly recommend a Carradice SQR bag (even if it's more expensive than a backpack...in the end, you get what you pay for) that fits the Swift seatpost 'like a glove'. There are many cyclists in Athens but I only took notice when I started participating in regular 'critical-mass-type' rides (see www.podilates.gr for info and pix). That's all for now. Take care. John