Man's Greatest Invention

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. - Elizabeth West

Purpose and Mission

To share our experience and to encourage and inspire others to use a bicycle as a form of year round recreation and transportation. To be an example of living car-free and to help others to make the transition to having a car-light or car-free life style.

Our bodies is the engine that moves us.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What is a city bike?

What comes to mind when you think of a city bike?  When I googled "city bike" the first hit was this definition of European City Bike from Wikipedia...

"A European city bike, or simply city bike is a bicycle designed for frequent, short, moderately paced rides through relatively flat urban areas. It is a form of a utility bicycle commonly seen around the world, built to facilitate everyday riding in normal clothes in a variety of weather conditions."

I think for most people the Wiki definition would be fairly accurate.  And, doesn't that sound exciting? I know when I hear words like 'utility bicycle' my temperature rises and my blood begins to boil!  I get this image in my mind of masses of people wearing grey suits all riding black bikes.

Here are examples of European City bikes from the Wikipedia page.  They appear to be higher end, completely outfitted models with fenders, rack and lighting systems all included with the bike.

The Gent's version.

The Ladies' model.

They look quite attractive, almost regal.  I take one look at them and the first thing that comes to my mind is "Oh my God!  How will I ever be able to leave the core on that thing? How much extra work is this bike going to force me to do?"  Don't get me wrong.  I like to work hard when I'm pedalling my bike.  But I hate having a bike that makes me work unnecessarily hard.  The terrain needs to be the biggest obstacle; not the bicycle.

Let's go back to a line in the Wiki definition:  "moderately paced rides through relatively flat urban areas."  This is what I know about Calgary from living in the core.  We have been car free now for a decade and have used bicycles as our main form of transportation.  To leave the core, you need to go uphill.  The farther you want to leave the core, the farther uphill you need to climb.

I need to come out and just say it.  Both utility cycling and/or transportational cycling sound extremely boring to me.  Yes, I understand that people need bicycles for utility and transportation, but both of those needs can be met with bikes that are more performance orientated. 

There seems to be a misconception amongst the non-cycling population that the more upright the riding position is, the easier the bike is to ride.  Another misconception is that weight does not matter on a bike built for city riding.  Sitting bolt upright so that my body acts like a sail against the wind and going uphill or both, does not sound like a recipe for having a ride be easier.

If we are going to get people out of cars and onto bicycles, shouldn't we be talking about bicycles in terms of being fun?  How about exploration cycling or adventure cycling?  I'm 52 years old.  I think it will be many, many years before I'm ready to ride a "European City Bike". 

Calgary has much to offer riders that want to get out and explore and see the city from a different perspective.  Just get on your bike and go.  See where you end up.  Get off the beaten path.  The trail system through Calgary is extensive and it requires a bike that is designed to handle any type of terrain or surface if you really want to see the many hidden locations throughout this city.

Some of the less used trails in Edworthy Park.

The view is your reward for the climb.

I've yet to see a European City Bike coming from the other way on these trails.

So when we talk about "city" bikes, my first question would be, which city? Do you want the same view from your bicycle that you get from your car?  Or do you want a view of your city that you can only get by going out and having an adventure?


1 comment:

  1. I don't think anyone would expect to see a city bike coming up (or down) those trails. Operative word there: trail. :)

    I also don't see why people feel like it's important to be able to put a foot down on the ground when you're sitting on the saddle. But many people really seem to want that. More power to them.

    This is why the ideal number of bikes is N+1, so that you have the appropriate bike for whatever terrain you want to ride. My area is too hilly (and my fitness level too low) for lots of these city bikes. But I do admire their looks.