6.23.2006,8:56 PM
Bike! You rock!
In addition to my 'day job' as a scientist, I'm a 'free-lance' writer. In the sense of the word 'free'. I'm a terrible agent for myself; I haven't sold an article or essay in months and my book is still unfinished. And I have a bad habit of writing for free; like this blog site.

I try to stay current with topics that I am most enthusiastic for and write about: science and bikes. During my weekly visits to the bookstore cafes I pull magazines off from the racks to accompany my java and 'sit a spell'. I can't seem to sit still anywhere without something to read[1]. Nor can I sit long enough to read a book[2]. So magazines (or rags) are the perfect solution: short diverse bundles of information packaged in between two covers. And covers that can roll, fold or bend easily when stuffed in a backpack, saddlebag, lunch box, or even sometimes in my jeans back pocket. They're light, convenient and don't care if the corners are bent over, have coffee spilled on them, or spattered with pen marks.

I may read them at the cafe, occassionally purchase a few that contain worthwhile information to hang on to, but I subscribe to few. When I start buying every issue within a period of four to six months, the test results are that a subscription is in order. The only rag that has won that honor for the past six years in the British New Scientist, a weekly science and technology rag. Their website is handy for archives and searches and their podcasts exceptional. Both podcasts and weekly rags are traveling companions during my daily commute on the train.

I just subscribed to another British rag, and after only reading one issue. In fact, I haven't even finished reading it. Mainly because I am reading every inch of content in large-formatted 196 pages. I was unsuccessful in containing my laughter while reading the letters on the train this morning. And read several pages while standing and inhaling my lunch between protein incubations today after pulling the rolled rag out of my lunch box.

I discovered Bike magazine. And I'm hooked. Line and sinker.

I am pleased by the wealth and diversity of information covering all genres of bikes and riding, impressed with the quality of presentation, content and layout, and tickled at their sense of warped and dry humor[3]. I mean, where else would you find in small print:
Bike welcomes correspondence and contributions, apart from those written in bodily fluids on inappriopriate media.
I was told some time ago that if I want to learn anything about bikes I should follow the European trends. Read the European rags. Granted many of the bikes available there never cross the continent to the North American consumer (like Honda's Africa Twin; oh, the shame). Nevertheless, they serve as a barometer of what may land on shores here. The US is nearly the last ground in the Western world to ship new models depending on their success overseas and our fickle demand here. Not only do the European and Asians lead in design and production of bikes but also accessories from gear for the rider to gear for the bikes. We are lucky to have better access to those products.

Europeans and Asians have built and ridden bikes of all sizes and shapes (scooters included) for centuries. A large portion of their population rely on them as their only transportation. Bikes are a part of their life there: utility, sport and leisure. They are a newcomer here and mostly used for recreation. The US is known only for the Harley Davidson, despite the brave upcoming smaller bike manufacturers. Even some of these smaller companies are integrating European design into their bikes. Harleys are patriotic and Hollywood here, but across the ocean bikes are a religion.

Although several decades have passed since I was in Europe, I recall the scooters and bikes (and bicycles) everywhere. Here in this country they are still a small representation of our wheels on the road. I often wonder what it would be like if that relationship were reversed: motorcycles and bicycles more plentiful than the four-wheeled cages we drive. As I see the numbers of bikes on the highways and roads increase, I am encouraged.

So I subscribed to Bike today. Another rag I will eagerly look for in my mail box.

I'm going to be a 'bad girl' and take the liberty of reprinting a letter from the June issue:

Life affirming

What is it with people's determination to condemn motorcycles as death traps? I've lost count of the number of times I've endured stories of someone's friend/brother/uncle/cousin who 'killed themselves' on a bike.

Just as strange is the way such stories seem to be told with a disturbing glee. But I can't count the number of times I've stepped off my bike feeling so good I could just about burst, an effervescent euphoria personified by my maniacal grin. I don't have a death wish; I ride to feel alive.

It's not bikes that should be feared, but not allowing yourself to live.

Justin Reid, New Zealand
Ride on, 'bro. I'm with you. Grin and all.

[1] Bad and old habit. I read whenever I sit: eating, bathroom, train, wherever. Runs in the family, like [3].
[2] I'm a fidgeter. Fidgewicket? Fidgey? And [1]. And I can't sit long; my back will hurt.
[3] Similar to [1], the dry sense of humor runs in the family. I suspect it was induced by watching BBC too much.
posted by Macrobe
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