For the second installment of “An Eco-Active Imagination,” I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart: BICYCLES
Growing up, I always heard the saying “once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget.” The phrase implies that the body does not forget how to right itself on two wheels and balance; kinetic, muscle memory takes over. I certainly found this to be true. Having put down my bike at fourteen years old and picked up a bike again at twenty-two, I was amazed by how easily it all came back to me (admittedly, there was some awkward wobbling at first). However, I think that the phrase “once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget” means something more, especially to bicycle enthusiasts. If you ever loved riding a bicycle, you never forget the feeling, the thrill of riding, even years later. Maybe the memory is buried in the deep, dark recesses of your mind, but the minute you get back on a bicycle and start pedaling, you realize that you never truly forgot. I guarantee it.
Back in the ‘90s, my ride was “Polka-Dot,” a child’s bike from Wally World with an ugly purple/green color scheme. Today it’s a single-speed Windsor Clockwork. I ordered my Clockwork online, and it was shipped to me in pieces. Putting the bike together taught me to appreciate how each of the parts go together and, moreover, opened my eyes to the wonderful world of bike customization.
Bicycle customization is a form of creative expression, because there are multiple ways that an individual can modify her bike in order to make it her own. Even though there are different kinds of bicycles, including low-riders, cruisers, BMX, and single-speed/fixed gear, they all have similar components that can be changed or altered to give a bicycle a unique, one-of-a-kind look. Now, allow me to turn your attention to image below:
This beautiful fixed gear (or fixie) bicycle belongs to Justin Delatte, an architecture student at Louisiana Tech University. The different between “fixies” and regular bicycles, such as single-speeds or those with gears in general, is that fixies cannot coast or freewheel. Justin used a “flip flop hub” where the chain meets the back wheel in order to transform this single-speed Schwinn into a fixie, which moves forward or backward as he pedals (again, no coasting). In addition, he painted the tubes (bike frame) himself, using a red/white color scheme that is reminiscent of the Swiss flag. He also replaced the default seat with a classy leather Brooks saddle.
Other cyclists add color to the moving parts of the bicycle, including the rims of the tires, chain/chain ring, and the crank and pedal. You can check out websites such as Urban Outfitters online store for Republic Bikes and play around with the variations just to see how much color and customization can go into a bike (retail or not).
A bike can be a work of art, so to speak, but it can also be used to create art. “Hydropedal” and “Hey!” are two photographs by Kevin Beasley featuring Doogie Roux, former Rustonite and forever bike enthusiast.
Bicycling is a form of clean, sustainable transportation. Other vehicles, even smaller scooters or motorcycles, use fuel that sends harmful carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Ever drive into Houston on a sunny day and notice that giant cloud of smog that envelopes the city, like a snow globe filled with pollution? Simply put, there are too many cars. Imagine how many people could comfortably take a bike to work or school, because they live only several miles from their destination? Larger cities even have bike lanes, making it that much easier to get out and ride.
If you are traveling locally, it makes sense to take your bicycle instead of pushing through traffic congestion in a vehicle. Biking to work or school is more cost effective. “American car owners . . . drive an average of 40 miles per day. If they rode a bicycle instead, they would save on average 14 gallons of gas ($45) each week, burn around 500 calories per hour, and keep almost six tons of greenhouse gas emissions from going into the environment” (Source: RideLocal.org).
I know what you are thinking. Forty miles? That is way too far! Well, consider this: even if you took a fraction of that number, say 10 miles (five miles to your destination, five miles back), the benefits are still tremendous. Trust me, it is possible to ride this distance. I do it everyday. It is not that hard to start commuting on a bicycle right now, if you have the wheels. The important thing is to educate yourself on local/state bike laws, get some good lights (back and front), get a helmet, and always be aware of your surroundings (including nearby motorists).
Health and Wellness
Riding your bicycle is an easy and fun way to get some exercise, and you can burn up to 500 calories in just an hour of cycling.
According to Dr. Gill Jenkins in a health and exercise bulliten by the BBC, "a study of more than 10,000 people found that those who cycle at least 20 miles a week were half as likely to have heart problems as those who don't cycle at all." In addition, since cycling is not a "weight-bearing" exercise, it can be good for people with bone conditions or joint pain (Source: BBC).
Cycling is a form of aerobic exercise that has a positive impact on your overall health. Aerobic exercise boosts your mood, strengthens the heart, wards off viral illnesses, and increases stamina (Source: Mayo Clinic). When it comes to exercising regularly, people often say that they do not have enough time. However, commuting to work/school on a bicycle (or just taking a bicycle on short trips) is a simple, easy way to incorporate healthy exercise into a tight schedule.