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the tour is coming

The Tour de Fat is coming to Phoenix – well Tempe to be exact, but if you live here then you know what that is all about. The Tour de Fat is an all-day bike and beer festival put on by the wonderful folks at New Belgium Brewery, the brewer of Fat Tire beer. The festival will take place at Tempe Beach Park this Saturday, Oct. 13, with a massive bike parade (bring your costumes) kicking off at 11 am. Afterwards, the music starts playing and the beer starts flowing.

If you need information or directions, be sure to check out the Tempe Bicycle Action Group’s website – they are the great folks who coordinate and host this event for the city of Tempe.

So if you live in the Phoenix metro area, or someplace close by, grab your bike and come on out. They will be presenting one lucky person with a custom Surly commuter bike – and to think, all this individual had to do to win was swear to not drive for an entire year! I will be there all day – so let me know if you want me to keep an eye out for ya.

tour de fat

i love the smell of apathy in the morning

There is no denying the fact that Phoenix stinks. Seriously, the city (generally speaking) has a bad odor to it. This is a fact that I never really came to notice until I started bike commuting. And as it has become custom for me to do, I contemplate these things while I am riding to and from work each day. It is easy to see why the city has a foul odor – there is litter everywhere, a plethora of cars and machines spewing pollutants, very little natural “greenspace,” and trash cans baking in the intense sun. But why is that the case?

Reluctantly, and non-judgmentally, I think America’s “car-culture” is, at one level, a root cause of such a catastrophe as a smelly city. It is our willingness to drive even only down the street to a store or friends house that facilitates the downward spiral into poor city conditions. When we step into a car, we are removing ourselves from our surroundings, and just as Robert Pirsig wrote about in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, viewing the world through a frame – just as we do when watching tv. All of a sudden, the world around us does not seem real, but mere fiction. And therefore the problems in that world are just as fictional. When we are in cars, we don’t have to worry about the litter or the smell, because it does not exist. We do not see it and we do not smell it.

I never intend to force my personal beliefs on anyone else. But from time to time, in order to provide appropriate context, it is necessary to reveal things about one-self and the life one lives. So here is a story:

This past Sunday at church, the priest (Father Gil) gave a well-delivered sermon about the growing disparity between rich and poor. Episcopalians use 3 readings from scripture during every Sunday service, and this week there was a reading from Luke’s gospel about a rich man and a poor man, to which Fr. Gil stated the following:

What was the rich man’s sin that resulted in him being sent to Hades? It seems that his sin was what he didn’t do rather than what he did. He ignored the poor man Lazarus. He didn’t do anything to help Lazarus. He averted his eyes from Lazarus’ condition and did nothing to help him. [read more…]

And tying this back into bike commuting: it is our willingness, as modern Americans, to drive anywhere and everywhere that facilitates a culture that ignores the real problems of our own communities. I guarantee that no one who walks by all the trash on the road smiles and says, “that is so pretty, and the smell…heavenly!” Instead, we plop ourselves into a car to drive someplace, and are not confronted with the reality of it. It’s not that we are always the ones creating the litter. But we ignore it, all from the comfort of our air conditioned, sea breeze-scented, rolling world-shrinker.

So it is only when we immerse ourselves in reality that we can truly see what the problems are. And I have the youthful ignorance to believe that when those problems become real to each of us, we will eventually reach a tipping point and do something about it. And because of that, I urge people to take a bike ride or a walk around something as remote and small as your own neighborhood, and if you see a piece of trash, pick it up. It’s such a simple thing to do – and as we do it more frequently, it will become almost second nature, until we restore the care and respect for our surroundings. Our neighborhoods and our cities need it. And our conscience will be happy…

The Velorution is about more than bikes.

on becomming an addict

My name is Jeff, and I think I am a bike addict. I do not say these things intending to mock any sort of serious addictions. But I admit: I really like bikes and riding them. I own two, but yearn for at least 3 more – and that’s before concerns of money even kick in. 17 miles pedaling a bike each day is not enough for me. I ache for more, and often I ache because I do more.

Case in point: last Wednesday I came home from work (to which I transported myself to by bike). Upon walking into my apartment, I decided I wanted to go out for a bike ride. I swapped out my road shoes for my MTB shoes, grabbed the mountain bike and headed right back out the door. I spent another good hour on my mountain bike – both casually cruising around the trails and hitting some big climbs and big hucks (jumps for those not privy to the cyclo-speak).

The best part of all this bike riding came the next morning when I woke up. My legs felt almost as fresh as they do every other day. When I first started bike commuting, I was pretty drained each morning when I first got on the bike. But over time, my legs have built their strength and stamina, and accepted that they will be pushed pretty hard every day.

There is a great feeling of satisfaction – knowing that my daily exercise is no longer limited to transporting myself to and from work. I am again free to roam the parks, the open road and the trails in the afternoons, and if I can ever get myself out of bed before 530 am, I will be free to roam these places in the early morning. I think the afternoon suits me just fine though…

But then again, wouldn’t you do the same if this was right out your door?

Why I do it

Since this is my first post, I thought it would be best if I gave you a brief version of my “story? – and how I became a bike commuter.

I moved to Phoenix, AZ from Mobile, AL a little over a year ago to seek my fame and fortune. After finishing college, I was ready to see a new part of the country, and my big brother happened to live in Phoenix. I drove my car across the country, found myself a job, and began the nightmare of driving 22 miles, one way, from the suburbs to downtown Phoenix – along with the other million plus people making the same drive. This was my routine for about 6 months, until I just could not take it anymore. I decided that my sanity was worth more than the money I was saving by living with my big brother in a nice house, and found a reasonable (but still overpriced) apartment about 8.5 miles from my office. I moved in during the last week of July, and on August 1, I became a full-on bike commuter.

I rode my bke to work every day for the entire month of August. I withstood 23 work days of 110 plus degree heat – and no matter how “dry? the heat is, 110 degrees still feels like a blow dryer in your face. Everyday, at least one person would ask me why I did it. I would shrug and say, “I like riding bikes,? but there is more to it:

I do it:

* because I don’t want to be like everyone else in my office, who, when seeing someone walk in with a bike, tries to justify themselves by saying, “well I would ride my bike but…?;
* because politicians can talk about global warming and climate change all they want, but I am actually doing something about it;
* because I like showing people that, despite what they tell me, it can be done;
* because the more cyclists there are on the road, the more motorists will know how to behave around us;
* because it is guaranteed exercise every day;
* because I get to see my community on a more personal level; and
* because I, being of sound mind and body, can not imagine choosing this:


traffic in phoenix
[image courtesy of USA Today]

over this:

Finally, I do it because I really do like riding bikes. They’re fun, they let you roam free, and they’re fast – if you can make them be fast. Viva la Velorution!