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I remember, when my wife and I were getting acclimated to our new lives in Portland after having moved from Texas, being amazed at the number of people we saw riding bicycles.

To 'amazed' let me add 'nonplussed' and 'nervous' and every once in awhile but still too often for my comfort, 'terrified'. This was in 1992, when there were fewer bicycle commuters than now, but that's relative of course. Never in Dallas Texas would you have seen this number of riders on the street, and we found that we quickly needed to learn a whole 'nother set of motoring skills so that we didn't kill someone or find ourselves contused by irate cyclists flailing U-locks at our heads or flinging D-cells through our windshield. I remember once turning to my wife as we drove through downtown and saying “I just might as well get used to the idea that I'm gonna hit one of these {expletive}s one day”.

Not that many years later, I was one of the ones who occasionally wanted to exercise a little U-lock justice (but I never did, never have, and you shouldn't either, I feel compelled to point out). My first bike was a Magna, bought at a K-Mart for $59.00. Didn't take long at all to understand the error of my ways with that landfill-ready knee-sprainer, and so soon afterward I was the proud owner of a “comfort mountain” bike that was much sturdier but very heavy, steel being real, y'all. Two years later and I had yet another bike, my current machine, a 2004 Trek 7500FX. It was very soon after that I was commuting to work via bike.

I can't be counted among the ranks of the bike commandos who've become so identified with Portland's “bike culture”, the ones who wear street clothes and eschew helmets in favor of knit caps, lazily cranking track bikes at an effortless 30 mph or faster. For one, I'm too interested in my own comfort, hence the padded shorts worn under cargo shorts (I'm modest, and you're grateful), and I actually look like I weigh more than my bicycle (Jeez, but some of these people need a sangwich!). I'm also very invested in my own safety, so I wear a helmet at all times, and gloves, and a reflective vest after nightfall, and use the best lighting options I can afford. If there is a poster boy for the ideal Portland cyclist image as defined by the younger bike-y set, he's probably left tire marks up my back. I get passed a lot.

But I enjoy myself. I'm courteous to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. I obey the rules of the road to the best of my ability while still insisting upon my share of the roadway. When I commute via bike, I arrive at work in a great mood, flushed and feeling like a warrior, doubly so after a cold and rainy Portland morning. The Rob you get after a brisk morning ride is the best Rob, the kindest Rob. Ask my co-workers. Ask my wife.

I love watching others on their bicycles, too. No matter the bike, the rider, or when or where, there is a quiet gliding grace in the motion of organic and mechanical systems entwined. Spindle and sinew, sensuality. I'm not trying to get you all horned up, I'm just trying to express how people on elegant yet practical machines, through physical effort and momentum, become kinetic objects of beauty and well-being.

It doesn't hurt that picture at all that we citizens of this city are rolling through some of the most beautiful landscape to be had anywhere near an urban environment. The ride I took on the Springwater earlier this week is a very good example. It had been some time since I'd pointed the front wheel east, and throughout the ride I was asking myself why.

What's not to like?

“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.” -Samuel Clements (Mark Twain)

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Comment by Rob Creighton Garrison on February 24, 2012 at 9:18am

Thanks for the comments!  :oD

Comment by Angela Higgins on February 24, 2012 at 8:24am

"and I actually look like I weigh more than my bicycle (Jeez, but some of these people need a sangwich!)"  LOLOL, Bob!  


Seriously, though, this is my favorite of your blogs yet. I, too, lovelovelove riding my bike. Few things compare to how wonderful it feels. :)

Comment by Lorri E. on February 24, 2012 at 6:10am

Seriously,  I love that ride through Springwater Corridor.  It is just another one of those places that gives me that feeling (which I have so often) of wanting to give Portland  big hug for being such a great place to live.  I mean, geez, how lucky are we to have bike paths and trails everywhere, and with such great scenery?  Yeah, it's sappy, but I mean it.  We are so fortunate that I think we don't realize it until we go visit other cities and there is nary a bicycle or trail in sight.

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