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I think my trusty Trek mountain bike, after carrying me over hill and down dale, through hell and high-water is now probably going to serve as a family work horse. It is spectacularly too awesome for this role, but this new chapter of it’s life will only add to my long love affair with the bike that just keeps excelling at every ride and situation I throw at it.

So with that now settled in my mind, my thoughts are turning toward a bike for myself. So when would I actually be riding without my family in tow?

Terribly selfish Functions:
1/ Country touring is always something I’d like to think is just around the corner for me, and is definitely something I’d like a new bike to do. It’s not necessarily something I would always do on my own, but it’s a function that would be central to a ‘complete’ bicycle package. The Trek could do it, has done it, and I would love to put more Km’s on the Trek to add to our history,  but I believe I could, given my other required functions listed below, come up with a more suitable geometry. Any bike that you can tour on will almost certainly be able to handle a kids seat and trailer anyway.

2/ Commuting is something I do alone, and reasonably regularly on a bicycle. I could happily undertake this on almost any machine that offers some reliability. So while this may not be a defining feature, reliability is of course a major requirement. Having a couple of bicycles actually means I can ride different machines depending on my current whim – which is a nice and very privileged option.

3/ Morning constitutional rides either for a quick coffee, or with a mate or two as a regular Saturday morning jaunt would be great. I would probably be riding with ‘real’ road bikes, but that’s not necessarily what I am after. Essentially I would need something light enough, and efficient enough to keep up. In my mind there’s no such thing as a fast bike – It’s like having a fast shoe.

4/ Fire trails and off road day trips aren’t out of the question, and so while not a primary consideration I’d like the bike to be capable in that regard. I’ve loaded up  city bikes’, ridden them out of town and flexed the bejesus out of them in the process. My experiences gave me a certain amount of faith in the ability of a good quality steel bike frame to take carry loads over bitumen, gravel and dirt roads.

5/ I am shallow and aesthetics are a consideration. Often a minimal ‘form follows function’ approach leads to aesthetic outcomes in my opinion – so while I’ll be looking for a clean, light bike – I have some bike gear fetishes I may also need to satisfy. As I already own the greatest mountain bike ever made, I don’t need another one and am thinking of something more refined. I certainly like the look of older bicycles – but how functional are they? The Polyvalent frame from Velo Orange looks great and I think would fit the bill – but I’m not convinced at this stage.

6/ For this to be more than an academic exercise, the bike needs to be affordable. I am however thinking long term for this bike. It’s a bike that I would like to have at least as long as my only other new bike purchase (13 years ago). So good quality and the ‘right bicycle’ may actually be expensive. I’m not frightened of 2nd hand – but it’d have to be very well reconditioned – almost like ‘New Old Stock’.

So to summarise.
comfortable fit (geometry), Reliable, efficient, strong, stylish without being too flashy, good value.

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People cycle for different reasons and many people cycle. The number of cyclists, at least in Australia seems to be slowly, but visibly growing. It follows then that there must be lots of reasons to cycle. So, what are the pivotal reasons? What are the things that could transform a potential cyclist, into an avid one?

The main barrier to cycling, I believe, is the perceived risk to life and limb. Whether it be a real risk from poorly designed bicycle lanes, unaware or belligerent car drivers, or simply the unqualified perception that it is dangerous. There are so many real and imagined barriers to getting on the path to cycling that there must be some strong reasons and a high value outcome to balance out the potential risks. Good experiences of cycling for many seasoned cyclists probably creates a strong “it won’t happen to me” factor with years of experience under their belt. But if you were new to the concept and needed a little nudge in the right direction – What would it be? Why cycle?

As an adult, I started because I thought it was appropriate (not alternative) transport. It felt like a political decision and, at the time, I set about recycling bicycles and selling them cheaply to work toward a ‘critical mass’ of cyclists in my area – the project was called 101 bikes for Newcastle. Back then I felt that riding a bicycle was a statement about being independent, environmentally friendly and smart about transport. In most respects I still do.

Just to be clear about how hypocritical I have been in the past 20 years I will list the cars I have owned.

1965 Mercedes 230 (6cyl)
1970 Jensen Interceptor mk2
Triumph Spitfire (mk1)
1974 Citroen D Special
Daimler 250 V8
Volvo 1800s
Triumph GT6
Jaguar Mk2

I am bragging of course. I like cars, but know they are problematic when it comes to everyday use. Anyway – I am digressing. What got me out of these stylish cars and back on my bike? Cycling is fun and the little bit of practical fitness it provides keeps my body from seizing up and keeps me from the mental doldrums. Cycling seems to be the cure for what ails me. I’m sure I am not alone with these thoughts and motivations.

If there was a single activity that galvanised me as a Cyclist, once i’d started, it would be cycle touring. There a few things better than cycle touring – and all are too obscene to mention here – anyway, don’t just take it from me – get out and try it – It is absolutely awesome!

So how to get started? Is it an event like “Bike Hour” or is it a “commuter buddy scheme” where you mentor a cyclist along the safe routes in and around your neighbourhood? Is it worth getting involved with your local cycling lobby group and pushing for better infrastructure? This could take forever and won’t gain much traction unless there are already many bottoms on bike sets. I think I’ve done all these at various times and now I am coming back to the potency of the simple evangelical act of cycling. To be fair, it’s probably all these things – but the one thing that you can do everyday – the one thing that might make a difference – is getting out there and proving it can be done!

In short, as I am writing this down, I have come to the conclusion that you and I should ride for two, or even three. Ride to work in a suit, then ride home to change into something more casual and ride in again – It may just be the best way forward (and back again).