Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Big Men, small bikes

As I walk in the shadow of the famous bridge, several people ride past me on bicycles. The speed bikers out to excersize in all the requisite equipment are hardly noticeable. Nor are the few female bikers, either in sportswear or just on a more casual trip. It's the men I notice.

For some reason, men who ride bicycles in Brooklyn are either dressed for it from the tip of their pointed toe clicked onto the pedal and to the top of their aerodynamic helm, or they ride a too small bike. Even men who ride together with some woman on a fitting bike will ride a bike that is too small, or at least has the seat adjusted so they can't stretch their legs properly. They pedal along, looking like they have just found a bike outside a school, and taken a ride.

Perhaps they have. It may be that all Brooklyn men past 18 who are not dedicated bikers are dedicatd bicycle thieves. That's one theory. A nicer one is that all these guys have been looking after their bikes since they got one as a present when they were 12. Now, 20 years later, they are still pedalling along on the bike their parents bought them.

A third theory, which struck me today, is that perhaps biking isn't something men are supposed to do. I mean: In a society where the ultimate freedom is owning your own car and handgun, who wants to admit that he likes to ride a bike? The bike is soft, it has no round metalling edges, no dark glass, no real weight. When you crash into something, you will hurt as much as they do, there is no cushioning. The power you control is no more than what you can produce with your own muscle, no purring horse power to add to the waning strength in your thighs. A bicycle is a soft vehicle. It's not one for men.

So what can a man do, if he wants to enjoy the freedom, the leisure and the fun of riding a bike, but doesn't want to dedicate himself to it, like a lifestyle? Yes, he has to pretend he isn't really doing it. The bike has to look like it belongs to somebody else, like he just brought an old relic out of the basement, like he borrowed it right now from a younger brother. It has to be ill fitting and odd, not matching his frame, his height, his weight.

Then and only then can he enjoy his freedom from being trapped in his car like a carapace.

For some reason, the men I meet on these bikes all smile. They look happy with their ill-matched rides. Perhaps they know a secret about what riding a bike is all about?

3 comments:

Cayzle said...

Maybe in a NYC apartment, all you have room for is a small bike.

Torill said...

That's a good thought, but then why do the women I see have adult sized bikes?

'mouse said...

Your discussion reminds me of something I heard about bikes (and scooters and motorcycles) in Taiwan a few years ago. Cars are "metal wrapping meat" and bikes are "meat wrapping metal." The pont was, you know which you want to be involved with if you get in accident.