My bicycle role model is a teacher I had in late elementary school who cared deeply about being an active participant in society, and wanted to pass that on to us despite the fact the we were only 10 years old. He had us read the newspaper in class and identify who was saying what in each story, so that we knew how identify biases in reporting. We wrote papers about TV commercials we watched to identify the techniques advertisers used to sell us products. And he went through great personal trouble to arrange one day at the end of the school year to teach us all how to be better bike riders.
Nearly every day, year round, he showed up to school on one of his 5 or so bikes depending on the conditions outside, which is impressive given that he lived nearly 11 miles and an extra 800 feet in elevation away. On roads. In Anchorage, Alaska. In the mid 90s before it was a really bike friendly place. Despite all this he was never that spandex guy, checking his times, and obsessing over new gear. He found joy in bicycling and spread it to whoever he could.
I was a pretty lost when I came back home from my first year in college and needed some kind of center in life. I was thinking of my teacher when took $500 of the money I made working that summer and bought a mid range aluminum, hardtail, mountain bike. Over the next 8 years I used that bike for commuting, pulling a pedicab, and a nearly 2 month bike tour. I’ve met international bike tourers, homeless bike-guys, co-organized a Critical Mass ride, met friends through bike polo and alley cat races. That initial $500 investment gave me more experiences than any other singular thing in my life.
I’m a little less dirtbaggy now and have a couple of good long-term steel frame bikes that I will maintain for years and years to come. They are my most prized possessions and I look forward to whatever they help me see next.