Friday, September 10, 2010

A Not-so-Solitary Cyclist

Today I took my first ride on my brand new, beautiful, blue bicycle.  It is so pretty that I was almost sad to think it might get dirty...but I'm not falling for that again.  I will elaborate...

Once upon a time, in a far away land called Glenview in a magical place known as True Value I fell in love - with a pretty pink bicycle.  My dad had taught me how to ride a bicycle the way most dad's do I suppose.  He ran along behind me, holding the seat for a while.  I managed to stay upright as long as I didn't turn around and notice that he'd let go.  This was in the mid-west, where things are nice and flat, and we were able to bike to church, the library, the playground or grandma & grandpa's house.  It was great.  Anyway, I digress...  I learned to ride on a nice second-hand red Schwinn, with a Snoopy horn, streamers and a basket.  But once I saw the display in the True Value, I only had eyes for the pink bike.  My parents got me the pink bike, but I was so worried about how nice it was that I wouldn't ride it.  I would only ride the red bike.  Finally they gave me an ultimatum, ride the pink bike or it goes back to the store.  I chose the good old red Schwinn after all.  I guess sometimes you just don't know what a good thing you have.  Anyway, (one of the) moral(s) of the story is that if you buy toys you should use them...not just keep them for lookin' at. 

So today was the day I kept the blue bike from turning into the pink bike.  I bought it last week at the Post Exchange.  I'd had my eye on it since my last trip.  It is a Kent bicycle and the model is Shogun Safari.  It's a little heavy for me to carry in and out of the apartment building, but it's just the right height and very comfortable.  It has seven speeds and an easy-to-use twist gear shift. 

I've got a Schwinn helmet (for old time's sake) and it is also very comfortable.  Although there is no helmet law for bicycles (or motorcycles for that matter) in Alaska, the army has rules about such things.  It's a $60 fine if you are caught riding on post without a reflective strip and a helmet!  I've found that it's easiest to put my hair in pigtails so that it works with my helmet straps, but I did notice that it makes me look like an over-sized 11 year old while riding.  Oh well.

This part of Alaska has fantastic bike paths; throughout North Pole and Fairbanks.  Almost every road has an accompanying path.  They're clean and well-paved, (better than some of the roads back home!).  From what I've been able to find, Fairbanks has 248 miles of bike trails and their latest Bike Plan is to increase that to more than 500 miles as the city hopes to continue to encourage the use of bicycles for transportation.  It's a very bike-friendly city.  They even had a "Bike To Work Fairbanks" week this past spring.  Look at the results: 180 Participants, 566 Total Round Trips, 6952 Total Miles, 12.3 mile Average Trip Length, 6952 Pounds of CO2 Avoided, $1,185.31 Saved!  That's so cool!!

On top of that, the Western Interior region of Alaska is very flat.  I think that with some practice I may be able to ride to Fort Wainwright and back again.  Today, since I was trying out the bike for the first time and practicing shifting, I only went in a loop in North Pole (a little less than five miles).  It was AWESOME.  I was so happy to whoosh along, to hear the click-click-click-click as I coasted, to feel the sunshine and the breeze on my face.  As I came back along one of the paths I passed two or three other cyclists and several walkers - it did my heart good to see it...and to DO it.

Fairbanks Cycle Club - Winter Sunday Rides
I plan to get as many days of cycling in here in September.  The weekend forecast is good, and I know that sunny & warm days are going to be hard to come by - and soon!  The Fairbanks Cycle Club does bike year-round though - with studded tires and all.  Maybe I'll find I'm made of hearty stuff and I'll be able to bike in mild snow, but for now I'm focusing on an autumn full of bike rides!


  1. a codicil: the pink bike did not go back to the store. It went to Elizabeth, who loved it, too. The red bike remained with us ( it was really Elizabeth's, lent. to us..and it had been Peter's before that.... and., and, and.... ) It probably is still in existence on its fifteenth owner by now...a superior little bike!

  2. Well, now I'm doubly glad that I chose to stick with the red bike. Elizabeth deserved a pretty bike! :)