Friday, March 03, 2006

Grown-Up Toy Stories

by Tom Bozzo

Not about LEGO.

A few of you might have some recollection of the Porkbusters project, in which a couple of Blogistan's (*) brighter lights each contributed their brain cell to the task of listing seemingly wasteful Federal expenditures. One of those was an item to direct some transportation funds to Madison's bike path network — a trivial amount, of course, compared to road-building funds directed at cars and trucks. The brilliant rationale? Wisconsin cold! Who ride bike in Wisconsin cold?!

This is just to stress the importance of the depth of local knowledge. Yes, Madison is cold. It also features a remarkable number of year-round bike commuters, whose flashing LED headlights you'll see in the snow and bitter cold when fair-weather bike commuters such as yrs. truly are thanking the FSM for heated seats and all-wheel drive.

Bike commuting is, not surprisingly, easiest for people headed to UW-Madison. Campus is the nexus of the trail network, and notoriously short on parking — in contrast to my alma mater, say, where if you were dumped, blindfolded, in to certain parts of the campus outskirts, it could take days to figure out that you were not on the property of the biggest megamall in all of Sprawliana.

Hardcore bike commuting leads some riders, who at the risk of stereotyping look likelier than normal to be engineering professors, to choose various alternatives to the standard diamond-framed two wheeler for their rides. In fact, one of our local bike shops has an entire location devoted to recumbents and other non-conventional bicycles.

Of the recumbents, it's the grown-up trikes that are the coolest-looking, even if the low-slung riding position requires some trust that drivers of giant SUVs are not eating breakfast, reading the paper, and talking on their cell phones at the same time. There are, in fact, a lot of varieties out there, though these Australian models are what I think of as the canonical big kid trike:

...not to mention that they offer an aspirational level of later-middle-aged fitness.

Then I looked at the prices, figured that they were not quoted in Australian dollars (A$1 is about 0.75 USD at present exchange rates), and concluded that I have not cultivated sufficiently expensive hobbies in my life-to-date.

I can only imagine what this baby:

which looks more fin-de-siècle than anything, would set me back.

Maybe if I commuted by bike enough to return to economy car land...

(*) Per Max Sawicky, the conservative part of the blogiverse.
My first car cost barely more than this. I think I'll just be stuck taking turns riding Maxwell's F-P.
Mine too. Though those trikes might be faster than that car was... Thatsa a lotta money for a bike, especially one that's guaranteed to get clipped by an SUV on New England's narrow, winding roads.

I still covet it, though.
Yeah, the undepicted horror of the scene with the incredibly fit and presumably very well-to-do couple on the mountain road is the logging semi cutting a blind corner.

One recumbent bike site contends that the "novelty" of recumbents helps with driver attention. A nice theory!
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