Understanding the Locals by Bicycling Through America

Crazy cyclist on Red Mountain Pass near Ouray Colorado

On my criteria list for the ideal place to live and work: Must be bike friendly.

Bicycling has been a way of life for me since 1992, when I moved to San Francisco, got a bike and rode in the second Critical Mass ride, ever.

But trust me, I’m not a trendy gearhead. My antique 1992 Trek 7000 mountain bike is an unstylish hardtail, with an old Girvin Flex Stem, a precursor to modern suspension. But from San Francisco to Florida, Old Blue has repeatedly gotten me from Point A to Point B, and it’s all I need.

So whenever we arrive in a new place, I like to go for bike rides to get a feel for the area. When you ride, you can quickly judge not just the safety of the roads, but the attitude of the locals.

Good experience biking in Colorado

In California, drivers will speed right past you then slam on their brakes and cut you off at the next intersection.

Along wide, open roads of the rural Midwest, drivers will slow down to wave, say good morning, and then pass.

Rural New England drivers slow down, then drive on the other side of the road before slowly proceeding past.

In Florida, drivers will simply use you for target practice.

Biking in Colorado has been a positive experience so far. Even the narrowest mountain roads tend to be wider than any in New England. Drivers are usually courteous enough to slow down when passing. And, once you get acclimated to riding in the 9,000 ft. elevation range, going uphill isn’t quite as intimidating as it used to be.

Once you start riding in Colorado, an overwhelming sense of being able to ride anywhere may soon overtake you. Eventually, you might even be crazy enough to try doing something as nutty as biking over 11,000 ft. Red Mountain Pass.

Personally, I’m starting small. I’ll keep using my bike mostly for getting around the ranch, and doing the 5 mile round trip beer run to town and back.

4 thoughts on “Understanding the Locals by Bicycling Through America”

  1. As I recall that part of your trip, “Apparently Jerry was the only one not concerned.” But you are right about those Soccer Mom’s! They are dangerous. I don’t think a tatoo and leather jacket are going to save me though. But I’ll look into it if you think it will help, Jerry!

  2. “…looking lie a serious biker”? Come on Brain, we’re talking about cyclists here. You wanna look like a biker and you’re gonna need a tattoo. Or at least a leather jacket. Which ain’t gonna help on your bicycle commute, until you get rubbed into the pavement by one of those Jersey moms late to a soccer game on a jug handle.

  3. New Jersey has a mix of he California style and New England style. I have been riding my bike to work for the last few weeks since summer took over here in NJ, and most of the drivers are courteous, however, there are those who pass with in inches of your handlebars, causing your life to flash before your eyes! I have taken to getting whiplash looking over my shoulder when approaching any sort of on/off ramp or intersection, and I ride with only my right earbud in for my i-pod so I can hear the approaching traffic in my left ear.

    I have found, however, that almost every bicycle rider I see, usually going the opposite direction, will give the polite nod of the head in recognition of a fellow biker. I always like that. It’s like being a member of a club. I think it helps to be outfitted correctly, and looking like a serious biker – proper helmet, bike shorts, jersey, gloves, bike shoes with clips.

    But you know, it’s usually those who are not outfitted properly, and don’t follow the rules of the road, who swerve into traffic and ride erratically, or worse, ride against traffic. They often give us more serious riders a bad rep, and therefore promote ill-will by drivers. Just my opinion. But either way, I think everybody ought to be riding to work. Get off your butts and ride a few miles! It’ll be good for you!

    Sorry Jim for the rant. Have fun riding those hills!


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