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The price of gas

When I graduated from high school 10 years ago, we could drive to the southwest side of town and get gas for $0.99 a gallon. Everywhere else it was $1.00 or $1.02 or $1.03, but over by Dixie Highway you could still get it for under a dollar. Gas prices are now at about $4.00 a gallon, which means the price of gas has quadrupled in the past 10 years. I’m pretty sure American paychecks have not quadrupled in the past decade, and I know the minimum wage hasn’t.

Do you know what craziness this has spurred? According to the news last night, people are riding bikes to work. And they’re carpooling. Horrors! Some people are even trying to sell their SUV’s, though nobody is buying. So, even though I hate paying $4.00 a gallon for gas, I can’t help but think it is a good thing in many ways for our environment and for the health of the community. Less cars on the roads means cleaner air. More bikers means people are getting more exercise.

Last Friday was Bike to Work day, which I wanted to participate in, but my bike is dead and so far beyond repair that it may as well have a Do No Resuscitate order. They were giving out free breakfast downtown to people who rode to work, but I had to buy my own oatmeal that day. I think I’m going to use my tax rebate to buy a new bike, whenever that check comes in the mail. I’m torn between choosing a light-weight practical ride and buying a super-cute Electra cruiser that is probably heavier and slower. But super-cute! Decision, decisions. Either way, I’m sure it will pay for itself if I start riding to work.

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54 Comments

asithi • May 23, 2008 at 10:37 am

A secret part of me feels the same way about the gas prices as well – maybe we can find some ways to be less dependent on it. But then again, I am angry that the gas companies are making record profits and are blaming the rising demand as the main reason why things it is getting so much more expensive.

The only good thing is that it is making people a little more physically active, like you were saying about biking.

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G.G. • May 23, 2008 at 11:03 am

I would LOVE to be able to consider biking to work, but it’s just not feasible. Even though I only live 10 miles from work, there are no bike paths, no sidewalks, crazy nutjob drivers in big trucks driving very fast while talking on cellphones, and we’re probably going to be getting 90 degree temps this weekend. I’d like to think I’m hardcore enough to handle it, but the thought of riding 10 miles in the mid-afternoon Mississippi summer when it gets over 100 degrees (with our nasty humidity)–I don’t think I’ll ever be hardcore enough to handle that.

Carpooling it is! (I’m starting next week.)

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Amy • May 23, 2008 at 11:17 am

I hope you do it!

Hey, I think there’s a group that takes old bikes and teaches disadvantaged kids to repair them, in case you’re looking for a place to take your old bike. I think they also sell fixed bikes!

Check out http://www.ibike.org/encouragement/youth-directory.htm and see if any of the Indiana ones are still up. I though the Indy one may have been gone now but I heard someone mention it again the other day so who knows. And there’s always Freecycle to ditch it…

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scone • May 23, 2008 at 11:32 am

I’ve got a retro Schwinn-style cruiser– they’re great! The weight can be an issue on hills, but they really withstand bad roads, e.g., potholes, gravel, glass, etc. You can even do a little light off-road riding. And they’re wonderful on the beach. You could take a little vacation, go up to the lakes, ride, swim. (Cue Beach Boys: fun, fun, fun!)

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Janice Bridge • May 23, 2008 at 11:33 am

One year ago this month I returned to riding my bike after a 25 year hiaitus (I know – the last time I regularly rode a bike you were not yet walking!)

My bike is a Townie

http://www.electrabike.com/townie/

easy to ride, 8 gears so it manages mild hills, flat foot technology so I feel stable, and fun to ride.

I also got an odometer. . . and in spite of not riding in December, January, and February . . .I have clocked 1,200 miles in 9 months.

I routinely ride to any appointment or errand that is less than 5 miles – and on the day before my birthday (many many candles) we rode 14 miles to the ball park, watched the game, and then rode home

America!!! use $4 gasoline as a reason to reclaim your cycling self

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sarah j • May 23, 2008 at 11:59 am

PQ… I was going to log on and say “go light” when choosing a bike…but everyone’s comments made me realize that heavier bikes have good benefits too! That said, I really appreciate the lighter weight when bringing it up/down my stairs, putting it onto the back of my car for those far away biking adventures, etc. The irony of biking at 290 lbs and being grateful for a bike that is a few pounds lighter for its portability is not lost on me. Conundrum, I tell ya. Have a good weekend.

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jesse • May 23, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Dude, I have an Electra Townie and it is pretty awesome. It is pretty heavy, though, and it feels longer than a road bike, which makes turning a little difficult for me (my balance is not stellar). In contrast, my husband just bought a fixed gear Giant that weighs about 11lbs and I am pretty jealous that he can sling it over his shoulder and walk right out of the house with it. I don’t know, I read great advice here via Boing Boing about how with a heavier bike, you’ll just get used to carrying slightly more weight, but I still find it annoying! Anyway, I don’t know if the laid-back posture is as good for a hard bike ride. But I hope you have fun picking a bike, no matter what! I bought mine with my sweet, sweet rebate check, too :)

(I heard on the radio that gas in the UK is like $10/gallon? Crazy. If it got that high, I’d love to see what it would do to the commuting structure of cities!)

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Rachael • May 23, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Super cute bike! I’d get the pink one. I don’t know how to work gears on a bike so that’s perfect for me!

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Sayre • May 23, 2008 at 12:47 pm

I splurged a whole $149 on my birthday and bought a Schwinn that is “woman-inspired”. It fits nicely, but has a shock system in the front fork that takes some getting used to. One of my big problems with my last bike was that it felt like I was sitting on my hands a lot. This bike actually lets me sit on my seat and steer with my hands! Bonus – it’s not very heavy!

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Karen Gresham • May 23, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I’m thinking of moving into my office during the week – go home on Friday. I doubt the management would care for that plan, but before long I’ll just be working to pay for gas to get to work!

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Dyan • May 23, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Don’t forget the whopping $600 you will get in the form of the incentive check! Great incentive to get off your butt and buy a cool bike!

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dietgirl • May 23, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Jesse, your price is right on! Here in Scotland we paid £1.20 for a litre of fuel the other day! Four litres to a US gallon, so £4.80/$10US per gallon. We try to keep the car use to a bare minimum and bus or train it the big city coz it’s just so bloody pricey.

PQ, wow, those bikes are SO sexy and retrolicious! You’d totally have to put your lunch in a ironic basket on the front :)

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dietgirl • May 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm

(actually it’s only $9.50 according to xe.com, but a nasty price nevertheless ;)

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Dawn • May 23, 2008 at 2:50 pm

I like that people that have these choices are making them, but it’s killing those of us that simply don’t have the choice but to drive. We can either decide to have custody of two of our kids to avoid driving or suck it up and pay $4 a gallon to get our other 2 kids that live in another state. We switch homes every week to make sure our family stays in contact and this is killing our budget, with over $1000 in gas alone each month. Sprawl isn’t helping, our one home is literally 30 minutes from a store. I wish we could live in the city somewhere, but it’s not possible for us at this time. Sorry, vent over, lol.

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David Crowell • May 23, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I started biking part of the way to work a few days a week just a few weeks ago. I did it for the exercise, rather than gas prices.

I basically drive 13 miles, and park in a mostly empty parking lot, then ride the remaining 3.5 miles. I am saving a little on gas, but I’m definitely saving $6 per day on parking.

Once I’m in better shape, I intend on biking the whole distance.

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vivi • May 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm

People in the US sometimes wonder why people here in Europe walk or ride a bike instead of driving (if the distance is less than 30 min)… I’ll tell you: 1.50 € / litre (the cheapest gas), that makes 9$/gallon.

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wilma • May 23, 2008 at 4:10 pm

PQ–I would go for one of the Amsterdam bikes–I’m biased, I’m Dutch (well, Dutch-Canadian), and I rode my aunt’s super old school Dutch bike when I lived in the Netherlands. I looovvvveeeeddd it. The best bike I have ever ridden, and this includes the super expensive “sit up and ride” bike I bought when in England. If I could do it over, I’d buy the Dutch bike. I ride my bike to work, and I don’t regret having a heavier bike, because it’s so lovely to be sitting up straight on a bike and being able to wear work clothes without worrying about them getting dirty from the chain, etc. So I vote for the heavier bike, and I would vote for the Amsterdam style bikes over the cruiser, though I’m sure you will love whatever bike you buy!

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Lori • May 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm

I have an electra and I love love love it… However I don’t think I would use it for a commute to work because yes it is heavier. I also have a hybrid bike that is much easier for that purpose… But I fly to work, so that option is pretty much out. :)

Good luck with your choice. Go to a reputable bike store and get nicer quality you will be glad you did.

Lori

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Barbara • May 23, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Hey, check out pawn shops for a bike. There should be plenty of reputable places (that don’t take stolen stuff), and you could always call ahead to ask if they have any in. You may get more than you thought you could afford, I did!

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jancd • May 23, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Oh, those cruisers are cute.

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jae • May 23, 2008 at 7:01 pm

While going to bike stores with Eric I saw some of the prettiest Cruiser bikes. They had awesome paint jobs and embroardered seats. Ooh, I wanted one so bad! But I don’t think they’d be very good on the trails :) My Craigs List bike does very well though. ~j

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Heather • May 23, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Maybe Lipton should have given you the bike that they were giving away. You need one and instead of them have you give it away they should have just given it to you. lol!!

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Bella • May 23, 2008 at 8:02 pm

I vote for the Electra. But, I’m biased. I’m in the market for a beach cruiser, because I’ve always wanted one, and dammit, I deserve it. It’s going to be a little graduation present/reward for losing 25 pounds to myself.

I’m thinking cherry red with a basket, of course. I may have to stop short of getting a bell, but then again, I guess if the mood strikes me, why not?

Can’t wait to hear about which bike you chose.

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Mama Maven • May 23, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Good luck on the biking plan! Unfortunately I head out in the morning with a fully loaded mini-van!

I am with you, the price of gas is making everyone think more about using their car. We walked to dinner tonight and I am trying desperately to teach my husband to plan all of his errands so that he can get everything accomplished in one trip!

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weelittleme • May 23, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I hear what you are saying and agree with the comment above about global prices. US petrol is cheap folks. Where I am living it would be between 8 and 9 dollars a gallon. But it is good to see that those that can are starting to make the changes we desperately need.

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Roz • May 23, 2008 at 8:50 pm

I have an Electra cruiser that I used to ride to work everyday before I moved a bit further away (am now using the train). It is an excellent commuting bike, super cute and handles better than what you will think. My only recommendation would be to change the saddle, as they can bit a bit big and it can get uncomfortable.

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sarah • May 23, 2008 at 10:00 pm

I paid $4.10 the other day. Not fun.

They are saying gas may hit $15.

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Merry • May 23, 2008 at 10:54 pm

PQ,

Please don’t get a bike from a pawn shop. At least, not without first going to a good bike shop and getting someone to help you with getting the right size bike. Think of it like buying a running shoe — you want to make sure that it fits you, otherwise you’ll be in pain and won’t want to use it!

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Mal • May 24, 2008 at 2:55 am

Oh. I had a MAJOR Electra Cruiser “problem” (read: obsession, drool-fest, NEED) a couple of years ago. I still see them around, due to my proximity to the beach and cool tattoo parlors. Nice choice.

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Christine • May 24, 2008 at 4:22 am

I’ve missed out on jobs because I don’t drive. It’s not a perfect situation. However, it ensured that I got a job I can cycle to – which I love. It’s actually only two miles each way, but it works out to about 20 minutes of physical activity every day… I figure I get another half hour running up and down the stairs at work.

Utilitarian exercise is tooootally where it’s at. It’s not, if I don’t cycle, I haven’t exercised, oh I’m lazy, oh well! It’s, if I don’t cycle, I don’t get to work and I get fired.

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Carrie • May 24, 2008 at 8:42 am

I got the Electra Townie with my gov “rebate”. It is beautiful and fun to ride. It’s got 21 gears, way more than I need is S. Fla, but fun to play with. I’m going to get tassles for the handlebars soon. The Electra accessories are awesome, you can get skull valve caps!

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Julie • May 24, 2008 at 12:55 pm

This is the part that sucks about living out in the country. It’s 12 miles to town! Although if I left at like 3 in the morning…

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Interested Party • May 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm

No-one likes paying more for petrol, but it is the one thing that is stopping people making unnecessary car journeys. Plenty of people do need to drive and don’t have an alternative, but there are plenty more who never even considered walking or cycling the short (safe) distances that they always used the car for until the price of petrol made them think about it.

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cm • May 24, 2008 at 3:49 pm

no cruisers! i mean, cute, ok, but i think you have to admit you’re kind of athletic now?? (ahem) you’ll appreciate the quickness, smoothness, lightness of a higher-end hybrid or, better yet a road bike. though for commmuting you might prefer the option of the upright position you get in a hybrid to the aero position on a road bike.

i’d go for a trek or specialized hybrid–not the comfort hybrids with the cushy seats, but the lighter ones with the road bike components. lightweight, fast, sweet. you’ll have a lot more fun on one of these than on a cruiser. a world of difference. it’s not just about carrying it up some stairs.

go to a comprehensive local bike shop, where they sell tri gear, casual cruisers, road bikes, the works, and make sure you get an experienced salesperson who bothers to get to know you a bit and not make assumptions about you. (don’t go on the weekend, if you can help it.) try out a bunch–including lifting them and walking a bit with them–and see how you feel. it’s fun to go fast! and worth the money.

when you pay a lot for a cruiser, usually it’s for the paint job.

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cm • May 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm

that is, *of course* get whatever bike thrills you the most. obv i’m totally biased. but do go to a shop where you get to try out a lot of different kinds and where they encourage you to do so, and don’t buttonhole you into one thing or another right away.

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kaolee • May 24, 2008 at 11:56 pm

that’s a great idea! i could just roll out my sleeping bed in one of the conference rooms at work.

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Susan • May 25, 2008 at 11:00 am

I definitely recommend getting a road bike(10 speed). I bought a mountain bike when I didn’t know much about bikes, and every time I take my bike out I regret it. It’s been 8 years! If I could go back in time I would totally have bought a street bike/10 speed.

Neither a cruiser or a mountain bike are great for someone who is looking to ride a bike for serious exercise on the road. Mountain bikes are great for off-roading, but I have never once used mine off-road! Cruisers are nice for meandering and sight-seeing (like at the beach) but they are WAY too heavy to get any good speed and well, you just can’t burn a lot of calories if you are going slow.

Good luck!

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Laura • May 25, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Hi Pastaqueen, I discovered your blog via the New York Times piece a couple of weeks ago and I must say your blog saved me from some pretty boring days at work. Thanks for that! :)

Anyway, I think that in the coming years Urban Planning as a field may very well explode simply because so many cities have evolved into car cultures with under-developed Metro bus systems, where it is not safe or feasible to ride a bike to work. Phoenix is putting in light rails all over, and Denver is expanding their public transit, so hopefully more cities will follow.

I feel incredibly lucky that I don’t own a car right now. I live in New York City, and use the subway every day. I hope you’re right and that this does lead in the long term to healthier people. When I moved here I dropped about 10 pounds from all the walking and I put back on about 5 pounds in what seems to be muscle (I think that’s from the subway stairs). My fear is that instead of improving the infrastructure for public transit and bike transportation the government will just put all their efforts into getting cheap gas again, if that’s even possible.

Promotions like the free breakfast thing are great steps in the right direction. I just hope that cities aren’t waiting to increase public transit options for the magic cheap gas bullet. I don’t know how I’d manage if I were to leave New York and need a car again.

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Sally Parrott Ashbrook • May 25, 2008 at 10:34 pm

I want a cruiser bike, too, PQ! . . . You know, stock in bikes might be one of the only good investments right now.

Maybe I’ll buy a bike at the end of the summer. The catch where I live is that you’re supposed to ride on the street, of course, but that is pretty dangerous with ATL drivers being as they are, especially if you’d be a newbie like I would (not a total newbie–I LIVED on my bike as a kid, but I haven’t ridden in many, many years).

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K • May 26, 2008 at 5:20 am

I’ve been biking to work (and pretty much everywhere else) since last November, and can really recommend it – it wakes me up for the day. I’m really not a morning person, so that’s a huge advantage.

I started out on a very heavy 1990s steel-framed hybrid, then switched to an aluminium-framed commuter bike, and can attest that if you have any hills to climb, a light frame will make a difference. So will more gears, but the lightness is a real help. My husband has a road bike with racer tyres, which is even lighter.

Aluminium frames are light, but less springy than steel ones if you have to go over bad road surfaces or cobbles. I’ve had a quick look at the cruisers and there are both options available. My bike is not a million miles from the cruisers (less pretty, though) and I have found it’s up to most things on-road. I wouldn’t take it on anything rougher than a trail or a towpath, but how often do I actually want to go offroad? Not often.

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K • May 26, 2008 at 5:24 am

Oh, and I meant to say that unless you go over REALLY rough surfaces, probably suspension is not worth it – it tends to add to the weight a lot.

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Dom • May 26, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Yay! I’ve finally reached the end of your blog. Well, not the end, the ‘current’, but you get what I mean?

You’ve really inspired me at a time when I really needed a kick up the bum! I’ve even started weight training again, and it’s going really well. It was also great to hear a ‘real’ person training for a race, because I’m training for a 10K at the moment. The last one I did I weighed 225 lbs and twisted both ankles, one of them twice, and came in 90 mins later. This time I’m a lot slimmer, but just want to finish without crying or dying and being able to run the whole way!

Question for you. This might be because I’m British, and I’m sure this is perfectly obvious, but what does ETA stand for? I’m so confused by this, and it’s driving me bonkers!!!

Thanks again for all the inspiration!

D x

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PastaQueen • May 26, 2008 at 2:24 pm

ETA is not an Americanism, it’s an Internetism. It means “Edited to add.” I use it whenever I’ve inserted something after a post went live. Good luck with your races!

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Becca • May 26, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Ok, I’ll be brave enough to tell my embarassing “cruiser bike” story. I wanted one very badly a few years ago because…well, frankly because they are so cute and retro. I’d ridden one as a beach rental in Hilton Head and loved it. Apparently however, they are best suited to beach riding, where you don’t have to turn.

My husband bought me one for my birthday a year ago. (must now admit that at my last birthday I weighed nearly 300 lbs – before lap band surgery saved my life). I was thrilled with my birthday present – hopped on the bike and took off down our street. As I came to the first necessary turn, I swung the lovely long and wide placed handles, and immediately the handles ran into resistance – my own belly. Therefore I was unable to successfully make the turn – and ran right up a neighbor’s yard into their lilac bush.

So – good for beach where you go straight and want to look cute. Not so good for when you need to ride on actual roads. We quickly exchanged the bike for a more practical road model – although I picked out a hot pink one just for the “cute” factor.

(photo of said bike is in my most recent video blog update if you want to peek at it)

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Deb • May 27, 2008 at 6:23 am

I wish I were within a reasonable enough distance to bike to work (it is about 33 miles one-way).

I still wouldn’t mind having one of those nifty new bikes though.

:)

deb

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Olivia • May 27, 2008 at 9:01 am

Yay, for bike riding. I just got mine tuned up, and though riding to work isn’t really an option, I’m really looking forward to changing up my exercise routine. And we just bought a bike for my husband so he can ride to school. I think my old mountain bike is on the heavy side, but I can still lift it (more exercise!). One thing I love about it is the “easy-off” tires. I don’t know the actual name, but with just a few turns the tire can be taken off making it easier to put in a car if you want to take it somewhere.

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K • May 27, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Quick-release wheels! :)

They make mending punctures much easier, too.

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asithi • May 27, 2008 at 4:44 pm

That’s it! Unlike some of the “older cities” that are planned around pedestrians, “newer cities” pretty much require you to have a car. When you really think about it, the most livable cities are the most pedestrian and bike friendly ones.

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Cynthia • May 27, 2008 at 7:01 pm

I got lucky and won one of those Lipton blog bike giveaways for a Fuji Crosstown 2.0. Can’t wait for it to come! I haven’t ridden in over 30 years. So it will all be new again and a little scary, frankly on the local terrain! I can’t think my extra weight will help any! But biking might help me lose some.

As I have not gotten to pick out the bike, I’m just hoping this will be a good bike for me.

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coraspartan • May 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

With gas prices what they are, and me currently driving an SUV (paid off so I don’t want to sell it and buy a new vehicle), I am seriously considering starting to ride my bike to work once school lets out and I don’t have to drive my son to school every day.

It’s about 8 miles each way, so I could get in my exercise for the day AND save a ton on gas money!

I have a mountain bike (Trek) that I bought in college but after reading some others’ comments I’m thinking I might buy a road bike for riding to work.

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Kim • May 28, 2008 at 2:33 pm

I agree that it is better for our health, to travel via foot or bike… but I live in Houston. I work 40 miles away from home One Way. Paying $4.00 a gallon is unreasonable… the alternative of walking or biking, is also.

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Dolores • May 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm

I just found you through Kaylyn’s Kitchen, and I can already tell I’m going to like how you think. Yes, the rising price of gas is painful. And no, biking 35 miles one way is not in my near future. Public transportation’s also not feasible as a commute option.

So I’m making other changes. I carpool whenever possible. My grocery store is a half mile away… I can walk. The farmer’s market is four miles away on a beautiful bike trail, so we pulled out the bikes and pump the tires up.

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Amy • June 3, 2008 at 11:45 pm

The cruisers are cute, but I’d go with the nice light bike. I bought a cruiser a couple years ago and after the first long bike ride with friends I was regretting my choice. REI was nice enough to let me switch to a much more useful and funner to ride Scott hybrid.

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Amy • June 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Replying to myself!

FYI, last week there were two separate attacks on cyclists at about 3400 block of the Monon. Some guys threw a trash can at the bike to knock the rider off, and then mugged the rider. Probably good to know for runners too! Happened in bright afternoon time.

As for local bike options, BGI has a small amount off a new bike if you swap in an old one as part of this reclaim/refurbish by inmates/give to needy kids program: http://bgindy.com/page.cfm?pageID=950

I don’t see the info about the money off a new bike ($20 I think) but it was in a newsletter BGI sent me last week.

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