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Why people do the things they do?
There's a way to understanding how people think. Influences ingrained in their childhood and adolescence or even adulthood which shapes their values, and unconsciously affect their actions. Memories, imprinted into the brain during development, which continue to influence their actions today. C. Rapaille refers to the unconscious reasons people think about things in her book The Culture Code.
Why do I ride a bike, and seem to love it so much? ... A car is so much easier.
Even though I grew up in LA, where the city song is Missing Persons "Nobody Walks in LA." For some reason although I seem to love cars, the idea of driving is secondary. In fact a lot of the time I dislike it, disdain it, and sitting in traffic seems to upset me more than so many other people. Why do I hate driving so much?
I didn't learn to really drive until I was 17. My experience getting my learning permit was one of those hellish days of my mom dropping me off at the DMV, when I was 16, getting in the wrong line, the not very helpful examiner unwilling find the correct test. Although I did get my permit, the experience was traumatic. Furthermore, taking drivers education at the LAUSD consisted of a half an hour in "driving simulator" in a trailer, and maybe 10 minutes behind the wheel, for 2 weeks. Since I was late to a couple of the classes, they failed me and I had to take the class twice.
What does a bike have to do with all of this?
The summer in which I should have gotten my license and driving around. My dad's solution was to get me a bike. I was taking a Spanish class at the local community college. So in order for me to get there he paid about $160 for a bike at a local bike shop. At least it wasn't a department store special. Although probably just about the cheapest bike in the store, I was proud of it. It was fast enough, had 12 speeds, and although I realized later I could have spent more for something faster, this was more than adequate.
Anyhow this bike I think I rode for 2 summers, after 10th and 11th grades. 7 miles each way to class at a community college. Took probably 45 minutes, maybe longer each way. I think it was these rides, which shaped my view of cycling as well as my views on driving. Being comfortable amidst the traffic in the valley, and not making too much of the heat. I think my dad was pretty pleased that he didn't have to buy me a car, and in the long run it was probably a lot cheaper.
I eventually brought this bike to college, and rode it around for 2 years. Where it served me pretty well. Even when I got my own apartment, and pleaded with my dad to let me bring the car which he'd bought my senior year in high school. The bike was still my primary mode of transportation.
So where did that naturally lead to?
The following summer, I bought a nicer racing bike from my housemate in Idaho, complete with the pedals and shoes which you clip into. I didn't ride it all that much, but one Saturday, in a lapse of logic, I decided to ride up a mountain road. In the end it was about 40-50 miles up to a small town outside of the capital, and then coming back, I couldn't ride anymore, and stopped along the side of the road, took a nap for 20 minutes then tried to ride again, and started walking. I half heartedly stuck my thumb out, and hoped I'd make it home. Somehow two people in a pickup truck stopped, I threw my sorry self and the bike in the bed, and they gave me a ride back to town. They even bought me a coke, because I didn't have a wallet, and looked compleatly beat. My only experience hitchiking.
When I got back to college for my senior year, I'd started riding with the collegiate cycling team. Never got past much of the training rides. And I definatley had one of the cheaper bikes amongst the gearhead crowd. I trained regularly with them, 30 to 50 miles in the afternoon a couple of times a week. Weekends were longer rides. In the spring I raced 1 criteron, when the final burst came in the end, I finished last. Although I have never raced again, I continued to ride. I would mountain bike in the hills behind campus, and go out for miles on the country roads to the east. Eventually, when I moved back East, I had my mountain bike shipped to me.
So where are you today?
So it's no surprise that when given the chance to get a good road bike, a couple of years ago, I started riding again, and took it with a passion that I can easily make the 12-13 miles each way to work. Because of all the riding on the road, my senior year in college, I long to be on the bike.
I still ride the mountain bike too. Although I did eventually buy a full suspension rig. I'm most satisfied with rigid frames, and rigid forks, even off road. Suspension forks are only good if you're going really fast downhill on a dirt trail, and for the most part are just extra weight, and somthing else to flop around. I like the solid direct feel, of the tires pounding against the trail.
What does this have to do with Imprinted memories?
However cycling has been imprinted into my memory, imprinted into who I am. Back when I was a teenager, the idea of cycling to places did almost add up to a car. There was a certain pride which went along with it.
For my friends who don't have that long 15 year history, and are just trying to understand the allure of cycing. I understand there's a hurdle to overcome. Maybe they'll understand why I snub my nose at a discount store brands, and take a look at what everyone else is riding. But I understand too, why cycling doesn't seem to appeal to them, and why it can't seem to fit into their lives.
There's more than just the muscle memory of knowing how to ride a bike. You may never forget how to ride, but the reason you don't ride, is because there's nothing to remember.