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The Slice

The Wednesday Slice

I rode my bike to work for the first time on this date in 2008. It was a Friday shakedown cruise before Bike to Work Week.

Here are a few things I have learned in four years of two-wheeled commuting.

Never forget your gloves on chilly mornings.

I can't read minds, but the vast majority of Spokane motorists seem to have no problem sharing the road.

If a cyclist is visible and predictable, there shouldn't be a lot of drama out there.

You encounter way more hostility toward cycling and cyclists online than you do in the real world.

If you have decent, properly inflated tires and an OK bike, flats and mechanical breakdowns shouldn't be a frequent problem.

Just as experienced riders warned me before I started, drivers unnecessarily and inappropriately wanting to yield the right of way is a bit of a pain. (Treat us as vehicles, please.) 

Becoming a bike rider gives your family a fun new birthday/Christmas gift theme to work with. (You can never have too many lights and reflecting vests.)

If you stay with it, hills that are not doable at first become doable. And after that, they can eventually become routine.

That “cyclists don't pay taxes” BS gets really, really old.

The speed with which you can instantly shift from happily rolling along to WHAM — “Hey, I'm down on the street in the dark sliding on black ice” cannot be exaggerated.

Being known by your first name at a bike shop is kind of a kick.

If you approached a red light downtown at 5:20 a.m. with zero traffic in sight, what would you do?

Because it is so much quicker, bike riding pretty much ruined my enthusiasm for walking to and from work, which I had been doing for years.

Bike riding turned out not to be a problem for one of my knees that had me worried.

Guys driving pickups seem to really appreciate cyclists indicating with hand signals an intention to turn.

I've always liked useful exercise. Since getting on a bike, I like it even more.

Seeing the smiles of little kids on bikes when you acknowledge them with your own horn or bell can make your day.

Turns out you really can carry quite a bit in those saddlebags.

Riding in the rain isn't all that bad if you are headed home to a shower anyway.

Modern helmets are so light, wearing one quickly becomes second nature.

I silently thank my employer every day for providing a safe place to lock up my bike.

If you are a newspaper columnist who occasionally refers to being a bike rider, there are readers who will actually count the number of times you do so.

I miss listening to NPR's “Morning Edition” on the radio on the way to work. (Earphones and bike riding don't strike me as a safe mix.)

Waving or nodding to other cyclists feels like being part of a loose-knit community.

As I have said on previous occasions, self-styled “elite” riders who fancy themselves too good to acknowledge decidedly non-elite riders such as myself can go to blazes at their earliest convenience.

If you become a cyclist and really get into it, there will be a serious temptation to bore friends and co-workers with bike talk. This impulse eases off a bit after a time, but never completely goes away.

No matter what sort of day at work I've had, getting on my bike to head home feels good. 

 

This date in Slice history (1995): Warm-up question: Which of your co-workers is most consistently obnoxious about suggesting that he or she is too cool for Spokane?

 

Today's Slice question: Who performed at the first rock/pop/country concert you ever attended? 

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. There are people here who never, and I mean never, go to Seattle.


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Features writer Paul Turner is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review in the Features department. He writes "The Slice" column, which appears six times a week and produces general features stories for the Today section.

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