Tuesday, March 3, 2009
I'm currently visiting my friend Parker in Santa Monica, having left Nancy in San Francisco two days ago to continue visiting friends and family there.
Before we flew out, I was somewhat anxiously looking on the LA Craigslist for a suitable bicycle to buy that I could ride while visiting. I found a couple of fun bikes, but something was feeling a little bit chaotic and ill conceived about the plan. Parker also pointed out that it'd be something that he couldn't maintain responsibility for should his living situation change. He also suggested that there was his aunt's bike on hand already which I was free to ride. Half jokingly, I quipped "Don't even mention that thing!", with a vague memory of a clunky ill-fitting, poorly outfitted, and semi functional old bike.
On a previous trip out here I sent my bike ahead of my arrival in order to have a familiar set of wheels to get around with. It cost about $40 each way and in the end felt worth it despite the expense - we had some fun adventures in the mountains and up the coast. Since then, the costs of shipping have gone up and the effort of disassembling, packing and shipping feels cumbersome, not to mention wasteful.
Having abandoned the buy-a-bike scheme as not right, I figured we'd work something out or just not bike. In fact, Parker's aunt's bike has served ably as a guest bike for my visit. Its a Schwinn Mesa Runner, a no-frills old "hybrid" that has been surprisingly suitable and fun. It wins little in terms of style, but it works well and it has proved to be versatile and comfortable. We've gone rough riding in the Santa Monica mountains, traveling through the LA streets for errands, and its just been a fun experience. Discovering that it has some LED lights in addition to a rear basket was just icing. Its great to get over a little of my bike snobbery; bikes are bikes, and of course they vary widely in purpose and quality, but on an elemental level the bicycle is a beautiful machine with an inherent elegance that is unassailable.
The experience has led me to thinking about guest bikes.
In my perfect world, it would be customary to keep an extra bike (or two) on hand for guests. In many cases this happens already because people often have an extra bike hanging around by default. In the same way that it is customary to keep a guest room, friends would feel comfortable knowing they have a reasonable set of wheels waiting for them while visiting. For all I know there may be a "guest bike" movement afoot already; if not, here's putting it out there: Consider keeping an extra bike on hand for guests, or make arrangements to borrow one.