Living on two wheels – Part 1
In honor of National Bike Month, we welcome back guest blogger Patrick “Paddy” McCallister, St. Lucie Transportation Planning Organization Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee member. Paddy lives on two wheels. He’s a lifestyle cyclist who abandoned driving a car. He offers tips for those considering the transition to go carless with the first in the series “Living on two wheels”:
Part 1 – Considering it
By Patrick McCallister
I’m a lifestyle cyclist. I got rid of the car and have five bicycles that are for everything from commuting and grocery shopping to group rides and centuries. Florida is close to custom made for living on two wheels, but it takes preparation.
When I tell folks I’m a lifestyle cyclist, I get one of two responses: 1. “That’s great; I wish I could do that,” or, 2. “That’s great; I can’t do that.” Then there are the questions. “What about the weather?” “How do you get big items, like furniture?” “Have you lost your mind?”
That’s followed by, “I bet you’re saving a lot of money.”
No, I’m probably not saving money; there’s always a way to spend money on bicycles. No, seriously, I’m saving money, but not as much as people imagine. More importantly, however, is rather than pouring dollars into a car I don’t want I’m investing in something I love — bicycling.
I started lifestyle cycling for a few reasons. Topping the list is I just don’t like driving. I’m diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. For me, driving is a sensory overload on a good day. It’s stressful and fatiguing. Cycling — while at times a sensory nightmare around traffic — is relaxing and rejuvenating. The other reasons have to do with my difficulty maintaining a healthy body weight, along with my spiritual ideas and ecological concerns.
If you’re among those who’d like to be a full-time cyclist living without a car, here’s what you need to consider:
- Do your lifestyle and work support that decision?
- If they don’t, can you make reasonable alterations that would allow it?
I’m turning 49 and am unmarried. My children are adults living in other parts of the state and country. I’m a reporter doing most of my work from the house. I live in the St. Lucie West area of Port St. Lucie with all of my regular shopping within three miles of the door — except for bike shops.
I’ve got two bike shops about five miles away in different directions. One is close to the city’s bus terminal. It’s easy to take bikes there and ride the bus home, then reverse the order when repairs are done. My favorite shop is 16 miles away. The co-owner of that shop knows I depend on my bikes for transportation. He does work, such as derailleur adjustments, on the spot when I call ahead and ride there. Good relationships with local bike shops are important to maintaining full-time cycling.
I have two bikes well suited for shopping. One’s a Trek road bike modified to be my suburban bike. It has detachable saddlebags, cushy seat, comfortable touring tires, and the bars about two inches higher than on my group ride and century road bikes. The other’s a Specialized mountain bike with on/off road tires and a rack that’ll hold the saddlebags in addition to a permanent bag on it. Additionally, I have a collection of quality backpacks.
My wardrobe is made of brightly-colored shirts that diffuse sweat and dry rapidly. I have several cycling shorts that comfortably work as underwear, too. I have permanent and temporary rain gear readied at all times, along with a toiletries bag for freshening up when I get places.
Almost needless to say, I keep a small collection of tubes — although I’ve never had a flat since going to Sunlite puncture-resistant tubes — and lots of portable and shop bike tools. I also have a stand for working on bikes. I’m not a bike mechanic, but YouTube has great videos to help with minor jobs, such as truing wheels.
I said all that to give you the picture — lifestyle cycling needs preparation. The most important thing, of course, is numerous bikes that serve different functions, but can crossover in pinches. I’ve had three bikes in the shop at once for a couple weeks.
Something I don’t and won’t have is people I call for rides, or to borrow cars. The choice to live on two wheels is sometimes about rugged independence. Sometimes it’s about taking the bus to pick up your bike after declining a ride. I keep myself familiar with the local bus routes – they’re thin in most parts of the Sunshine State – and keep bus money on hand.
If you’re thinking about dumping the car, start with getting at least a couple bikes that can do every function you need, such as getting to work and shopping. Then start living as though you don’t have a car. See when you’re tempted to use your car, and record how frequently you succumb to that urge. If you find yourself feeling freed by ignoring your car, and can do this for several months, chances are you’re ready to live on two wheels.
Welcome to paradise.
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