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I had an extra long lunch break today, and took a quick ride in a part of LA that I pass through a lot. But I never saw this before!

I was out for maybe a hour, and didn't ride more than a couple of miles, but I took all the side streets and discovered a new park, a bunch of old mansions,  and some gingerbread houses. I was stalked by a giant Ewok in a Porsche (Halloween is near), and I even found a narrow twisty road that smelled like a redwood forest. In L.A.!

If you're not using your bike to explore the places you think you already know, you're in for a treat. I bet every city has quirky houses and yards, not to mention those random freak encounters with weird (ahem, interesting) people.

You'll come away from these discovery rides with a new sense of wonder at the world, quite possibly enhanced by the extra load of oxygen and endorphins.

This is at least as entertaining as any movie you'll see all year, and it's free. Not to mention the exercise.

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I'm trying to start a beginner's biking group in Los Angeles. If you're here, let me know what you're looking for. I put up a survey here.

If you'd like to be in on this, let me know!

The cost of oil has been jumping up and down, but it hasn't gotten nearly as low as 2 years ago, and probably never will. Sooner or later that's going to hurt your wallet when you fill up your car with gasoline. You know where this is going.

Now will you ride your bike to work?

If you don't care that much about pollution or infrastructure problems, if finding a parking space isn't a problem for you, even if you're not interested in improving your health, couldn't you still use an extra wad of cash every week?

Just think, if you saved 20 bucks a week, in ten years you could buy your own island and you wouldn't have to go to work anymore. Well, maybe you wouldn't save that much, but with this economy saving a tank of gas a week--or even just half a tank--could work wonders to alleviate a lot of financial stress. Is there any way you could ride your bike to work? Even just part of the way?

I'm not writing this for extreme commuters. If you're physically challenged, buried under snow, or you need to transport heavy merchandise or delicate equipment you're excused.

But most of us could make this work. At least part of the way, some of the time. My dad is in his 70s and he still rides a bike across half of Chicago, even though he doesn't have to.

Don't think of this as judgement. I'm only saying that this is your chance to do something radical, something that can change your life and eventually transform the world.

Imagine a society where our security isn't hostage to a greasy fluid, where almost everyone is strong and athletic, where our pets can roam the neighborhood without the danger of being squashed, where "drunk driving" means risking a scraped elbow, where you can sleep late without the roar of traffic waking you up in the morning, and you can breathe deeply without choking.

Did I mention that in my utopian bicycle dreamworld you can eat anything you want without getting fat, and you'll have an extra couple hundred bucks to play with every month? (Maybe more, since the fluctuations of the economy now depend on the price of oil...)

Just give it a try if you can. Please.

I was biking downtown, and when I stopped at a red light someone rolled down their window and said, "I'll bet you're saving a lot of money riding that thing."

Indeed. Probably tens of thousands of dollars over the last 15 years. Before the motorist took of at the green light, he said he was planning to ride his bike to work soon, because of gas prices and the recession.

But this isn't at all about saving money. That's just icing on the cake. Which got me thinking...

There's a lot of talk in the media about an economic slowdown, recession, depression, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it. And there may be some truth in what you've been hearing, although the jury's still out on how bad it's going to get.

But spending less money doesn't have to mean lowering your quality of life. I put that in italics so you'll remember it, and burn it into your brain. Most bike commuters probably ride their bikes to work by choice, not necessity. And even if your credit card debt, your salary cut, rising costs or some other economic factor compelled you to ride your bike to work, you'd still get all the benefits that lead to this choice by people who have other options.

You'll pump oxygen into every cell in your body, burn fat and build lean, powerful muscle. You'll get to work relaxed and happy, looking and feeling a lot better than the stressed out commuters who had to hunt for parking. You'll see your town from a new perspective, and make discoveries that motorists miss. Every day is an adventure, because you're using your mind and body and wits to overcome new obstacles that wait for you just around the corner. It's fun!

Not to mention the self-righteous ego-boost you can indulge in, knowing that you're saving energy, reducing pollution, giving your fellow citizens more parking and road space, and generally making the world a little bit better.

And you'll save money. Maybe start getting ahead, paying off your debts and building up your net worth while people all around you are worried about defaults and bailouts and who knows what else. But that's not the point.

Riding a bike is just one example of how downsizing your life, spending less, can actually improve your standard of living. The new economy (and that's what's happening here--not a reduction of total wealth but simply a transfer of wealth) may look scary on the surface if you're stuck in old ways of thinking. But really it's an adventure of new opportunity. Embrace the adventure.

Race you to the top?