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Two items caught my eye today. One was Bike Man Dan's blog post about a set of earrings made from recycled bike tubes. The other was an article about two bike-stealing operations that were foiled by the authorities.

The article made me think of horse thieves in the wild west. These criminals often paid with their lives, because a rider had a strong relationship with his or her horse.  Stealing it was like kidnapping a pet or a loved one.

Bikes are the same. They're not truly alive, but the relationship between a person and their bike is a lot like the primal bonds that people have had with various animals since the dawn of time.

jewelry made from bicycle skin
jewelry made from bicycle skin

The recycled bike tube earrings take this to another level. The same way the skin and bones of the buffalo provided clothing, tools, jewelry and probably much much more.

So be kind to that steel frame. It's an archetype. Big Game. Steed. Companion. Man's Best Friend.

Somewhere out there, I wouldn't be surprised to find Urban Shamans communing with the Bicycle Spirit, thanking it for the day's ride.

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One of the best parts of biking in the rain is the looks you get, and the conversations it inspires. When you're biking in foul weather, especially in a place like LA where foul weather is rare, people take notice. It gives you a chance to change their minds.

riding a bike in the rain

While you're out there pedaling through Valhalla, breathing free air and attacking the most menacing hills, the mortal masses are growing dull and weak behind electronic screens. Entire generations are hyperinsulated from the real world, and we're paying the price:

Last year's economic meltdown was caused by a potent mix of greed and laziness, the mindset that easy money should be a given, the bovine mentality that comfort is the norm and serious effort is unnecessary.

The purely physical aspects of life have become so easy for most of us that it's easy to get lost in this mindset, easy to lose touch with reality, almost impossible to do anything as our resources and freedoms slip away.

At the same time, the few people who stay active and engaged with the world are beating the trend and thriving. The courageous heroes who squarely face the challenges that life throws at them, or who seek out challenges on their own, these are the people who continue to grow and succeed.

If you're a regular bike commuter, I suspect you have a distinct advantage in your social and economic life, in addition to better health. And whenever you ride, you're a beacon to all the wandering souls behind glass panes, a reminder of the independence, resourcefulness, and work ethic that made this country great.

When it's raining cats and dogs, especially in a place like Los Angeles where it rarely rains very hard for very long, the weather separates the heroes from the common folk. If you ride boldly and blatantly where others fear to tread, you're forcing the world to wake up and take notice.

You have a choice to make. We're on the cusp of human evolution, but it's different this time. We're not going to be naturally selected by a meteor or some other environmental catastrophe. We're going to choose our own fate.

So get on your bike, especially when the storms are raging all around you.

You don't realize it, but your bottom bracket holds the future of America, and maybe of all humanity.

bicycle global warming 017This isn't exactly about getting around on a bike, and it's only connected to riding a bike in Italy by a stretch of the imagination.

But there is a lot of urban sprawl, even in Italy (especially in Rome!)  and there were days of biking the Appian way where all I saw was a bunch of run-down homes and industrial stuff along a lonely road through the Italian countryside

That's why this documentary on urban sprawl is relevant. I'm hoping for a future time when enough people are willing to ride their bikes as their primary transportation, there's good public transportation in place, and cities become communities where people want to live, instead of the wasteland that so many of them are now (especially LA!).

So if you're interested in biking as a way of transforming the world, you may want to check this out.

Big thumbs up to Matthew Segal for an in depth feature on the LA bike culture. I won't feel like a lone rider in a sea of automobiles for at least a few days now. It almost makes me want to do the next Midnight Ridazz.

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?