About once a year I find myself in front of a bicycle shop, and I begin to reminisce about the days when I had a bicycle. I still recall my first one that my father bought for me at the Western Auto Store. I always thought if funny that the Western Auto Store sold bicycles but they didn't sell autos. I don't think there are Western Auto Stores any longer. At least I've not seen one in many years.
When I do find myself in front of a bicycle store, as I did recently, I go in and browse around. Inevitably an enthusiastic salesperson (always male) comes over and asks if I need help. And I say, "Do you have any with fenders?" This almost always leaves the clerk speechless for a minute, as it did this time. Now I'm starting to see bicycles with fenders again, but for years I didn't. This baffles me. At what point did the bicycle manufactures say, "Let's not put fenders on them so that the riders will get water, mud and dirt splattered all over them." And do fenders really make all that much of a weight difference or cause much wind resistance? I suppose if one is competing in at a professional level, a few seconds might be saved, but for the vast majority of pleasure riders, it doesn't amount to a tinker's dam. So why no fenders? Style? Fad? I would really like to know.
I remember when bicycles were transportation for people who couldn't drive a car or didn't have a car. We rode bikes to school, and when we got cars, we stopped riding bikes. I had a bicycle in college because I didn't have a car. It was a fancy "English" bike that had three speeds and fenders. I bought it at the college bookstore for $72. I rode it to my classes, downtown for shopping, and one summer I even rode it from my sister's in Cleveland, Ohio to my home in Columbus – about 120 miles. I left early in the morning and was home in time for dinner.
And on the 120-mile ride, like all rides, I wore jeans, a tee shirt and sneakers. There was no special attire for riding one's bicycle. No helmet, no spandex bicycle pants, no toe clips, no special orange, red, black, green and yellow shirt to make me look like a parrot with advertising all over me. I had the same attire in a bike race that my college sponsored on Thanksgiving, and I came in first. And all the other bikers were dressed similarly. When did looking like a circus clown become the standard for recreational road biking? And why?
Each summer in Colorado they have the "Ride the Rockies" event that attracts thousands of bicyclists. They ride up and down the mountain roads, pissing off an equal number of motorists, and looking much like what I saw when I visited Parrot Jungle in Florida. Okay, it's a recreational sport, it requires a bit of stamina and conditioning, and it is great exercise. It might even be fun, although I have some doubts about it. I can ride the same mountain routes on my motorcycle, see the same views and get the same fresh air in about 1/10th the time. And I don't piss off anyone. I've also noticed that people who are riding bicycles up mountains usually look rather stressed and overworked. They don't look like people enjoying mountain views.
The bicycle salesman regained his composure and showed me a bike with fenders. "Can I ride this by myself wearing sneakers, jeans and a plain shirt?" I asked.
He looked confused.