Why I Ride


By Joe Kurmaskie – The genesis of my entire life was experiencing the complete control, abandon and ecstasy of that first afternoon on a bicycle. 

Even the streetlight’s flicker couldn’t bring me in.

It opened me wide for everything after; love and reaching for things real and beautiful, trying even after the passage of hope, the strength to lose, and the pull and lure of the long dark ride called America. 

Commuting and sightseeing by bike on a recent trip to Florida. No rental cars were used in the making of that trip. Photo by Julie Palermo

I’ve been chasing, occasionally catching my first ride dragon ever since. 

And since that fateful day at 5 years of age, I’ve been bullish on bicycles, some might even say evangelical at times, but mostly I try to show by example and through storytelling. Here’s the hard science story side of bikes that keeps me preaching its gospel;

I’ve always been bullish on bicycles…

  1. Bicycling keeps avg of $10,000 of savings in your pocket vs a car. 
  2. A bicycle has a tiny manufacturing footprint when compared to a car. 
  3. Bicycles produce no meaningful pollution when in operation. 
  4. Bikes save taxpayers money by reducing road wear. 
  5. A community of cyclists has 10 times the disposable income to spend in local businesses.
  6. Using a bike for transportation can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. 
  7. You can store a dozen bicycles in a single automobile-sized parking place. 
  8. Bicycles don’t burn gasoline. 
  9. Bicycling is often faster and more efficient than taking a car. 
  10. Bikes cost thousands per year less to maintain and operate than automobiles.
  11. Bicycling would reduce transportation fatalities by 99 percent.
  12. Bicycle commuters are more productive, and require less time off at work.
  13. It’s the most fun you’ll have with your clothes on.

And if we truly want a revolution against the suicidal energy policies being proposed by climate deniers then get out of your car and onto a bicycle, mass trans, foot. Even a few days a week. If we cut  national car use by just TEN percent it would up end the fossil fuel industry and change EVERYTHING.

Now, thinking beyond all the world changing benefits of the bicycle, allow me to end on a Zen note about the absurd and funny moments the bicycle has given me. A man, maybe this man, once took a bicycle ride to a holy place on a high pass. Worn to the bone, cold and wet and hungry, this man took his place across from the teacher. Waiting for last light to leave the sky he asked his questions. Time slowed, then seemed to stop. 

The teacher leaned in, conspiratorially. “Perhaps, Jessie’s girl grew up to be Stacy’s mom.”  (Credit goes to Rick Springfield’s classic pop hit, Jessie’s Girl and  another one hit wonder, Fountain’s Of Wayne’s, Stacy’s Mom)  

Joe Kurmaskie is a journalist, syndicated columnist, and contributor to numerous magazines including Outside, Bicycling Magazine, Men’s Journal and Parenting. He’s a bike advocate, activist, founder of Cadence Press, and a Random House author of seven books including Metal Cowboy, Mud, Sweat and Gears and A Guide To Falling Down In Public.

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