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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bike, Trains, Buses, and Walking

My bike was stolen last week. I have never lived without a bike before. Back in Seattle I had three bicycles: a city bike, a lovely Bianchi racing bike, and a top-of-the-line K2 mountain bike with full suspension and disc brakes. I bought my Orbea Eibar hybrid bike only a couple weeks after arriving in Spain a bit over three years ago. I forget what I paid for it new but if you were to calculate how much it cost me per kilometer I rode it then the price would be infinitesimally small. I rode the living shit out of that thing. I think what pains me the most about the theft is that someone probably bought it from the thief and won’t ride it.

Bike theft in Spain is an absolute curse. The police don’t seem to care a bit about this issue and bike theft seems to be a pretty safe way to make a decent living here as there don’t seem to be any legal consequences for this crime—if it even is a crime here. I think that the authorities really need to do something about this if they want to encourage more people to ride bikes.

Only a couple days after the heist I bought a real piece-of-shit little semi-folding bike from an ad I saw on louquo (Spain’s answer to craigslist). My new clown bike wouldn’t be too bad except I can’t raise the seat because the former owner pounded a pipe into where the seat post should go instead of replacing the seat post. Besides the utter lack of dignity of riding around town on this pipsqueak of a bike, it probably isn’t even safe. I ride it like I am in a breakaway in the Tour de France. It has little tires and the brakes barely work yet I fly around on it like I’m being chased by an Al Qaeda assassination squad. In engineering speak the speed at which I subject this bike to is called “terminal velocity”…literally. The aerodynamics of this bike are also hampered by the big orange wig I wear and my huge clown shoes.

A friend gave me one of his old racing bikes that needs a bit of fixing up and I hope to have that working by this weekend. It’s not exactly what I am looking for but it could be a good bike with a little care. I hope I don’t have to invest much money in this experiment. It needs new tires and inner tubes at least and I don’t know what else. I am still looking for another bike, something similar to the old one as thin racing tires aren’t a good match for the bike trails around town, especially on a rainy day. Here in Valencia they insist on using these small tiles for the bike trails and the ruts between the tiles can be treacherous in wet conditions, even for fatter tires.

I have never walked so much in my life. I have taken several metro trips around town and into the outlying areas. I have also chased down a few buses. I carry bus and metro cards on my wallet. They bus system in Valencia is excellent and would be even better if I was more familiar with the routes. It seems that you can get just about anywhere in town by only walking a couple of blocks. Public transportation is inexpensive here as well as highly efficient, something I consider to be the hallmark of a progressive society.

The walking part has been the hardest for me. I really hate walking mainly because it is just so damn slow. Something that has taken a bit of the sting out of my walks has been listening to audio books. I just finished listening to Jon Krakauer’s new book, Where Men Win Glory: The Pat Tilman Odyssey. I also listened to this while standing on trains that were too crowded to pull out a book. I am thoroughly hooked on audio books for any situation in which reading isn’t possible. I think my audio book days are about over because I should have enough time tomorrow to get the racing bike fixed up well enough to ride.