Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cycling is Not Fun

This post was inspired by an article on called Cycling Isn't 'Fun', It's Transport. Fun is surely a matter of opinion and personal preference or choice, and not something up for debate: it's fun, no it's not, yes it is, no it's not, yes it is, is a conversation on the edge of insanity, no? Buried in that confusing and non-linear article (I am all for confusing and non-linear articles, except when they are posing as discussions of serious topics. In that case, I advocate a linear, structured argument that one can actually follow, and agree with or disagree with, instead of a string of contentious, half-related statements that seem to be leading somewhere advocating something) seems to be the idea that it would be more effective to market cycling as a means of transport rather than being fun. And that's about as much as I can logically distill from it. Rather than taking the bait and getting reeled in, I posted a truthful comment over there: the author of that blog made cycling fun for me today on my commute to work. I did grit my teeth, set my jaw, wear black, and chant "cycling is not fun, cycling is definitely not fun..." and was laughing within a couple of minutes, having fun. 

I'm pretty confident that most people have a different idea of fun than I do. I am equally as confident that cycling is not the fastest way to get from A to B in the city where I live. Some common trips within this urban area are 35 or 40 miles each way. I could ride that on my bicycle, but no amount of cycling infrastructure or cultural shift is going to make it quicker to cycle that distance than drive it, in this city anyway. And since we are just a week or so away from several months of daytime temperatures above 100F (which I have been looking forward to for months, but that's just me), I don't think you could claim it would be more comfortable or convenient than riding in an air conditioned car. However, I could and do make the argument that it's a hell of a lot more fun. But that depends on your idea of fun. If it's not your idea of fun, though, I doubt any of those other arguments is going to convince you to bike it on a summer day, either. I'm not sure what will, at least between now and when the last drops of black gold get pumped out of Athabasca. Which is still a few years off, at least. In any case, "more fun" or "better transport" are both pretty crappy arguments to get someone to switch from cars to bicycles. You'll have to do a lot better than that if you want to "Copenhaganize the planet".  Get up. Go ride.


  1. Cycling ISN'T fun all the time. Ride in a thunderstorm with a stiff headwind and get a flat if you doubt it. It IS, however fun most of the time...

  2. X is not fun when Y is a pretty easy way to make any X sound not fun. Sex is no fun when you have a migraine, for example.

  3. Now, let me see if I have this right.

    It takes me a little over 30 minutes to ride the slightly less than 8 miles to work, I drive it in the car in less than 15 minutes.

    Yet, I commute by bike to work 3 days out of the week, and I would do it the other 2 days of the week if it weren't for meeting commitments I have on those two days which require my driving to them.

    BUT, I bike commute (according to Mikael) because of A2Bism, because it's the quickest and easiest way to do it? Folks who know me know I'm not a Lycra wearing road bike addict: my main commuter bike is a long wheelbase recumbent which tips the scales at 40 pounds when it DOESN'T have the panniers, rack pack, handlebar bag, seat bag, etc., etc., on it.

    According to Mikael, then I must be doing it because it is "enjoyable," but NOT "fun." I find it hard to discriminate between the two: the things that I enjoy ... well ... ARE FUN! If they weren't fun, I wouldn't enjoy doing them!

    Help me here, JRA, what am I missing?

    (BTW, 100° temps may be here next week. YEAH!)

  4. Clever use of the statuary!

    After a particularly difficult ride in crummy conditions I look back and think that although it may not have been fun, but at least I accomplished something.

  5. BluesCat, maybe this will help a little: you are trying to apply math (actual distance traveled, actual time to travel, actual weight transported) and logical analysis (what's be mean by that? When Mikael uses the term "Anthropology", in what sense is he employing it? What is his main premise, and what support does he offer for that premise?) to a blog that seems to be primarily about marketing, fashion, a Eurocentric perspective, and what I refer to as a traditionalist cycling monoculture--my way or the highway (in a car). When he uses the word "quickest", for example, he doesn't mean the same thing as you or I. It's too bad, because I think he really does know a lot about what works when it comes to getting more people to ride bicycles.

    Big Oak, hope you have better conditions next week!

  6. Dodging the fun/ no fun argument (I suppose I come down on the side of fun, mostly). I LOVE the idea of the sculpture forming opinions of the people riding by every day!
    Reminds me of a joke- God gives two sculptures life for a day. They disappear into the shrubbery, and rustling ensues. God peeks into the shrubbery, and witnesses the male statue saying to the female statue, OK, now you hold the pigeon down and I'll shit on him!"

  7. cycler I really don't know what happened with your comment--it just showed up in my "unmoderated comments" box today (May 27). I laughed at the joke. Thanks for stopping by the blog!

  8. Brilliant (especially the horse)! I'm glad that I finished my tea before reading this :D

    Here's my analysis: I live and work in a city where we have car-commuters, bus-commuters, foot-commuters, and bike-commuters (and some multimodal types, but since they mess up my 'statistical' sample I'm ignoring them :D).

    The only people I know who go out of their way to make their commute *longer* are the bike-commuters -- and since most of us find plenty of other time to ride, it's not just to get more 'training' in. In the same vein, almost every bike commuter I know goes out of his or her way to take the long way either to work, to home, or both as frequently as possible.

    Likewise, if you take a look at the faces of the commuters in question, only the cyclists are likely to be grinning like idiots (though, to the defense and probably to the great comfort of the drivers and walkers, we do pay air-guitar much less often). This makes me think that A) idiots must be pretty happy, on the balance, and B) unless all cyclists are idiots (which experience does not suggest), cycling must be pretty fun.

    I suspect that many of us who become bike commuters (or cyclists of any stripe, really) have a slightly different idea of what 'fun' means than other people -- and I'm with you. Cycling is definitely fun (if sometimes slightly masochistic fun). If it wasn't, all the environmental sensitivity and self-sacrificial dedication in the world wouldn't make us stick with it.

    I wonder, though, has anyone done a study on the difference between 'fun' and 'enjoyable?'

  9. Kokorozashi thanks for stopping by the blog. You're right--my commute is not the shortest or quickest route, it's the *best* route. :)

    I see you have a related post over at your place. I have a response over there.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.