Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but since it became my job a couple decades ago to ride motorcycles, I no longer spend every weekend riding them too. One of the new activities I acquired in the last few years is pedalling around on a bicycle. I always did keep a beach cruiser around the house for short hops and for, ahh, cruising to the beach. When the kid absconded off to college with that fat-tired beater, I decided it was time to find out what I was missing that all the guys with the $5,000 bicycles were so excited about; your Josh Hayeses and Ben Spieses and plenty of serious professionals really love their bicycles. So I bit the bullet and bought myself a nice “hybrid” road bike, what we used to call a ten-speed when I had a Huffy, but with a flat handlebar that makes it what we’d call a standard if it were a motorcycle.

Buying a bicycle is probably more complicated than buying a motorcycle; they even come in different sizes, and the salesmen only agree that the one in stock is your size. I actually spent about $500 on my Specialized Sirrus, which I’d equate to about a CB500F Honda – just a nice-enough bike to give other bicyclists the impression I’m trying to be one of them, but I was really just after good, reliable transpo. I do not wish to wear the Spanx at this time.

bradonRM 030

It all began as a means to exercise an over-active hound and GF at the same time, with the least physical exertion.

It was good timing when I bought my bike, though, because a forced relocation now has me about a 14.5-mile pedal from the beach instead of my old 3-mile one, and fresh out of $500. Instead of meandering down residential streets, I now pedal 5 miles east to hit the Santa Ana River bike trail, which is a 12-foot wide smooth-paved strip of asphalt which runs 30-some miles from the Riverside County line to where the river dumps into the Pacific. From where I get on the trail, it’s about 9.5 miles to the ocean, and on the weekends when I typically ride, there are usually more than a few very serious bicyclists on the trail, many of them in long drafting pelotons, French for bunch of pushy jerks.


Suddenly, I’m the old guy driving slow on the freeway, not that it ever comes close to being that crowded. I always keep right on the bike trail just like I do on the freeway when I’m not passing somebody, but that doesn’t keep faster people and groups from gleefully shouting when they come up behind me, “Passing on your left!

Eating my shorts on your right!”, I think but have so far managed to keep to myself. Now and then I’ll be able to draft off the back for a while if it’s a good-sized group with a thick girl bringing up the rear, but not usually for very long. I attempt to look like I don’t really care by wearing tennis shoes instead of the ones that clip to the pedals, and trunks instead of real bicycle shorts. But it’s just like the old saying about motorcycles: Whenever there’s more than one, it’s a race, and it’s just like people on motorcycles at track days: You really can’t tell by looking who’s going to haul ass until the flag drops, big-boned ladies included.


I’d draft Rita Hayworth any day, you? Say, is that a boom box or is your bike just happy to see you?

Just like riding motorcycles, the fact that most of us have been pedalling bikes since about the time we could walk doesn’t stop other people from letting us know we’re doing it wrong. When I still had the beach cruiser, an older gentleman passed me fully logoed- and Spandexed-out on a Panigale-expensive-looking bicycle, and I latched onto and stuck with him for maybe half  a mile. When I fell off the pace in the straw Wal-Mart cowboy hat I favored at the time, an attractive person who may have been his daughter also passed me a minute or so later with a single word I at first mistook for “casserole.” With a bike that pricey, it could’ve been his wife.

Must’ve broken some rule?


It really is a horsepower track; sadly, there aren’t any horses.

People are mostly polite, though, because unlike the motorcyclist who smokes you on the track and is gone within a few corners, on a bicycle, most people who pass you generally make a show of going past pretty quickly before settling into a pace only 1.2 mph faster than yours; it takes them awhile to get out of earshot. The Strava program I loaded onto my phone never lets me forget my average speed over the 29 miles to the ocean and back never exceeds 13.7 mph, and I think it was 13.5 when I started doing it a year ago. Oh well.

Just like the motorcycling ATGATT community, a couple of strangers have let me know I’m a jerk for not wearing a helmet; nearly everybody does wear one, including a guy I passed yesterday in an old Bell Moto 5. I exchange knowing nods with other crusty rebels coming the other direction who also choose to let their freak flag fly. I don’t have to ride in traffic at all on my beach route, and if Baby Jesus wants me to bump my head that hard at 13.5 mph and take me home after all I’ve been through, then so be it. I usually do wear gloves in case I need to break a fall, and pad my noggin with my Bjorn Borg replica headband.

In every field of human endeavor, of course, there are guys who live their lives waiting for an opportunity to yell at you. I bumped into my pal Joe Neric last weekend on the trail, and we were blocking about half of the northbound lane while we stopped to chat. We were the only ones in sight, but after about five minutes, a group of three guys rode past us, one of them yelling “GET OFF THE TRAIL YOU F********G IDIOTS!” When you put some people in uniform, even if it’s just a two-sizes too-small Spandex bicycle-riding one, the authoritarian jerk will out.


Smoking tobacco to stimulate the lungs is currently almost universally agreed upon to be a bad idea. A couple flagons of ale on the other hand…

In the winter, the Pacific’s too cold to swim in, but in the summer I like to run my own little triathlon, substituting the running portion with drinking a beer possibly before and always after the bike ride and swim. Thirty miles aren’t that many for serious bicycle people (Erik Buell told me two weeks ago he was doing 100-mile rides till a back problem sidelined him), but for me it’s more than enough good clean low-impact heavy breathing and a good way to keep in touch with the community.

Just like rural areas where people like to display their wealth in the form of junk cars in the yard, the homeless who’ve taken up residence under the bridges along the river trail always have a variety of bicycles parked outside their shelters to juxtapose the high-end carbon-fiber ones whizzing past their front (lack of) door.


Who needs a flat kit when these guys are around?

At the end of the day, the bicycle thing is great exercise for the mind and body, and I have to agree with the many motorcycle riders who think it makes them better motorcyclists too: It for sure strengthens your legs and core and improves balance, or something like that, and basically gets the positive juices flowing. Most of all it makes you want to fall to your knees weeping and thank God you’re not having to pedal when you do get on a motorcycle, now that you realize how much work it takes to go 29 miles at 13.7 mph. God bless Gottlieb Daimler!

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I’ll need a better bike, those stupid shoes and some tight shorts with a chamois in the crotch, just so I can go 2 mph faster and yell at people who get in my way. Or not.

  • 12er

    No bell? ding ding…

    • john burns

      NO bell prize.

  • Ian Parkes

    You are not looking forward to the silly clothes? Just wait ’til you find yourself thinking of shaving your legs.

  • Gee Bee

    Thanks for the laugh and memories – I rode with my sons’ Boy Scout troop a couple summers ago as an adult chaperone. Some of the dads were “hard core” with carbon fiber frames, full spandex, and bike shoes. Was kind of funny to see 12 year old boys who could barely figure out needing to shift when going uphill ( me: “Downshift, it’ll make it easier!!”, them:”No, it’s easier in higher gear.. oh ok, I’ll just walk it”) being followed (impatiently) by their race bike dads. Some dads eventually gave up and stopped coming since we weren’t really “biking”: 50 miles in 8 hours??? WTF?? Had a great time with the boys…. and I still occasionally steal my sons’ MTB for quick rides around the block, does wonders for the mind and balance.

  • Buzz

    I’m too chicken to ride the roads except for a beach path. I just take spin class with all the soccer moms. Get the shoes that are more for a mountain bike. You can walk in them like a normal person instead of those shoes that the spandex guys wear. Being able to clip in makes all the difference. I can crack walnuts with my thighs now.

    My 49 year old sister is just your average built mother of three and totally destroys people road biking. Men included. If she’s drafting you, you’ll have a heart attack staying in front of her and if you let her by, she disappears.

    She hates the joggers who hog the bike lanes because they don’t want to be behind the walkers. Lots of fitness nazis here in San Diego.

    • john burns

      Me too afraid of riding on the street and of your sister.

    • Dick Fisk

      I second the clipless pedal recommendation. I use Shimano SPDs on my bikes – the cleats are recessed in the shoe sole so walking isn’t a problem, and being “locked in” really makes riding more enjoyable. SPD originally stood for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, although a riding buddy insists it means Stupid Pedals for Dummies (he uses them now, too).

      • Buzz

        Yep. SPD is the way to go.

        • john burns

          ok, i will check them out! can i borrow a chamois from somebody? Rinse it first, please..

  • Alexander Pityuk

    Awesome piece of writing. But hey, say thx for having any bike-specific trail near your house at all, cause I don’t have one. So I have to ride on the crop fields. And I bloody HATE when it rains, because after that it takes 3 to 5 days to fully dry out. Good thing I happen to also have a motorcycle, and the asphalt dries so much faster…

    • john burns

      where are you? Siberia?

  • Sayyed Bashir

    KTM has a mountain bike for $8,500.

    • john burns

      too many people have too much $$$.

      • Prakasit

        After checking out the high-end bicycle/components prices, all of the sudden, Ohlins/GP/Penske/K-tech/etc. suspensions for motorcycle seem a relative bargain.

        Heck, a lot of the bikes ridden around my area are more expensive than my 09 zx6r.

  • notfishing

    I don’t wear a helmet because I go faster, I wear a helmet because even on a 1 mph fall I broke my collar bone and busted the helmet. It’s not the horizontal speed it’s the vertical impact and your head starts higher off the ground than in a motorcycle.

    As to the Lycra wear, well i started off in woolies with straps on my pedals and I can tell you riding 100 miles in Lycra is a lot more comfortable than 20 miles in wool shorts. The clothes and shoes make a big difference when you spend hours on a bike. Still for under 20 miles I ride a single speed with big tires and flat pedals. You just pedal harder going up the hills.

  • I’ve been riding motorcycles for ages and spent 10 years instructing at trackdays before getting burned out… At about the same time, without telling each other, a bunch of my racing, trackday & motorcycle industry colleagues started riding mountain bikes. Now, when we get together at trade shows or races, all we talk about is cycling. Amongst each other, we’ll admit that we’re having more fun riding pushbikes at 15 mph than we’d had on motorcycles at 150 mph, in a long time… of course, as motorcycle people, we’d never admit that in public…

  • Old MOron

    Bicycling is the noblest form of transportation that I know. Bicycling makes me happy. Sometimes when I ride my motorcycle through the agricultural fields of Camarillo, and I can smell the crops, the soil, and the ocean all at the same time, I wish I were on my bicycle so that the experience would last longer.

    • john burns

      I think travel by sedan chair is the noblest form, but slow. Las Posas Rd?

      • Old MOron

        Yes, Las Posas and its neighbors. Go through there and smell the strawberries or the red pepper or the onions. Get a good mix of salt air and fertile soil in your nostrils, too. Ah, simple pleasures.

  • DHZ

    I am an old fart who loves to ride bicycle (and cycles). Around here in West Virginia on the converted railroad bed trails people just fly. Some people are running 45+ on the down mountain sections. My solution to keep riding at and enjoy was a ZEV Valkyrie E Bicycle at $3900. In no power or low power assist I can go out and get the same exercise as before, I just cover a lot more ground so I am not bored. Then the power is there if I wimp out and need to get home. On some of the long mountain trails I do not become a slightly moving roadblock anymore. There is one trail I love, but it climbs at about a 35 degree angle for 4 miles. I can ride that again now with the power assist on. Now I can slog through the long mountain trails that I could never make before. Much more interesting. It also fixed the issue of hauling the bike to the trail as in full power assist the thing can run 34 mph so I can run with the cars and not get run over, bike lane or not on the city streets. So I now just ride to the trail head. Best run was a 60 mile run through the mountains. I had just about reached the point of riding, now I am hard back at it again. I am sure someone will bitch that assist is cheating, etc., but wait until you are older and limp from a few cycle crashes. Its either get assist and enjoy or give it up. You should try one.

    • Kenneth

      “…go out and get the same exercise as before, I just cover a lot more ground”

      I don’t own a bicycle at this time, but can easily see the advantage of electric-assist; you can, if you wish, get just as much exercise with assist as without, but at much higher speed and covering many more miles. Why does that seem beyond the ability of so many “traditional bicyclists” to grasp?

      • DHZ

        For me its not the higher speed on the trails, but mainly the fatigue issue, and the steep mountains. Most of the time its just get home assurance. I went out one day when it was 90 degrees. At the point I had wanted to reach the heat got to me. Turned on the assist and made it home. It also helps cure the boredom factor. Most people live within a limited selection of trails, and have X hours they can go ride in a given period. After repeatedly running up and down the same trail length in the couple hours I can get away, I was getting bored. Now in the same time period, I can go a larger distance. I fitted a low speed throttle too so when I ride in the technical sections, the greasy moss covered rocks and ravines, I can creep and get started, where strokes on the pedals slip the tire. So now I have a host of new trails that very, very few straight bike riders ever go on to ride. All of those guys who can pedal fast on the nice paved trails never go into the equal of a motorcycle Trials section. Like this boulder section in the photo. Just opens up a lot more possibilities.

      • DHZ

        The cost of what I bought is less than I read here and elsewhere for good plain pedal bikes. The weight makes no difference cause I am not carrying it, the motor carries its own portion of the weight. I can still pick the whole thing up with one hand and carry it up steps. With the long front motorcycle style front suspension, I can ride down. I really like those motorcycle or downhill type front forks. Must more smooth and rigid than the standard held at the top bicycle types. In engineering school they taught that the rigidity of a tube goes up by 4 if the tube size is doubled. Ergo, the big tubes in bikes like Trek. But when compared against that 2.4 X 6.5 box section the battery is in, and then the hydroformed tubes with non round shapes, standard bikes just are no way as rigid. (part of how I decided on this one)

    • john burns

      who knew? that sounds pretty cool…

    • schizuki

      Unlike electric motorcycles, electric-assist bicycles make a shit-ton of sense. Nice set-up you’ve got there, DHZ.

  • schizuki

    There does seem to be a direct correlation between the amount of professional biker gear and the rider’s level of assholery.

    I’ve got a Huffy hybrid (i.e., a cheap Huffy “mountain bike” that I put hybrid tires on) and a nice old railbed trail that runs from my house to the ocean. It’s as fun as motorcycling. Two wheels are simply sublime, whether powered or not.