The Bicycles Own Us

Just in case you missed it… this is a blatant re-posting of my last column for the Oregonian, in which I make fun of us all for our ridiculous bicycle-budgeting ways.


We’re not normal. I know this.

I’ve known this ever since the day so many years ago when I proposed to Sal that we ride our bicycles to the nearest cafe for lunch.

“But what will we do with the bikes?” He looked truly perplexed.

“We’ll just lock them up,” I suggested casually. I had my sights set on a bagel sandwich, and the weather was immaculate.

The Sicilian’s brow crumpled in a way that I’d not witnessed in our two years together.

“Heidi,” he said between gritted teeth (I knew it was serious because he used my real name, instead of a pet one), “you don’t just go off and tie a bike to a pole and leave it.”

He paused and closed his eyes tightly. It may have been for emphasis but more likely he was imagining his beloved Cinelli in such a precarious position.

“For God’s sake, Heidi. It’s a bike — not a dog.”

His logic was lost on me, but the point was not.

Sal does not see bikes as objects, he sees them as family. And not “family” in the way that Americans understand family — “family” as Sicilians understand it. (You may get into this Bicycle Brotherhood but, rest assured, you are never getting out.)

At this point I realize that everything in my life going forward will revolve around bicycles — even (and especially) the family budget. The next day, I insert a new line-item into my custom Excel spreadsheet: bike stuff.

Over the next few years, this becomes refined with subcategories including: bicycle purchase, component repair, cycling-related travel, kit (uniform) purchase, race/ride fees and the ever-growing “upgrades” subcategory.

Important financial decisions are weighed based on cycling-related calculations. Upon considering a new mortgage I explain to Sal, “Over time, option A saves us one Dura-Ace rear derailleur per month over option B but requires cash upfront equal to one Tour de France-worthy time-trial bike.”

While our friends buy new furniture, remodel their houses or delight in finding the perfect $500 period lighting fixture, we throw a new cover on the old futon and roll off into the sunset on shiny Italian frames and stiff wheels.

Spandex and waterproof-breathable items infiltrate our closets, and I find myself coveting carbon-fiber cycling shoes with greater enthusiasm than Maison Martin Margiela pumps. I am forced to add a “nutrition” subcategory to the groceries budget line to anticipate the cost of the Hammer Nutrition products that fuel our rolling lifestyle.

On the day the worth of our two road bikes overtakes the worth of our 2001 Honda CR-V, I know that we’ve reached an important moment. Good or bad, I can only reassure myself that this financial discrepancy is justifiable because this year I’ve actually put more miles on my bike than I have on the car.

We’ve become an inextricable part of what I have come to refer to as the Cycling Economic Industrial Complex. Our budgeting and economic decisions revolve around the turning of a wheel, the spinning of a cog.

We plan, save, allocate and purchase based on a pure and simple operating principle: the love of the ride and the belief that, for us, life’s joys manifest in the form of miles, sore muscles and steel “family members.” Family members we would never, ever, ever leave tied up to a pole outside a cafe.

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  1. Guy Smith

    This is a great story, and really tells it like it is as far as how we feel about our bikes, they are like family and I wish Istill had every bike I have ever owned, I`m forwarding this to my wife to see if it helps?

  2. This is really funny. I appreciate being made to feel less insane now.

  3. Thanks, Aaron – I’m glad you enjoyed it! We should probably all form a support group :)
    Guy: If this can recruit spousal cycling support then by all means, use it for all it’s worth! :)

  4. I loved this article; I read it out-loud to my boyfriend, who is also an avid cyclist, and we laughed– especially over the option a-option b scenarios! :)

    We’re not that bad- yet- but I think we’re getting there. :)

    • Thanks, Kristen! I’m so glad you liked the mortgage reference :) My editor almost made me cut that part, because my original references were a little more “insidery”. I lobbied to keep it and made the gear references a little less obscure. :)

  5. that is a great article, brilliantly written. my wife and I just read it together and loved it (while our cervelo and felt family members sleep comfortably in the living room).

  6. Oh god Heidi… I could just hear Sal’s voice in my head with those quotes.

    Attack Pony is now part of the family here. She’s fit in quite nicely.

    Oh… and that picture of Sally-pants is awesome. He looks quite handsome. :D

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