'What are you driving, a bicycle, you little punk?' (Roundup)

I walked into work this morning singing a tune by Todd Snider. Then it occurred to me how perfectly the song employs the attitudes of car culture; the lyrics would be completely ineffective on someone who didn’t understand these values.

You oughta hear the **** that I get from my daughter
She says that she can’t stand the sight of the car I bought her.
It’s gonna ruin her life forever if she don’t ride a ragtop.
Her and her mother spend my money pretty much non-stop.
They’re trying to break me for the sake of the neighborhood.
They want to make everybody up and down the street
To think that we’re doing good.

Later the character in the song confronts a teenager at a drive-through window, and asks, “What are you driving, a bicycle, you little punk?”

Warning: Contains colorful language

Tom Bowden’s recent guest post How to Talk About Cycling to a Conservative continues to draw interest. But this, really, is what cycling advocates are up against (as though we didn’t know this already): Whether you are conservative or liberal, we are up against a culture with deeply held attitudes about what constitutes prosperity. With just a few lines invoking a car and a bicycle, just about anyone would understand what this song is about.

Commute By Bike

A lighter weight commuter bike won’t necessarily get you to work any faster. A British doctor undertook a “study” by commuting with two bikes, one heavy, one light. He found that his 20 lb, $1500, carbon-famed bike got him to work about one minute faster than his 30 lb, $80 steel-framed bike.

The trip included a motorway, country lanes, farm roads and an uphill stretch of about 450 yards.

The result? The average journey on the steel-framed bike was one hour, 47 minutes, compared to one hour, 48 minutes on the carbon-framed bike.

“This study has shown that spending a lot of money on a bicycle for commuting is not necessarily going to get you to work more quickly,” Groves said. “A reduction in the weight of the cyclist rather than that of the bicycle may deliver greater benefit at reduced cost.”

Commute By Bike

Christmas Mountain BikeSo, if you’re thinking of buying someone a commuter bike for Christmas, now you know that the $80 price range will do just fine. But how to wrap it?

Bikerumor has Top 10 Ways to Wrap a Bicycle for Christmas.

This is my favorite:

Put the bike on the roof, while unwrapping other presents act like you heard something outside, get recipient to go with you outside and act surprised when you see bike on roof and say: “Santa must’ve left it there when he couldn’t fit it down the chimney!

Commute By Bike

Bike Shop Hub Holiday Zinger DealsIf you are looking for special prices on cycling accessories, Bike Shop Hub has weekly “Zinger” deals, which are short-lived sales announced only the company blog.

This week there will be a different Holiday Zinger Deal every day.

Commute By Bike

Adam, of NYC Bicycle Commuter, commented here on Friday, “I think most people become bike commuters gradually, starting with what they have. Very few wake up in the morning and decide ‘I’m buying a commuter bike and I’ll be riding to work from now on.'” His own blog expands on that thought:

[When a person becomes “serious” about bicycle commuting, they] start looking around for advice and ideas to improve their experience to add flexibility and capacity, as well as some safety features to their bike and their gear. Their choices will depend on the style they want to maintain, their environment, who they’re influenced by, whether they have any friends who cycle and/or commute by bike.


If you have a friend who is a roadie or an avid cross country or mountain biker but they don’t commute by bike, they will most likely give you the wrong advice as well. They will be naturally predisposed towards their choice of equipment and may know little to nothing about commuting by bike. A typical racing road bike or full suspension mountain bike are far from ideal commuter bicycles.

So, what is it that a road biker, a cross country biker, and a mountain biker don’t know about commuter bikes? Adam answers in detail.

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6 thoughts on “'What are you driving, a bicycle, you little punk?' (Roundup)”

  1. Josh S says:

    In stead of investing in expensive, lightweight carbon racing stuff, I’d advocate investing in expensive, RELIABLE stuff for commuting. A cheap bike might be OK initially, but the bent rims, flat tires, bad shifting, etc. is going to come back to bite you.
    Having said that though, to encourage a friend to get started, an old used bike or a cheap department store bike might be all it takes. Most people have or have access to a bike of some kind, so I encourage them to use that to get started and not let equipment be an excuse to not give it a try.

  2. Tim Sherman says:

    I gave my son that lives off campus my old Trek 750. It is well used and fits his needs. My girl is next. A bicycle for her at Christmas break is a fine idea. I spent the money to get a better commuter by getting a Trek Velencia in 2009. It is a mighty fine commuter. New tires and cables with a complete tune up was $211. An oil change and radiator flush in Seattle,WA can run $76 or more. With health insurance and college tuition at all time highs I just can’t be giving cash away when our legislature is looking for ways to increase fees and taxes on everything to plug the gap in WA states spending desires. I think I get the lyrics. I had teenagers. Grandad lived through a tough time to.(or two) I learned a lot from a guy that drove a Ford Fairlane without any options. No radio, no AC, windup windows, and vinyl seats.(Before the Ford he had Clydesdale horeses to pull a wagon.) Car culture will make you throwup from the excesive luxury options. I hope to get a simple electric road car when the price is right.(Why do Smart cars have ash trays?)For now we just ride the Schwinn Cruisers to the grocery store or to the lightrail station to go to Pike Place Public Market in Seattle. Uff dah! I’ve got a health plan. I breath better on a bicycle.

  3. Andy says:

    I’m not sure that “study” really proves anything though. Put my mother on a carbon fiber bike, and she will go no faster than she would have gone on her upright hybrid. Someone who’s used to going 12mph will probably not have much benefit from a lighter bike.

    Put me on race bike though, and I will certainly be able to commute faster. I do this “study” all the time here. My commutes mostly see a cyclocross bike, but I also ride a race bike, and old Centurion from the 80s, and a mountain bike along the same route.

  4. Nic Nelson says:

    “(Why do Smart cars have ash trays?)”
    That made me chuckle aloud. An excellent question. I guess it has to do with trying to get EVERY possible person to buy the thing. Even those who suffer from the sort of cognitive dissonance you point out.

    We’re all en route, I suppose, and some folks may take the outward steps first before they take more difficult inner steps.

  5. JaimeRoberto says:

    Smart cars have ashtrays because they are made in Europe and lots of Europeans smoke.

    Regarding car culture, people like to show off. If it weren’t cars, it would be carbon fiber bikes, or expensive computers, or expensive clothes.

  6. BluesCat says:

    Hey, now I’m a car guy from WAY back. I own five of ’em right now, including a ’92 Civic that — with the new motor my son and I put in it — puts a touch more than 200hp to the wheels. Combine that with the headers, cold air intake, competition transmission and clutch, the bypass pipe and the sticky tires and you have a “ricer” that is absolutely FEARED by the conservative, American iron out at the track. ‘Course it doesn’t get NEAR the 35mpg it got when my wife drove it!

    Uh, so, does that mean y’all will lump me in with Thomas Bowden ’cause I only own FOUR bicycles?


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