Dawn of the J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢

Did you wake up this morning ready to J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢? (That’s, Jump On Your Bike And Go, in case you missed Josh’s post.)

If not, then we haven’t gotten through to you. Our work is not done. In fact, it’s just begun.

But if you drove to work today, I’m not going to hold it against you. Cars are awesome.

That’s right, I said it. Cars are awesome.

Cars are expensive and dirty, and societies designed around cars are destructive to the human soul.

But other than that, cars are awesome. They are reliable. They carry stuff. They don’t mess up your hair. You can lock them with a single key and keep the contents relatively safe. You’re comfortable inside of them. It is not a social liability if you own a car and use it daily. Nobody is going to lift up your car, throw it into the back of a truck, and drive off with it.

Bikes don’t even come close, do they?

J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ is going to fix all that.

Are we not men? We are JOYBAG

We’ve been processing this idea for months now, and we’re serious. Damn serious. Even if we have trouble saying it with a straight face, we want more people on bikes, and commuting on bikes.

J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ is also an invitation to gripe about what’s wrong with bikes.

I’ll start.

Bike Rack
You win again, bike rack. But just wait until J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ hears about this! | Photo: ET&T Distributors

Yesterday evening, I took the Hebb ElectroCruiser 700 downtown to meet some friends.

Getting there and back was the easy part. But I encountered my old nemesis at the bike rack. Locking bikes is a pain in the ass.

I faced the bike rack, and resolved to lock the bike effectively without putting a knee to the ground. I failed on both counts.

My u-lock was too short to capture the front wheel and the frame. My cable kept recoiling defiantly. Everything ended up on the ground: the lock, my keys, my knee.

Hardly an event to whine about, right? We expect locking a bike to be a clumsy brain-teaser every time–or at least once in awhile–don’t we?

That’s the problem–or one of them. We habitual cyclists are habituated to the nuisances of bike ownership, and we don’t think of them as nuisances. But for a new and potential cyclist, these nuisances are deal-killing frustrations.

But think about the extent to which car owners as well are habituated to the nuisances to car ownership. Our society is habituated to nuisances of car ownership because they come with the expectation of car ownership.

I haven’t owned a car since 2004, but my wife does own one. (Which means that I own it too, I suppose. But on principle, I don’t have my name on the title.)

Now that I’m no longer habituated to owning a car, the notion of buying, registering, insuring, and maintaining one seems to me like a huge nuisance. (I do grudgingly maintain our car, but I drag my feet for as long as I can. Right, Honey?)

That should be a hopeful sign–if utterly subjective and anecdotal. The more convenient bikes become, the more people will come to realize that the awesomeness of cars also comes with annoying burdens.

But for now, bikes are–or at least seem to be–the more burdensome vehicle.

What are your complaints about the bike? Comment anonymously if you must.

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24 thoughts on “Dawn of the J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢”

  1. R. White says:

    My complaints? that you HAVE to lock the bike up because for some reason people assume that an unlocked bike means it must not be owned by anyone.

    and that it is too easy to get a flat. Car tires go thousands of miles without a flat yet we can’t seem to accomplish that with bike tires.

    Otherwise I’d rather be on my bike than in my car any day. 🙂

    Happy commuting!

  2. My favorite local bike shop (Missing Link, Berkeley, CA) used to run cartoons for their ads. My favorite one showed on person wrapping a chain around a car while someone else whistled while walking away from a bike. The caption: “It will be a great day when it takes five minutes to lock your car and five seconds to lock your bike.”

    I’m not so worried about flats. I have ridden over 3,000 miles since my last flat (although it’s about time to change my rear tire).

    I guess my major complaint is that most workplaces have no place for people to shower after a ride to work. I’m lucky that my commute is only a couple miles (after a 30 minute subway ride), so I don’t get too sweaty, but I’d prefer do less subway and more riding, but then I’d get to work too sweaty, and I have no place to shower/change.

  3. Chrehn says:

    Two comments. First, I live in a small small city/large town and I usually lock my JOYBAG to anything that won’t drive away. Secondly, in response to R. Whites earlier concern about flats, I am absolutely sold on Specialized Armadillo tires. In the 8+ years that I have had these tires on all of my families bicycles we have not had one flat caused by punctures. I have had pinch-flats, but, nothing has poked through the Armadillos and we live in puncture-vine country or goat-heads or whatever they are called.
    Thanks again for the JOYBAG concept and Keep Up the Good Work.

  4. Dan says:

    My complaint is that for some reason it became a joke to hit cyclists. Why am i worth 2,4,6 or 8 points? Even coworkers that drive past me on my way to work, will later tell me about how the thought crossed their minds to bump into me. I understand they are just having some fun. But why? Why is it taboo to ride a bike and not to drive a car? Why do I look like the crazy one for staying in shape, saving a ton of money, leaving a smaller carbon footprint, and enjoying my ride in to work? why?

  5. matt says:

    what a great thread. these are not easily solvable problems but still worth airing.

    weather is the #1 problem. because bicycles are not enclosed, you need to wear special gear in the rain. nighttime is another.

    rim brakes get out of alignment too easily, as do rear derailleurs.

    chains are messy

    much too easy to get a flat.

    yes, there are bikes that solve these problems (disc/drum brakes, dynamos, IGHs, belt drive, super-tough tires). I own one such bike. but they are very expensive.

  6. Lynn says:

    I’m so glad to hear that someone else find the whole locking-up routine to be awkward! I though I was alone… I’ve been bike commuting for 3 years now, and I keep expecting that it will get easier and that I’ll stop dropping stuff, but nope, I still drop that @#$! U-lock at least once a week. I have however been feeling better about the whole thing since the day I timed myself and found that my long, complicated, 2 locks + removing lights routine actually takes only 90 seconds: way faster than walking in up the steep hill from the parking garage 🙂

  7. BluesCat says:

    Boy, what a great topic. I have very few of the commuting problems some of you other folks have because of where I live: Phoenix.

    I could probably count, on one hand, the number of days in this last year I’ve been forced to commute in inclement weather. A windbreaker over a sweatshirt is the heaviest bad weather gear I wear.

    I park my bike in a locked conference room at my office, so there is no need for fighting with a bike lock. My gym is literally right across the hall from where my bike is parked; the showers are less than a hundred paces from my panniers.

    The only time I don’t ride is if work demands I bring my car, or I have some personal appointment I need to get to during the day, or if I have some health issue.

  8. BluesCat says:

    Ted, yeah, and it’s my birthday, too!


  9. matt says:


  10. jeff says:

    i didn’t ride today it was snowing. i will ride in the morning i don’t have a problem with a lock. i work as a mechanic and park my bike next to my tool box. the only problem with a bike is the snow/rain but its not as bad as filling the gas tank in a car. i started commuting to work last Aug. and found it a lest hazel to ride my bike than drive a car. i have lost over 40 lbs. and i fill better now. a bike runs on fat and save you money a car runs on money and makes you fat

  11. Steve says:

    Cars are reliable?!! Give me a break! Leave the lights on in a vehicle and it won’t start after awhile, whereas you leave the lights on on a bicycle you’ll be pedaling in the dark, but at least you’ll be able to proceed. If the tranny goes out on a car you’re pretty much out of a vehicle, but if the transmission (derailer) goes out on a bike, with a chain tool and a little work, you can temporarily convert your bike into a single-speed and then pedal to the nearest shop. Need I go on? Bikes IMHO are far more reliable than those cages we call the automobile.

  12. R. White says:

    Thanks for the tip Chrehn. My flats have been very infrequent, but seems like one of the most common topics I see on various forums and blogs. I’m happy to run kevlar lined tires and tubes with green slime. I weigh enough that those few extra ounces are not a concern – rather that then sit on the side of the road fixing a flat.

  13. Steve says:

    I’m happy for you Jeff. Keep pedaling!!

  14. Heather Crombie says:

    I love that, bikes run on fat… I’m going to share that at work.

    I hate that my full skirt flies all over the place (& into the tires) & a narrow skirt doesn’t permit enough movement. Why oh why must I have to wear an outfit other than what I wear at the office in order to GET to the office?

    What I do like about bike culture is cyclists look out for each other. Many times others have offered assistance whilst I adjust something on my bike and I enjoy offering assistance when it appears someone may need it. Too often when fixing a flat on my car I feel like I’m taking my life in my hands on the side of the highway.

  15. Alice says:

    I love my bike commute but it really does always make for a bad hair day.

  16. DBC says:

    I want to know how much time the E-bikes save you, compared to standard bike? All things considered the e-bike will only really cut down on riding time. Getting ready, changing at work, locking the bike, this time will be the same but riding times should be less.

    With my car I can get from my driveway to sitting at my desk in 15min by when I ride, I give myself an hour and it still seems like I’m rushing. How will the JOGBAG help save me some time?

  17. tOM Trottier says:

    I find handicapped washrooms or stalls ideal for a sponge bath to cool down and wash the sweat off. Not as nice as a shower, but refreshing.


  18. I once had someone steal my lock! I leave a lock and chain or cable where I park my bike at work, but 2 years ago, I rode in one morning to find that the lock and chain were gone! That really bummed me out. As to weather – I think it was Roald Amundsen (first man to reach South Pole) who said “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” I don’t have bad hair days, because I don’t have enough hair. It takes me less time to lock my bike than it takes most of my co-workers to drive up to their parking spaces which are mostly on the 4th or 5th levels of the parking deck. All in all, I guess I am fortunate because many of the complaints about bikes being less convenient just don’t apply to me.

  19. Dano says:

    My complaint is the expense of all the bicycling gear. To outfit a bike to make it even relatively safe and commuter friendly, it feels like one has to spend what seems like a small fortune (lights, fenders, rain gear). I guess its probably close to the price of a few full tanks of gas but it still hurts to spend that kind of money.
    The second gripe is that local bike shops often know very little about commuting (I live in Grand Rapids MI). Ask them about the lightest and fastest road bike and they are experts, but a question like, what kind of lights do I need? or what would you recommend for carrying my stuff in? have them baffled. I am fairly new to commuting and getting started is not as easy as I would have hoped (I am the only one at work that rides and have only my father as a commuter counselor). This website has helped a lot, I’m still determined to ride my bike at least 3/5 work days. An article about finding a good bike shop might be an interesting read.

  20. Dano – Call me – I’ll give you some ideas for doing it on the cheap. Bottom line, if you read all the bike mags, they would have you think that you need the most up to the minute miracle fabrics, gadgets, etc. from your underwear to your socks and your cap and helmet, and on your bike from the tires to the top tube. New is nice, but anything that moves forward when you turn the pedals and stops when you squeeze the brakes is fine for commuting 99% of the time. As to lights, etc., you can get intensely bright flashlights on ebay for very short money, and improvise mounts that are every bit as functional as the high dollar jewelry you see in the magazines. Your best source for cheap cycling wear is the back of your closet, or your nearest Thrift shop or Goodwill. I could pay more, but I have no shame in browsing there for a pair of heavy wool pants or a windbreaker that’s going to get pretty trashed anyway.

  21. Dano says:

    Thanks Tom. Unfortunately you caught me a little too late in the game. This is exactly my point. While I understand that the places that you go to buy these things need to turn a profit I did not find anybody that was going to say “New is nice, but anything that moves forward when you turn the pedals and stops when you squeeze the brakes is fine for commuting 99% of the time.” I see little to no good solutions (taken with the fact that I have very little experience outside of my own) to the problem that is someone thinking about commuting and goes to a bike shop and gets told that they are going to need to spend X$ on stuff, they go home discouraged. Any ideas about that sort of thing anyone?

  22. jeff says:

    Dano when i started i borrowed a bike and helmet from my younger brother and i wore some basketball shorts and a t-shirt(it was summer).
    as a rode longer and farther i found the cotton t-shirt would get soaked with sweat. I found a running shirt at Walmart. that was better. i just learned as i went a long. i now ride most days and still haven’t spent more than a what would have been couple of car payments on every thing i have in Utah most bike are all about mountain or road bikes also. just start riding and you will learn. its all good.

  23. DMac says:

    I have to say, my commute has gotten relatively painless. I’m pretty satisfied with my Globe Daily 3. Internal geared hub, kevlar in the tires, nice and low maintenance. Came without a kickstand, and I sprung for the A frame stand. Definitely worth the $50. Pull to the rake, pop the front over, put the kick down, use both hands to lock through the front wheel. Then off with the saddlebag panniers, off with the helmet and on to work. Showers, on hot days, are a short walk at the fitness center in the building. It took some fiddling, but it was worth it.

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