Sunday, November 2, 2008

Presidential Cycling

Tuesday is a special day, a day of happening. The months and weeks of political banter all come to a head on election day. This election is of monumental importance with so many big ticket issues on the line at this moment in history. The media, debates and online critics provide plenty of insight on the issues and I don't need to say more about them. Now it's time to review the candidates on some of the smaller issues that get a little less attention. In particular, who is the right candidate for the job in the eyes of the cycling community?

There is surprisingly little campaign rhetoric with regard to cycling. Obama does explicitly encourage cycling as a component of green transportation and as a part of the effort to make sprawling cities more livable. McCain doesn't have a defined position on alternative transportation that I can find. I suppose he would have to support greener modes of transportation because it is essential to political good standing these days. At the end of the day who knows what a candidates' words actually mean because they say quite a few things that don't necessarily mean much at all. I'll just see who walks the walk, or whatever the pedaling equivalent is.

Here we see Barack Obama riding about on an ordinary urban-terrain Trek. He's wearing a helmet for safety, setting a good example. That inflatable rear fender is quite tacky. How can this carnival-clown accessory be better than a simple plastic jobbie for keeping the road stuff off the rider and bike? I really hope inflatable fenders don't catch on with the "American people." The important aspect of this photo is that he's sporting the typical casual cyclist get-up. I have to admit that he looks a bit odd in casual street clothing, but I appreciate that he's serving as an example of a normal person wearing normal clothes using a bicycle as transportation. I assume he's going somewhere and not just posing, though a set of panniers or a backpack would make this scenario more credible. In any case, I'm glad that he's not pushing the lycra spandex racer mode; there are few people that can validate that ideal.

The McCain cycling material is limited. This is the only evidence I could find. Yep that's real. Isn't it? I doubt anyone will see McCain rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue on a high-wheel while wearing knickers, but the generation gap is certainly clear. To be fair, it does speak to my retro-grouch sensibility. There is a certain nostalgia in it. Is McCain the nostalgia candidate?

Obama and McCain are clearly coming from different velosophies. I see it as a trade-off between practically and Sunday-style amusement. That's my superficial review.

Let's see what the other president's ride.

George W. Bush. There many pictures of W riding his mountain bike. Sources say he is an avid cyclist. Maybe that's how he's spending his time. If he weren't the chief executive with his questionable record, he could be a decent advocate for the sport. I'd venture to say that he cycles more than the average president, but that is easily overshadowed by everything he did and didn't do in the last 8 years. He sort of looks like a bike cop, doesn't he?

Bill Clinton. Looks like these rigs are good cobweb support in the garage - the sort of bike that someone sells on Craigslist with the tag "vintage," which really means a crappy 1980's department store bike that has been neglected for a decade or more. Rumor has it that he was 22 before he learned to ride a bicycle.

George H.W. Bush pictured here as the quintessential gentleman cyclist . . . in China. I've never cycled in a sport coat, but I'd like to try it some day. What's in the basket? This reminds me of my one and only presidential siting. I was riding up near Kennebunkport Maine last September. A white convertible Ford Thunderbird (new style) passed me. As they went by, I saw a tall elderly man in the driver seat and a short woman with white bushy hair riding beside him. The license plate had a presidential seal on it. Suspecting it was who I thought it was, I tried to catch up. They were driving well below the speed limit, perhaps in an effort to be civic-minded. I almost caught up, but I wasn't quite quick enough. It was definitely them.

Ronald Reagon on/with/near a bicycle? Still working on that.

Jimmy Carter has good taste in bicycles. He's been known to ride a custom color Rivendell Atlantis. His is one of a pair built for the Carters by Joe Stark, a well regarded craftsman. This particular bike has a little controversy attached to it and it's a good story if you are at all interested in underworld of the handmade bike industry. Of all the presidents, Carter seems to look the most natural on a bike. Maybe he's just happy he has a sweet Rivendell.

Even though Sarah Palin is not president or directly in line for the job, I couldn't pass this up. When I think of a bike, it's probably something like what Mr. Carter has. Not everyone has the same idea.

Remember to vote.

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