The best part about Floyd Landis winning the Tour de France is that now cyclists won't have to listen to SUV drivers shouting, "Get off the @#%&ing road, Lance," while they give us the finger. Now, we'll get to hear them yell, "Get off the @#%&ing road, Floyd," while they give us the finger.
Baby steps, baby steps.
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After Lance Armstrong won his seventh Tour de France last year, I wrote a column advocating that President Bush should use his fellow Texan's example to encourage Americans to bike more. Now that Landis has extended America's streak to eight consecutive Tour titles -- 11 in the past 21 years -- I'm taking the occasion to repeat the call. This country needs more bikes, more bike lanes and, most important, more bike riders.
As a country, we are far too obese and far too dependent on foreign oil. I don't know what's worse, that our fast-food chains sell hamburgers with 1,400 calories or that people burn $2 of gas in their SUVs while waiting in the drive-through lanes for those burgers.
Fortunately, we can combat both obesity and oil dependence with Pee Wee Herman's favorite mode of transportation. Increased bike riding will make only a tiny dent in our fuel use, but that's still more of a dent than any governmental suggestion so far. And it could make a significant dent in our alarming obesity rates.
I'm realistic. I'm not saying everyone needs to bike. Some people simply are in no position to ride a bike because of any number of circumstances, from geography to accident risk to health issues. But most of us can ride a little bit, even if it's just 10 to 20 miles a week.
Need to run a short errand to the grocery or video store? Leave the car in the garage and bike there instead. It could save you money beyond what you save on gas -- because you'll reduce those costly impulse buys knowing you'll have to carry those half-cases of beer home.
Live within 10 miles of the office with a safe bicycle route? Bike to work every once in a while. Depending on rush hour, it might not take you that much more time than driving does. Given that you won't have to drive to the fitness club for a workout later, you might even save yourself time. (And if co-workers complain about your sweaty clothes, just question their patriotism -- it works for politicians.)
The benefits are many. Your fuel bills will go down. Your weight will go down. And if you try the commuting thing, know that there are few pleasures in life more sublime than whipping through the bike lane while passing SUVs edging along in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
And here's the best part. You'll enjoy it. Biking is fun. We all know this as kids only to forget it as soon as we get our driver's licenses. But the beauty about riding a bicycle is that it's just like riding a bicycle. Once you learn, you can't forget how no matter how many years go by. And as soon as you get back in the saddle, you'll soon be enjoying it so much that 10-20 miles a week is far too modest a goal. You'll want to ride much more.
Not convinced? Think riding 10 miles on a bike is too much for Americans who can't even get out of their cars to eat?
Then let Landis be an inspiration. He grew up under strict Mennonite parents who were adamantly opposed to competitive cycling on religious grounds. His father tried wearing him out with a draining list of daily chores, but Landis simply trained late at night, and he rode his bike in the worst a Pennsylvania winter could throw at him. As if that weren't difficult enough, he also wore sweatpants instead of Lycra biking shorts when he competed in races, a practice that meant carrying an extra 10 pounds of water by the end of a sweaty event.
Thanks to the most stirring bike ride that didn't include someone wearing a Cutters T-shirt, he also just won the Tour de France despite an arthritic hip that needs replacing.
And we can't ride to the grocery store? The Tour de France is over for another year; now, let's make a Tour de America a 365-day-a-year event. Get out of the car and get on the bike.
Ride because you're patriotic and you know it makes far more of a difference than just slapping a flag decal on your bumper. Ride because it will hurt Exxon's profits. Ride to improve your health. Ride because it's fun. Ride because it will piss off the French if we develop yet another Tour champion (America has won 11 titles since France last won one). Whatever your reason, ride.
You might want to hold off on the Lycra biking shorts until you've lost a few pounds, though.