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For a long time, I’ve lived under the false assumption that people who regularly ride bicycles possess some sort of unattainable coolness.
I see them pedaling by on the light rail trail looking happy and carefree. “What gas shortage? I hardly noticed.”
I see them with their hipster baskets, filled with fresh produce from the farmer’s market. I’m sure they also drink coffee from a French press.
Then there are the legit cyclists. These people wear skintight bike shorts and they look like they are on a strict kale-only diet. They would shudder while looking at a mountain of Sabor nachos, the same way I would shudder while looking at an actual mountain.
At some point I decided to myself, “I’m just never going to be a bike person.” I’m simply not cool or fit enough. I don’t know the rules of biking around a city. I haven’t even ridden a bike since I was in elementary school. What if I fall off and scrape my knee?
But over the past year, I watched two of my friends become bike people. I never even saw it coming. My beer drinking, queso eating friends transformed from little gas guzzling caterpillars into hip, environmentally-conscious butterflies.
They started biking to dinner, biking to coffee, biking for…leisure. My FOMO was through the damn roof. And I started to wonder, if they could become bike people, could I?
For me, one of the most intimidating parts of becoming a bike person is buying the actual bike and the gear that comes with it. To dip my toes in the bicycle pool, I recently took a trip to Charlotte’s oldest bike shop, The Bike Gallery.
The Bike Gallery was opened off of Park Road back in 1974 by Al Lizarazo. Al, now 76, still runs the shop to this day, now with his son Andres. One visit and I knew these are the city’s go-to guys when it comes to bikes.
Al says people considering buying a bike should ask themselves four main questions:
- How often do you plan to ride?
- How far to do you plan to ride?
- Where will you primarily be riding?
- What’s your budget?
Here are my own answers:
- Once or twice a week
- 1-5 miles
- On the street and greenways
After answering those four questions, he was able to recommend a bike for me.
This model is made by Raleigh and Al says it’s a good bike for newbies who only want to ride occasionally. It doesn’t have a ton of speeds and it was fairly priced around $300.
Then I was curious about what additional gear I would need. Do I need special shoes? Should I invest in some spandex shorts? Nope. Al only listed off a few things:
- A helmet (because of safety, duh)
- A bike lock
- A small tire pump
- A basket or bag (if I planned on carrying items)
That’s it. I was surprised in the end because it seems like a relatively small upfront investment with a pretty big return.
At 76, he’s a walking testament to the health benefits of riding. He still gets out on his bike 4 times a week and seems lively as ever. If becoming a bike person means I get to be that much of a boss at 76, sign me up.
I also love the idea of saving on gas and exploring the city from a new perspective.
In the end, I didn’t purchase the bike but I’m way more sold on the idea and I’m a lot less intimidated than before.
Maybe it’s possible for me to become a bike person after all.
Where to Shop
The Bike Gallery
2500 Park Road
1432 W. Morehead St.
9129 Monroe Rd. #115
The Spoke Easy (bike shop + bar)
1523 Elizabeth Ave., #120
195 N Trade St.