On the joys and travails of cycling in flip flops

Shoes: not just for hobo soups! Some of us have been known to adorn our feet with them. But what about those of us who have claustrophobic feet, feet, like both the the English peasantry and trigger-happy restaurateur Roy Rogers, that wish not to be enclosed? Are we to suffer the indignity of encapsulation? What if this little piggy is achluophobic? Must our decision to ride a bicycle mean we must also wear full and proper shoes? I say no.

The answer my friends is the humble flip flop, a shoe invented, I believe, some time in late 2004 by Ken Mehlman. Also known as a thong sandal (a name ignominiously disavowed circa late 1999), the flip flop may be identified by its sparse, thin flat bottom (insert joke) and the narrow bands of material which marry somewhere towards the point between big toe and pointer toe (Create. Inform. Engage. Toes.) before diving downward to attach once more to platform upon which the foot rests. That which makes the flip flop functional is its minimalism. That which makes it beautiful is its use of negative space. Unlike a "shoe," which treats your foot like a cloistered nun, the flip flop is of the footwear of liberation and libertines. It's also the footwear of Arlington, which is neither here nor there, though mostly it's just on the other side of the Potomac.

Your feet remain cool in the heat. If you ride in the rain, you don't have to worry about stuffing a flip flop with newspapers. When it's perfectly temperate, your feet experience, without intermediation, perfect temperateness. Do flip flops negatively affect your max power on your upstroke? Yeah. But there's more to life than that, isn't there? Shouldn't there be?

Perhaps the flip flop isn't for you. Perhaps you're worried about amorphous things like "street grime" and "needing a tetanus shot." Perhaps you just can't let go. Perhaps you need to think about each ride as some sort of crazy competition in which your feet need to be maximally engaged, cooped up like foot-shaped hens in the industrial egg farm that is your bicycle-based pursuit. Maybe the flip flop is inappropriate for your destination, such as a court appearance or non-beach wedding. You can always bring shoes into which to change. Or scatter shoes about the city (I have shoes strategically taped to the undersides of USPS mailboxes throughout much of the Northwest. My loafer budget is off the chain.) that you may change when you arrive at your destination. I mean, if you were riding in bike-specific clippy shoes, you'd have to change those anyway, so why not ride in  relative comfort?

I started riding in flip flops (note: not bike sandals) about a month ago and my bike commuting life has vastly improved. For example, the amount of sock laundry I have is considerably less. My feet are happier. Bike shoes, while practical for longer rides, always feel like such a "thing," and by "thing" I mean a thing that makes me seem like I'm not just a normal person who happens to be on a bike. Flip flops have a magical power of deflecting wannabe Cat 6 racers. They also have a way of reminding me to have fun and to be relaxed. That turns 90 minutes of daily commuting from an errand into a vacation. And who doesn't want more vacation? Aside from those people in horror movies who are just so happy to get away from civilization for some resting and relaxing at the cabin in the middle of the woods that was probably built atop a haunted Indian burial ground? But pretty much everyone else loves vacation and wants more of it.

If there's one rule to which I subscribe, it's that you have to make your own fun (You should also try to make your own salad dressing. It's really easy, especially a vinaigrette). And flip flops- even the name itself!- are my own fun. Maybe they could be your fun too.


I don't mind you coming here and wasting all my time

"A foolish consistency is the Dr. Octopus of little minds"- Not Emerson

Are you a cyclist or bike rider? Are you a motorist or just someone driving a car? A walkist, a pedestrian or on your way somewhere via feet and gumption? Pogoist? Are you a chiropodist and if not, why the hell are you touching my feet? "Infinitesimally segment to perpetually otherize!" could be on bumper stickers if bumper sticker companies weren't so interested in making the vast sums of money that bumper sticker companies invariably make (7 out of the world's top 10 billionaires are bumper sticker tycoons according to this bumper sticker I saw once). If we could just subdivide the world into enough groups (I use the app Nicheify to help in this task) and label those groups appropriately, then all of our problems will go away. Or at least the problem of pointless self-exculpation.

Science (Dr. Octavian was a scientist) tells us that the world is made up of individuals and not undifferentiated masses. Some might even say that this is a demonstrable fact. So, why not talk about individuals? Let's put individual people back in our stories about bicycling and especially in stories when those individuals do stupid and dangerous things. It's both lazy and inaccurate to do otherwise. Drawing conclusions about the whole of a group based on the actions of some of its members is wrongheaded and silly. For example. And it's especially wrongheaded when the only commonality across the group happens to be two-wheeled conveyance. In conclusion, my suggestion is that we both talk about (and treat) people as if they are individuals and that individuals are responsible for their individual actions. Or whatever really. Just an idea.


Fantasy Bike Commuter League

I've been away. I've developed new hobbies and I've become swept up in these new hobbies and now I neglect blogging, much as before I neglected my loved ones in the pursuit of not neglecting blogging. Now I neglect both blogging and my loved ones as I pursue my new pursuit, namely aspiring to win my Fantasy Bike Commuter League. After Fantasy Football, Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Hockey, Fantasy Soccer, Fantasy Basketball, Fantasy Final Fantasy VII, Fantasy Fantasia Barrino, Fantasy Fanta Drinking, Fantasy The Fantasticks, and Fantasy Fantasy Island, Fantasy Bike Commuter League (FBCL) is one of the fastest growing not-in-any-way-growing fake fantasy sports out there. Like other fantasy sports, it is neither fantasy nor sport. But it is engrossing. And because I didn't plan this joke out ahead of time, I don't know whether I'm the "owner" of the fantasy team or whether I'm a participant who has been drafted by one of the fantasy teams or whether I'm both, but irrespective of my lack of knowing where I'm going with this, I can assure you the following things about Fantasy Bike Commuter League:

1. The first rule of Fantasy Bike Commuter League is to not talk about Fight Club. It's likely that people you'll talk to already know about it. The movie has been out for some time now and, really, if anyone has had the inclination to see the film, they would have already done so. 

2. There really are no subsequent rules. I suppose you might want to pick a team that maximizes the number of points you can earn, assuming FBCL even assigns points and doesn't just determine winners and losers by acclimation or by gladiatorial combat. For argument's sake, let's say that it does assign points and as of this writing, I have 4. That's numberwang

3. The lack of subsequent rules will not deter me from suggesting that there should be further rules. Perhaps points should be assigned based on the number of times a week someone rides to work and other points should be assigned based on how far they travel and maybe other points should be assigned if they carry a particularly heavy load or ride in especially arduous conditions. Bonus points for bikeshare? Sure. Points might be taken away if they ride their bike into a duck pond, but man, that'd be hilarious. 

4. FBCL is not about crippling gambling addictions. Those are wholly incidental to one's participation in this league. You can bet on FBCL, but you shouldn't. It's not about money. It's about jocular ribbing, which I believe is a kind of corset a jockey wears. 

5. Fantasy Bike Commuter League is a diversion and a pretense toward procrastination. It only exists so long as you have something better or more important to do with your time. Were this no longer the case, your FBCL team, the game board (there's probably a game board. It's probably a cross between Trouble, Mouse Trap, Hungry, Hungry Hippos and Backgammon) and all the stats would instantly disappear, perhaps in a cloud of white smoke (non habemus fantasy bike commuter league stats), because confronting the reality of one's participation in such an enterprise ought not under any circumstance be done. It will make you irrevocably sad. 

6. If you find yourself in a duck pond do not panic. Nor should you let the hilarity of your situation result in your drowning, perhaps from guffawing and the consequent swallowing of brackish pond water. Mind the mallards. 

7. Use the rules from all other rules-based biking contests to supplement your paltry rules. Take all of the rules from Coffeeneuring, Errandonee-ing, Brewvet-ing, Soda populaire-ing (in which you ride long distances to various old-timey soda fountains...?), Century and Sensibility-ing (I made those last two up, but I'm pretty sure I'd have mad takers for a Jane Austen hundred mile theme ride in Devonshire) and slap them all together with whatever other rules you already have. It'll help beef up your league's bylaws and everyone knows that the mark of a good organization is the beefiness of its bylaws. 

In conclusion, Fantasy Bike Commuter League is a great fun for the whole family. It's a neat way to pointlessly and competitively quantify the physical efforts of strangers and you don't even need to download an app. In ultimate conclusion, sorry for the silliness. It's been too long since I've blogged and while I've been trying to sort through some more serious (serious for a bike blog) ideas, I haven't been able to formulate them in an even passably articulate way. So this is what you get instead. Maybe next month. But for now, my sincerest hopes of wellness to all. Namaste.