Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our Man in Munich - Part III

Third in a series from my friend Michael Tierney, an American expat living and cycling in Munich:

The glorious dearth of spandex

I was on a bike path that cuts through the woods along the S-Bahn (Metro) tracks near the Fasangarten stop.  As I approached a street crossing I noticed an older man fifty feet downrange on an old creaking bike.  He was smoking a cigar as he rode, leaving a sequence of smoke clouds behind him.  In my head I heard locomotive sound effects as he accelerated: puff ... ... puff ... ... puff ... puff ... puff - puff - puff - puffpuffpuffpufpfpf.

As I blew through this Morse code SOS of smoke and smoldering lung contents I realized that I never see anyone in spandex.  I have ridden through biker-emitted cigarette plume sequences more often than I have seen anyone wearing an aerodynamic outfit that matches the bike.  Those times have has been on weekends and on paths that run along the river.

This guy is just on his way to work.  Note the gloves.  A good pair of gloves is key.  

The best of the city bikers, however, are the older women, purse in basket, hat defying aerodynamics, and the way they swing one leg in front of the seat and over the pedal crank to coast the last 30 feet of their trip standing on the left pedal.  It is a half century-rehearsed old school side saddle dismount, usually in front of the Apoteke (pharmacy) for a fresh can of purple hair dye.  I love those moments.  But beware and stay out of their way.  They are the curators of bike path etiquette and are quick to dispense terse instructions to anyone breaching them, with steely gaze and Bavarian accent.  They can smell fear and consider hesitation an invitation for a lecture.  Just look down and say "entschuldigen Sie bitte."

Integration into the urban landscape and culture

Engaging all of the senses and observations otherwise missed


  1. Very interesting to read about this type of great cycling culture. I really need to learn the coast/side saddle dismount. :)

  2. How do you manage to some up with such wonderful and bizarre ideas and even think of writing a story so easily on such topics. Hats off!!! to all your effort and the hard work that you have put in this subject is surely worth applauding.