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Home / Articles / Santa Fe Guides / Summer Guide /  SUMMER GUIDE 08: SPOKE SPOKESMAN
bicycle guy
Why is Santa Fe the “perfect town” to bike in? “Because of the altitude, you just fly along,” mega-cyclist Laurence Malone says

SUMMER GUIDE 08: SPOKE SPOKESMAN

Expert advice for smooth summer rides

June 18, 2008, 12:00 am
Laurence Malone, 55, has been riding bikes since he was an embryo. Literally. He was born in London while his mother was on a bicycling tour across Europe. Malone began racing as a kid, then started competing professionally in Europe and the US. He hung up his jersey years ago, but continues to ride and sell bikes. He has more than 100 in his back yard in Chimayo.

SFR: Give us an idea of good rides in Santa Fe.

LM: I don’t use trails much. I ride Arroyo Chamisa sometimes. It’s by Sam’s Club near [Santa Fe Place]. Pick it up at Sam’s Club and you can take it past Santa Fe High. I use Rufina, Agua Fria all the time. Now they just shut down Guadalupe with the traffic-calming thing, so they’ve really squeezed out the north-south routes; there’s hardly anything left anymore. When I’m going east, I use Barcelona a lot.

What’s the best thing about bicycling around here?
The drivers, by and large, are pretty nice. I get good treatment from drivers on Agua Fria. When I go down Cerrillos, there’s no shoulder and not even really a sidewalk to ride on. I take over the lane, and because I go pretty fast, drivers don’t begrudge me that spot. But most bike riders don’t have the 45 years’ experience that I do. They don’t have the confidence to do that.

How about rides outside of town?
The Saturday-Sunday racing crowd, they do a loop out Las Campanas way. They took out the bridge at La Cienega, I don’t know why, I guess because of the Rail Runner, but that was a key bridge. Now there are long stretches you can’t cross. It was a nice ride when you could take that bridge, then you go down to Lone Butte on the road that goes by Bonanza Ranch. It’s a nice ride, open roads. The Old Pecos Trail is pretty narrow; you’re actually better off taking the Interstate.

What’s unique about bicycling in Santa Fe?
Because of the high altitude you just fly along. When I go back to sea level it feels like you’re biking through pea soup. When they go to set the world records, they go to high altitudes. They either go to Mexico City or La Paz, because even at 12,000 feet in La Paz, you have less oxygen to breathe but that’s more than offset by the thinner air that allows you to fly. I come back to Santa Fe and I’m amazed that you can go so fast here. The other thing is, the way Santa Fe is laid out is great. This is the perfect town to bike in.

Say somebody hasn’t rode a bike since they were a kid, but now they wanted to. What would you suggest to them?

Ride confidently, assert your rights, don’t ride the gutter because the gutter’s the worst place to be. It’s uneven, there’s glass, cracks, whatever. Maybe start out on bike paths but as you get fitter and more comfortable, venture out onto the roadways. Make it kind of a progressive thing. I think the single thing that most keeps people from riding is fear. Maybe a fear of traffic. Second is sheer laziness, and the third is perception of speed. It’s more subtle. People think a car’s faster, but it’s not faster when you’re driving a quarter mile. A bike is point-to-point transit.

Where’s the best place to buy a bike?
Since I have a business restoring bikes, I’d say I sell $600 bikes for $250, as good as new. There are features on newer bikes that are really nice. Some have these high-rise bars that are really comfortable. Craigslist is one option; eBay tends to run higher. Bike shops definitely have a nice assortment. The worst thing is the Chinese-made bikes at department stores. They’re abominations.

Why are bikes so important?
When you’re on a bike it’s like soaring, and it’s self-contained. I love the bird-likeness of it. It’s so fun and it’s under my own power—I’m not an energy slave. That’s the secret. Are we going to be slaves to energy? If you factor in all the work hours, the time driving a car, the time looking for parking space, the time spent to cover the insurance and gas costs over the total number of miles traveled, it’s like, 1,800 work hours per year over an average of [9,000] or 10,000 miles traveled. You can walk faster. Bikes are the most amazing invention in the world, and they may save the planet in some way.

Put Santa Fe’s biking scene in perspective.
The cycling tends to be more performance-minded racing types with high-end gear, who’ll bike 70 miles but will still drive their car a mile to the market. Or there’s the kind of alternative, either youngsters in fixed gears, and the kind of Burning Man, let’s-ride-a-bike-because-it’s-hip thing. But as far as serious commuting, it’s lacking in Santa Fe. It’s mystifying to me because Santa Fe is so convenient for the bike community. People feel, and this is a chicken-or-the-egg thing, that if only the city provided more bike paths they’d ride their bikes more. But I feel it’s the other way around. Show the cycling constituency first and the facilities will follow. I don’t expect the government to provide for me the way other people do.

 

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