Some people have a problem spending a lot of money for a great bike - especially if it is 'just' for transportation. That's not surprising - it's partly a result of the 'bikes are toys' idea that has stuck with us since the 1940's, and partly the result of low-price, lower-quality big box store bikes.
Yet if you want a good bike that you love to ride every day and that does the duties you need it to, you can't necessarily hope to find that bikey greatness at Wal-Mart.
Convincing people that bikes are good transportation tools is one reason why the Swedish Energy Department, the Sustainable Sweden NGO and seven municipalities of West Sweden decided to basically give people the bikes of their dreams...and get them to promise to use them.
The program, called Test Cyclists, has a goal to inspire people to use bikes for transportation, and for the health and environmental benefits cycling entails. Not a novel concept, but still a lovely implementation - much nicer than a saddle cover or a workshop on commuting or even a car-free day.
Test Cyclists has chosen five families in each of the seven municipalities to get a bike that suits their riding styles and their needs. The chosen families got support and advice on choosing a bike and how to make the experience practical. The lucky recipients of the new bikes have to commit to replace their car trips with bike trips at a minimum of three days a week from April through October of this year. The test cyclists also agree to fill out a survey at the end of the test time and to undergo medical exams at the beginning and end.
The one downside: The beautiful bikes - folding bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes, family cargo bikes - are considered a loan.
One critic of the program says Sweden's bike infrastructure is inadequate and getting 35 new transportation riders won't change that one bit. The only way to get many people biking, this blogger says, is to make biking easier than car driving.
That may well be true. Would you drive less for six months' loan of a dream bike?