My (three-season) bike makes conversation anywhere I go -- that is, with people who know bikes. They always comment on my internally geared rear hub.
But so do I -- make conversation, that is, about the fact of biking. Now, in winter, when people in the elevator see my helmet, they make comments about cycling -- I got two comments today before I even left my building.
Usually the words are those of incredulity, humour, and amazement. Which is a nice change from my workplace where I am mostly viewed dismissively as crazy and immature or with awe as nearly superhuman.
Frankly, I find the veneration almost as distasteful as the scorn. You see, if I am some kind of hero for cycling, then others are exempt. If I cycle because I am young and fit and energetic and somehow more able, then anyone who choses not to identify with some or all that list can simply disqualify themselves from any notion of making active transportation choices. I resist the awe, because almost everyone could chose to use their feet even just a little more and their car a little less. Start with babysteps; every little bit helps. And I resist the pedestal because it's so very false. My friends from high school and junior high could set them straight about my physical prowess. I heartily guffaw at the notion that I'm an athletic person. I who finished the annual fitness testing run at a walk a good 20 minutes after the first runner; whose instinct is to wince and close my eyes when a ball is thrown at me; who was picked last for every team through school, who never played a sport outside gym class. Clearly, I'm no paragon of physical ability.
The random conversations are fun, and the well-informed ones are encouraging. I appreciate when I get respect for winter cycling, and cycle commuting in general, and it means more from those who know. One gentleman who volunteers at my workplace has put his cycling days behind him, but he used to pedal clear across town in winter and summer. When he makes a comment, I take it to heart. I get respect from my dance friends, which I appreciate, especially from the men (it's always guys) who have a couple of decades of pedalling behind them. And I'm honoured by the grudging respect afforded this "girl" by a rough-and-tumble, hardscrabble man from my church who is at home on the streets with his bike and his bags.
Yes, everyone's got a comment. Though I wish it weren't so -- that, like in the Netherlands, this style of locomotion was commonplace -- if it must be, I prefer that people take note of my rejection of car-dependent norms. That my alternate lifestyle can be larger than myself, in that it gives others pause.