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Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're an asshole
a bumper sticker seen in Las Vegas

Stuff you wouldn't ride: An Interbiker among the Outerbikers

By Patrick O'Grady
Mad Dog Media

THERE ARE FEW crosswalks in Las Vegas. Where they are present, no one pays them any mind, especially motorists. Anyone who has to cross a major arterial on foot dodges among the speeding cabs, delivery trucks and SUVs like a crack-addled jackrabbit.

  Nor are there many roofed enclosures surrounding bus benches. Vegas commuters making do without air-conditioned motor vehicles broil under the desert sun like chickens on a suburban grill, shaded only by the clouds of dust stirred up by the city's perpetual and omnipresent construction project.

  There are, however, plenty of bicycles in Sin City. Murrays and Huffys and Magnas. Big-box trash, the sort of garbage wagons you'd never ride. You'd walk first. But they ride them, the quiet throngs of brown people who work in the shadows outside the bright lights of the Strip.

  Peddling Pedaling. At Interbike a bunch of us were joking over an expense-account dinner that some industry wiseguy could make his fortune by targeting the crucial shoe-leather market. Three-time DUI losers in 12-step programs. English-as-a-second-language migraciones who can't decipher the driver's-license exam. Minimum-wagers living in shelters or on the street because they can't afford rent, much less four wheels and an engine.

  But someone already has: Wal-Mart, Target and Sears, where a $69 bike is just the thing for making that daily jaunt from cinder-block apartment to chump-change job and back again. No driver's license or parking permit required; just a stout chain with padlock to keep your wheels out of the hands of the guys who can't or won't cough up his own hard-earned pictures of dead presidents.

  The big-box bikes were everywhere in Vegas, except on the floor of the Sands Expo and Convention Center, and you just knew their riders weren't cycling for the fun of it, 'cause none of them was wearing the right stuff. No Giro helmets, Pearl Izumi jerseys and Assos bibs; just backwards gimme caps, T-shirts and busboy pants.

  One guy's significant other was riding side-saddle on the top tube, in a hotel maid's uniform, while he pedaled along Paradise, a cigarette drooping from his lips. You won't see them in a Trek ad anytime soon, but they probably spend more time on two wheels than most of Bicycling's readers.

  Broke, But Not Broken. Nearly all of these low-end cyclists do their commuting on Vegas's sidewalks rather than in the road. Hey, they're impoverished, not insane. I'll ride just about anywhere, anytime, but when I'm in Vegas, I walk, and I always feel more than a little bit foolish and superfluous as the working poor slalom around me like a traffic cone while I plod toward the Sands Expo and Convention Center with a few thousand dollars' worth of office in a day pack.

  I save my cycling for friendlier places like Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Santa Fe, and Westcliffe, laid-back spots with bike lanes, bike paths and plenty of single-track so you don't have to ride on the sidewalks; places where you don't have to ride at all, if you have enough jing.

  Vegas is another such place, come to think of it. You can jet first-class into McCarran International or wheel down the Strip in your 4WD urban battlewagon, check into some plush hotel with a wave of your MasterCard, and do whatever strikes your fancy until it doesn't any more. Then off you go, leaving other, less fortunate people to clean up the mess before they pedal home, in the dark, on their Huffys.

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