"The idea of the bike is profoundly simple and powerful. Even if it's mass-produced and a piece of crap, it's still an amazingly powerful tool that's very bulletproof."
— Robert Baird
The tagline of All Bikes R Cool, the most frequently-updated of Baird's blogs, states that it's "A Blog about any and all bikes, parts, riders, and bikeish stuff, since it's all good." And that idea permeates the site, as he bounces from topic to topic and celebrates all things bike. Baird is a natural enthusiast, but, refreshingly, is without the snobbery and consumerism that so often accompanies enthusiasm toward bikes.
All Bikes R Cool jumps around from topic to topic, collecting interesting bike tidbits from both within Champaign-Urbana and around the country and world. He also has occasional original features, like his "One of a Kind Bike" series, featuring unique bikes and their riders from around the community.
He's found that that inclusive style is prevalent in other aspects of his life, as well. "It's kind of my style — I like everything. Whether it's music or movies — even when I'm supposed to be critical on movies, I appreciate everything, even if it's ham-fisted.
"So, on bikes I'm the same way too. I appreciate a $4,000 bike (or more), but I also appreciate crap to some degree. Some of the bikes I've fixed up have been these junky, Big Box style bikes, and I've tried to simplify them." He spoke of simplifying Huffy's by removing their multiple front chainrings and making them five-speeds, or beautifying Big Box Bikes by selectively grinding off areas of paint to make them look like leopards.
Baird, who works for the University of Illinois as a Coordinator of Instructional Development for CITES and an Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies, has an infectiously exuberant personality that comes through in person as well as online. He speaks in bursts, barely finishing one thought before careening to the next. His writing is much the same, capturing his fascination with whatever has caught his eye in a particular moment.
He helps other teachers incorporate technology into their work as part of his job, so blogging was a natural fit. "I'm not a super-geek; I'm not really that technical, but I like to play with stuff," he said. However, he didn't get much into blogging himself until he accompanied his daughter on a Spanish Club trip to Costa Rica in 2006.
Her teacher encouraged Baird to set up a blog to record the trip, and from there, he was hooked. "I did the same thing for my son's soccer team when they went to England and Denmark," he recalled.
From there, he's been making use of Blogger's capability to set up multiple blogs on one account, "For me, some of my blogs are like journals that just sit there. I'm often testing things and trying things," he noted.
For inspiration, Baird looks to bloggers like Andrew Sullivan, who blogs for The Atlantic's website. "Sullivan's very much a humanist at heart," he said. "One of his shticks is, he has people send him pictures out their window. Whether it's downtown Chicago or Siberia or whatever, and every day there's a new one. The angle is, it's ones that aren't just beautiful or amazing. It's more documentary-style; he's a documentarian."
Baird hopes to do something similar. "You can ask a kid to draw a picture of a bike, and it's very interesting. I've got probably a dozen of those from family and friends," he explained. His hope is that it would become "one of these blogs where it's a cool enough idea where people just send you stuff."
Until then, he'll keep collecting and appreciating, hoping to spread his love of bikes to those around him.
There are many tremendous bloggers in Champaign-Urbana, and this column will recognize them one blog at a time. Every other Tuesday Extremely haphazardly, we’ll shine a light on a different outstanding local blog, explaining how they got started and revealing what keeps them going and where they’re headed. If you know a local blog that you’d like to see profiled in this space, send me a tip at joelgillespie [at] smilepolitely [dot] com.
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