A funny byproduct of being ruled for 40 years by Republicans and their Democratic imitators, and being indoctrinated with the goodness of consumption and economic growth, is that liberals tend to perk up at the sign of bad news.

So it is that Republicans and their capitalist fellow travelersalready reeling from their association with the man who burned Baghdad and let New Orleans drownare also suffering from their identification with high gas prices and a recession (that is, nonetheless, widely and confidently forecast to be a mild one).

There is a possibility of an improving political climate, but in the meantime, it can be tough to have fun and feel good while there’s a war and a recession, and while the planet continues to show signs of distress (this month, the mighty polar bear was listed as a threatened species).

This year’s summer guide carries the theme of “recession recreation,” and the more we thought about it, the more we determined that the humble bicycleinvented decades before the automobile, and the livelihood of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wrightdeserves special attention. As much fun as bikes can be, as Megan Stein reports on page 12, we propose that we think seriously about the bicycle as a daily tool. The benefits are obvious and enormous, and, as Bob Geary learns in our main feature (this page), you’re never too rusty to get back on a bicycle.

We’ve also got some basic tips for buying a bicycle cheaply, thanks to the Triangle’s burgeoning bicycle co-ops (page 16), and we consider some possible trans-Triangle bicycle routes (page 15)which may become necessary sooner than we’d like, as gas prices show few signs of abating. And remember, train service isn’t coming anytime soonbut highway improvements proceed on schedule.

We may be limping along in this, the last summer of the Bush era, but it’s still a beautiful world out there, and we encourage you to discover it on a bicycle. David Fellerath

Take the lane
After practicing with Bruce Rosar for an hour, I am totally comfortable riding among the cars in the center of Cary. By Bob Geary

The great human race
Miles Holst, organizer of this Alley Cat race, has designed missions for participants to accomplish as they travel from checkpoint to checkpoint. By Megan Stein

Getting there from here
If you have a couple of hours to kill and some ambition to spare, traveling via bicycle between cities in the Triangle is a good way to go without burning increasingly precious gas. By Megan Stein

Cycle, and recycle
The cheapest and most interesting way to get a bike in the area is through one of the local bicycle co-ops, which tune up old donated bikes and bike parts. By Jessica Fuller

School’s out (and the living is easy)
A guide to freeor practically freecultural events. By Megan Stein