I LIKE BIKES. I like stripping them down, tuning them up, getting them ready for spring. I spend a lot of time looking at bikes on the street, appraising new models in store windows, reading the fine-print mail order ads in the backs of magazines. I can kill an hour talking to somebody else who likes bikes -- a kind of verbal volleyball, testing the limits of our technical expertise.

Now riding bikes can be a different story. There are days when the chain is always rubbing, and every direction I ride is head-on into a 30 mph wind. There are flat tires, broken spokes, sudden storms and failing spirits. But then there are perfect days, bright and clean, when the tires sing up and down the hills and great vistas are within my grasp.

Biking is the one sport I've found (admittedly there are a number I've overlooked) where even a modest investment of energy will yield satisfaction. If I run, I'm either running or walking around with a red face and a heaving chest. If I swim, I'm in water and either I start stroking fast or I sink and die. But when I ride, I have control. I can sprint as far and as fast as my abilities will allow; or I can lean over the handlebars, coast and watch the spokes go 'round; or I can choose any possibility in between.

Riding a bike is transportation, it's sport, it's exercise. But it's also an opportunity for companionship, or a chance to be alone; an offer of adventure and a way to see sights that can be seen in no other way. And in Washington in spring, there are some sights to be seen.