Cross posted from GCimages. Originally posted on Oct. 30, 2012.
As I mentioned before, getting a bike was pretty high on my to-do/want list, but I never anticipated how deeply involved I would get with cycling psychologically and emotionally.
While I have yet to participate in any local rides, I’ve biked to- and from work consistently for the last month or so, and have gone on “leisure” rides a couple times and it is amazing what a contraption on two wheels with gears and a chain and breaks can do to elevate you.
I noticed a difference in overall being—though they be subtle.
No, I haven’t shed 20 pounds off my body, but I noticed a slight difference in my physical appearance when I consistently ride to and from work, even though the round trip distances are under 9 miles.
Mentally I feel invigorated and ready to start the day ahead of me. On the days I ride the bus to work instead of my bike, I feel noticeably groggy and a feeling of dread at what the day has in store for me. I’m not as energized and I’m in procrastination mode. Horrible, I know.
But the exercise and invigoration I feel isn’t the best part, not really. It’s more the meditative aspect of the cycling itself.
Your focus narrows to the path in front of you, as you make quick adjustments to avoid any debris that may pose a problem, like a flat tire or head-over-feel trippery. You look forward, to the left and right of you, scanning for other beings—be they human or deer or rabbits or cars. You look for routes, always making sketchy alternative routes for when Route A goes awry, or when you just want something different.
You’re feeling the environment around you—the air rushing past you as you move along; the different smells (baked cookies, paint thinner, skunk, etc.); the temperature and air pressure changes; you notice the sky, whether the sun will stay out or if there are clouds threatening poor weather; you hear the tires humming on the surface, crunching leaves, grinding gravel; you hear things beyond the wooshing of the air past your ears: birds, rustling leaves, cars.
You feel your body responding to the stress of cycling—burning calves and thighs, the sweat trickling down your back, the weight of the bag on your back, the occasional discomfort in your hands that call for moving your hand to a different position on the handle bars.
Your mind is doing a lot, processing a lot of information but you don’t even realize it while you’re moving. It’s almost as if everything around you has slowed, or stopped moving completely while you continue with your cadence.
I’ve taken to cycling so well (or, at least I think I have), that I taught myself how to change out a flat (with the assistance of an awesome booklet), tighten my brake (caliper) and M’s brakes (V-brake), and lube up the chains.
I know, it doesn’t sound like shmancy but these little accomplishments are total Olympic feats for me.
And on one of my morning commutes, a cold 40-something degree morning, I was waiting to cross at a stoplight, when this older gentleman came up next to me. We had a quick conversation about being Terps, work, and he asked me whether I planned to ride year round.
Without hesitation, I said “of course”. But only on my way home did it dawn on me whether that was possible.
I know Maryland weather is fickle. We had a freak blizzard two years ago, and last year we barely had any snow at all but enough rain to leave many spots slick. So would I be able to ride in snow or wet/slick weather? My route is mostly on the trail so running into automobile traffic wouldn’t be a huge concern for the bulk of my ride, but still. Something in the back of my mind is flashing warning signals.
And while I’m excited that more and more cities throughout the U.S. are improving, implementing, or talking about bike lanes, I wondered if just plain ol’ bike lanes were really enough? Then, I came across this article, and the Dutch are considering heated bike lanes.
Hot damn. This would make biking even more a viable transit alternative as it would offer cyclists a safer route to travel and not worry about black ice, snow mounds and salty grits every where. Of course, this being Amuricah, heated bike lanes will probably be seen as a mere “luxury” and not worth considering.
But damn! Cars have heated seats for your bum on those blistery cold days. Why can’t bikes have a heated lane for relatively snow- and ice-free travel? (Though, heated saddles kind of sound good… but THAT’s a luxury.)
Please, please, please bring this to America.