Circa 1990 (I love using ‘circa’), before the turn of the century (that’s another fav, too), I was living with my husband, then boyfriend, by the university and working as a baker at a hippie breakfast restaurant, The Blue Willow. I didn’t want to pay for parking at college nor did I like having to try and find a parking space in the alley behind the Willow…what was I to do?
My mind shifted back to my parent’s house and I realized I had an old 3 speed Schwinn from when I was about 7 years old. Yes, 7 years old. So we trekked down to my parent’s house on the other side of town and managed to haul my ‘bike’ back to our place. My friend, Aleck, was a biking person and he helped me get my bike up and running…for about 3 rides and it proceeded to just fall apart. But that’s all it took for me to realize that I loved biking. I was completely hooked. I headed straight for the used bike shop on campus.
Around the same time I realized I needed to be more physical. I had spent my life being thoroughly lazy – I had a traumatic 5th grade softball experience that pretty much ruined any interest I had in organized sports – I realized girls were cruel and tortured in packs. I wanted none of it. In high school, I was too busy wearing black and being ‘intellectual’ to even fathom participating in any kind of ritualized exercise. Besides, I invested a lot of time & money in AquaNet and Wet ‘n Wild make-up, and I was not going to ruin it by sweating. The only thing I did was work out at fitness places from time to time because they came in ‘vogue’ during the middle 80s and my father’s work benefits included free memberships. I would go work out and then be-bop over to the DQ next door to celebrate my achievements in the fitness world… but back to the 90s…
Scott & I walked a lot places around town – it was amazing – a completely different world than what I was used to. Where I grew up, people drove their cars to their mailboxes and parked right up front at the ‘gym’. And everything was rushing – to the car, in the car…stress and anxiety abound. Pathetic, I know. Once Scott turned me on to walking – I didn’t want to simply go back to just walking and driving – so biking was a great discovery for me. It gave me the freedom to go places where I felt vulnerable walking. And it also allowed me to incorporate exercise into my daily life. It was incredible. I also noticed physical activity was mentally beneficial in all the ways that everyone talks about.
So big deal – I bike. Whoo hoo for me – plenty of people bike. I know that and I get it. I also don’t care if people bike or not. I’m not interested in converting people to biking nor am I interested in judging you based on your bikie-ness. (I made that word up) I just like to bike and I like what biking has taught me in my life. That is what I would like to convey in this posting.
Biking gave me the opportunity to be mindful. To think about how my body is moving, how my legs are pedaling, keeping my back aligned…etc. It also gave me time to be mindful about what’s in my head. Thinking, thinking and more thinking. It also allowed me to slow up in my life and look around at the scenery. Walking taught me that as well. I love looking at people’s houses and yards. I’m a city walker too – country is nice – but I’d rather walk a mile in the historic district of my town than hike through a wash.
Then I realized that biking had allowed me to plan my day in such a way that I could really never over schedule myself and I had to figure out how to be ‘on time’ – I’m one of those people that is chronically early and/or on time. When you bike, you have to give yourself at least an extra 15 minutes when you arrive – to cool down, lock up your bike, change your clothes (if necessary), get yourself settled etc. And if you leave late, it’s not like driving where you can ‘race’ to get there and make up for lost time – you are stuck with the speed that your body can go…no other option really. So the result is learning how to gauge your biking time, add to it and realize that you can’t do more than a few errands at a time and you can only carry so much on your bike as well. All of those separate issues made for a very stress free and relaxing ride. I gave myself plenty of time, enjoyed the ride, knew what I had to get done and did it. You might think I was a busy person – but that’s completely wrong. I spend a lot of time doing nothing – and in order to do that – I have to get all the things I need done, done in good time so I can start on my ‘nothing’ right away.
Another benefit to biking is ….MUSIC! I love nothing better than listening to music and riding. I highly recommend Cake, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, The Cramps, – wait – this could be a long list… suffice it to say, anything that you love to hear will work well on your bike. Need I say more?
And of course there’s all the other obvious benefits: it’s good for the environment, saves money on gas along with wear & tear on your car, is generally cheaper when you take it to the mechanic’s, alleviates any kind of road rage you may have from being in a car and provides you with great parking spots right up close to your destination.
I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to commute most every job I’ve had from age 19 onwards. Not many people have that kind of opportunity. If you have it – give it a whirl – you might like it.
One thing I’ve never done as a bike commuter is compete. I don’t know what it is about me but I have not one iota of interest in bike races. I did get an odometer and became pretty obsessed with how many miles I biked to any given place – but that’s another story. But racing? Nope – all of my other bike friends participate in bike related events. And they understand me and accept that I am not going to get toe clips and I will always have a bike that weighs roughly the same as a baby elephant. When we bike together – they adjust to my speed (or lack thereof) and we have a great time. Did I also mention that biking with my friends is also a benefit? It’s a biggie. My only regret is that my husband loathes biking and it’s something that I wish we could share. But that’s ok – I learned to accept this years ago and he is very accepting of my bike lifestyle. Maybe one day the biking bug will bite him. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.