Thursday, December 29, 2016

My (almost) year of biking

Make no mistake -- riding a bicycle can improve your life. There are the obvious benefits such as better cardiovascular health and endurance. When I started biking, I couldn't walk two blocks up a hill near my house without getting winded; now I walk up that hill without thinking about it. In February I could barely handle a 1% grade that was a third of a mile long. A few weekends ago, I rode over thirty miles with a friend one Saturday.

But there have been other benefits for me. I watch less television. This is partly because it's impossible to watch television when you're outside and traveling between ten and fifteen miles an hour. But it's also because I don't need the television to relax; I'm already relaxed after a bike ride.

I've met more people this year as well. They're mostly bike nerds, but not all. Sometimes people will just talk to me when I'm stopped at a corner. Possibly it's that being on a bicycle makes me more approachable.

There's also the benefit of being able to eat more and weigh less. Well, perhaps I don't weigh less, but less of my weight is flab and more of it is muscle. Through bicycling I've been able to change my physique (if you can call it that) in a positive way. I've gone from a pot-bellied, slouching, sullen introvert to a slightly pudgy introvert with much better posture and a much better outlook.

Apropos of the better outlook: exercise is simply good for your mental health. It's sort of a cycle: tackle a physical challenge, succeed, gain more self-esteem, repeat.

Then there have been the benefits of not having to drive everywhere. For one thing, I just don't like to drive. For another, it's sometimes easier to navigate the urban environment without a car. I sometimes like to go to a nearby farmers' market on Saturdays. If I drive, I have to get there as early as possible just to find parking; if I take the bike, I can go when I feel like it and always find parking.

Bicycling has also given me goals. Granted, these goals are largely related to bicycling, but then, what would you expect? Next year's goal is to ride anytime despite the weather. I need to be able to ride in the rain; otherwise I'm not using my cool waterproof panniers to their full potential. Or something...

And finally, there's the sightseeing advantage. It's simply easier to stop and look at things when you're on a bicycle than when you're in a car. When was the last time you stopped your car in the middle of a bridge just to look at a river? Or to look at a building or an interesting mural in the middle of a block? On a bike, you get to do some of these things multiple times per ride.

See? A river!
And an interesting mural!

The sightseeing is related to part of cycling that I hardly ever think about: getting lost. I usually start out a ride with only a vague idea of what my goal is ("go downtown...get coffee...").  I often have no planned route or mileage. This gives me the freedom to turn any direction without worrying about  my exact location. Well...it does help that ninety percent of my cycling is the city -- it's hard to get truly lost, but I enjoy not knowing exactly where I am or exactly how to get home. I might not enjoy being lost  as much if I were on a long-distance tour and out in the country past sunset...

And the best part of all this? It's fun.

3 comments:

  1. So many positive reasons to ride a bike! I'm glad you're taking to cyclic like a duck to water.

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    1. Thanks! One other positive I didn't mention: getting to be outside A LOT.

      Also...blogs like yours are inspiring. I really like reading about all of your rides and it motivates me to ride more. Hopefully you'll still be riding and blogging when you get to my age (60).

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  2. When I used to bike commute riding was sometimes the only way I got outside time

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