It’s the dead of winter in the dirty south, mid-December 2004, and I had a brand new bicycle. After losing 50 pounds, this was my reward and Christmas present rolled into one. I took my bike home, unloaded it from my truck, pointed it down my driveway and straight across the street to a church parking lot. I rode in a circle one way, then the other, then figure eights, for a solid hour. My butt hurt. I took a break and then rode another 30 minutes. I had read so many articles on bicycles up to now, that I thought I would “feel the acceleration with every push on the pedal”; I didn’t. I was expecting the bicycle to be “an extension of my will, responding to the slightest input on the bars”; it wasn’t. I had cycled fairly avidly in 1988-90, and that experience was the imprint I was measuring against. I guess I expected to take up where I left off; I couldn’t. I had not forgotten how to ride a bike, but I did lose the ability to ride well. I was actually afraid for a while. I had to re-think this. I’d made a huge commitment, to myself and others. Would I be able to see it through? My butt still hurt, my legs were sore, and even though I rode around a parking lot for an hour and a half, I barely went 6 miles on my odometer. After resting overnight, I felt good enough to ride again the next day. This time I ventured beyond the parking lot. I was taking stock while I rode.
- I really wanted to be a cyclist. I could envision my lifestyle transforming into that role.
- Although I had second thoughts, I knew I could do this.
- Knowing what I wanted, and knowing I could do it, it really just boiled down to whether I would.
Would I commit? Really? Moment of truth… There on the second ride of my second birth into cycling, I committed to myself that I would incorporate cycling into my life. Cycling is more than transportation, its transformation. I truly wanted to be transformed. From a spectator to a participant, from a viewer to a doer. I was tired of watching other guys have all the fun. I longed to be active and healthier, to get involved in activities that didn’t involve a TV. At the same time, I knew I would need to eat healthier, plan my day a little better to enable a daily commute, and on top of that, do a few exercises to add a little core muscle. Wow – that’s just some of the personal good that being a cyclist would bring me.
Once I began commuting, I realized I how enjoyable it is to cruise through suburbia at 7:00 AM and smell the bacon and eggs, the coffee, the fireplaces in the winter and fresh grass in the summer. I can smell dinners cooking in the late afternoon rides home, sometimes there will be a grill going and the aroma of barbecue fills the air. I found that by riding my bike to work I get a better buzz than any caffeine can give. I am clearer thinking, fresher feeling and in a better mood than when I drive a car. By riding my bike home, I can process my day, plan for tomorrow, and get an afternoon pick-me-up with that won’t keep me up all night. I have even found urban riding to be challenging and fun, and strangely enough, enjoyable. Just riding anytime is fun, but riding with a purpose, going to work or on an errand, is a very satisfying feeling. I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and I have.
Some guys may commute by bike for the benefit of the environment and all mankind, but I guess I’m more selfish than that. I need a convenient way to workout and skip the gym. I want to feel good in my body and my soul. I want to be healthy and stick around to see my grandchildren grow up. I want to grow really, really old with my wife, and never need a wheelchair and oxygen. I want to see the look on my future great-grandchildren’s faces when I buy them all new bicycles in the year 2036.
(Coming next – Part 3 – How I Commute)