Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

The entire  year I lived in Japan, I biked all over the place without a second thought. I had a free bike courtesy of the outgoing teacher, which I painted bright green and purple thanks to some 100 yen store spray paint. I would bike double digit miles most days, without a helmet, and with the knowledge that 3 of my acquaintances had been hit by cars while on bikes (none seriously injured). I biked on snow, on ice, and in rain. So, one would think that upon moving to Fort Collins and possessing a bike again, I would take to it like a fish to water.

Not so much.

Don't get me wrong, I still loved cycling, but I had a hard time adjusting to the bike culture here in America. Bobby and I did quite a lot of weekend biking last summer. We volunteered with a no-kill shelter, and every time we walked the dogs on the weekend we would bike there. We went on excursions for Mexican food in nearby towns with friends. Bobby rode his bike to work every day during spring and summer. And we would ride bikes to our Monday night yoga classes. I would bike to the gym on my own, as well, and I'd take friends out on the trails when they came to visit. But in general? I was very intimidated with cycling in America. In Japan, there were bikes everywhere. Mothers would be on a bike with a baby in front and a baby in back, no helmets in sight. It was a very common thing in the culture of the city in which I lived, and thus bicycles were something that drivers were used to accommodating. On top of that, in Japan, bicyclists used sidewalks. America, on the other hand, favors the bicycle lane approach. Let me tell you, there is a big difference between cycling on a wide sidewalk and cycling in a thin bicycle lane with cars whizzing past you going 50 miles an hour.

Another difference was that I had to get used to my new bike. It's a commuter bike, not a cruiser bike. When I first rode it, the wheels felt so incredibly thin and flimsy, as though every rock in my path would send me flying to the pavement. Eventually, with all the riding we did last summer and fall, I got used to it, but I was still timid when I went out on my own, and I would often avoid cycling and take my car when I could have taken my bike. Last winter, as we put away our bikes, I told myself that this summer I would be more confident on my bike, and bike more often. I just had to get over my feelings of awkwardness and my lack of confidence, and do it.

So that's what I did. A week or two after we got back from Texas, Bobby and I were set to meet up for lunch. It's 4 miles from our house, half of it on the bike trail, half of it on the street, and I have to cross traffic to go left twice. It was no big deal, and I felt incredibly lame for ever letting it bother me.
Bobby with delicious food and my sweet pink tire'd bike

Happy face
 Bobby was surprised I rode my bike instead of taking thee car. He knew that I was pretty much only comfortable with riding to and from the gym, or sometimes the grocery store. I seriously cannot believe that I let myself get such a mental block about it. How ridiculous.
This is part of the trail on the ride home that day. Since then I've been cycling all. over. the. place. I'm merging in traffic, I'm making left turns at lights, and you can get over it, car, because I have the right of way. I can't even remember what it felt  like to feel nervous at all. Yesterday, as an example of how much time I'm spending on my bike, I did 20 miles. I biked to the gym, to lunch with Bobby, to the grocery store, and back home. Then we biked to dinner, hit up two stores to run errands, and visited Sonic on the way home for free root beer floats. We left as it was getting dark, with our headlights and tail lights flashing. We were going at a meandering pace along the bike trail that feeds into our apartment complex. As we were traveling, we would ride through pockets of cool air, that felt like walking into a freezer. Sometimes the air would be warm on top, then cold on bottom, like swimming into a deep part of the lake on a hot day. the crickets were chirping, the sky was clear, and the moon was out. It was beautiful.

I think that's my favorite thing about riding my bicycle. I'm connected to the experience of getting somewhere. I feel the sun on my arms, I'm sweating a bit, I'm grateful for breezes. The smallest hills, unnoticeable in a car, are very noticeable on a bike. I notice the landscape more, since I'm in it and going slower. I'm manually adjusting to the slightest changes in the terrain as I work through my gears. Stop lights are not annoying, they're a break after that hill kicked my ass. If I need to make a left (bike lanes are to the far right, so one has to cross traffic to make lefts) and there is a lot of traffic, I can simply slow down in my bike lane, wait for  it to break up and pass to the left easily. Shortcuts are easy to take, and wrong turns are just occasion for a bit more exercise. As soon as I hit "publish" on this post, I'm going to the library and the grocery store, a 10 mile round trip that Bobby and I made a few weekends ago together, and one that I've made several times on my own since then. I am currently having a love affair with my bike and spring.

But don't worry, I won't turn into this guy...


  1. My god that food looks delicious!! I did 9 miles today at 12 it was 103 degrees outside and it felt great! I love biking!


  2. Oh yes, this place is sooooo good. It's set up similar to Chipotle/Qdoba, but (in my opinion) so much better. We don't eat meat, but for those that do they only serve local, hormone/antibiotic free meat straight from the butcher. They use organic produce, and they have something like 30+ homemade salsas, everything from maple jalapeno for breakfast tacos to strawberry habanero. They also serve local beers on tap and bottled for only $1.41 (seriously, soda is more expensive than beer there, haha). Both of us can get a pile of food, with drinks, chips & queso, and sometimes a brownie, for under $15. Love that place.

    Also, you are my personal hero for biking in that Texas heat in the middle of the day! 103 degrees outside, I remember that :)