Falling off the bike

I used to spend a few hours of every day on a bicycle. I commuted to work, I ran errands, I pedaled around town, I went to bars, all on my bicycle. I practically lived on the thing. But now, I haven’t taken my bike off the wall in a year.

Part of it is that I now live in the burbs, and the direct ways to get to places are not bicycle friendly. Riding in a lane on a road that’s full of cars running 60 in a 45 mph zone is not a good idea. I mean, drivers shouldn’t run you down, but they do. There is no curb. If you ride the sidewalks, you get cited- it’s a $145 fine. Which leaves the bike paths. The one near my home follows a long unused irrigation canal. It meanders. Excessively. Don’t get me wrong, some trips are for the joy of the trip itself, but a work commute is not one of those trips, and the meandering adds miles to it. When you add temperatures over 100f, it’s not much fun.

The last tour we took had a scheduling problem, and we had to increase our daily mileage to adjust. In some cases, we had to double it. On the longest day, I ran out of food. The restaurants along the way were closed. I did a very long ride (for me) on a modest breakfast and one grilled cheese sandwich. Plus I had mechanical difficulties. Plus I ran out of water. Toward the end I was hallucinating.

I love riding when I can stop and take photos, and lollygag a bit. I love no pressure rides. I don’t love having to get on and push as hard as I can to get somewhere. I started this website because I loved the world I saw from a back of a bike, but in the end the rides I was taking were full of tunnel vision and riding so hard I could hear my heart thundering in my ears over the wind noise. Eventually, every last drop of joy was gone. Obviously, I’m doing it wrong.

I’ll never be a crit rider. I’m not athletic. Plus the last year I have been sitting, literally sitting and running the technology that let everyone else work from home. I have the VO2 Max of someone significantly older now. I get winded on stairs, and I’m thicker around the middle. I should get back on the bike to address this.

Maybe I just get up at 4am and ride in to work, after they reopen the gym showers. I might use a different path to avoid Cherry Creek. That path is notorious for being roadie central. Interfacing with them induces road rage without the need for cars and roads. More efficient, but still not any fun.

Maybe I’ll just do some rides that don’t go anywhere, so there’s no pressure to hurry. I’ll have to relearn that joy I’ve been missing. Stop and take some photos, meander on some gravel when the chance presents itself.

I’m sure the joy of riding is still out there somewhere. I just need to go find it.

One Comment

  1. June 19, 2021

    I feel ya, Andrew.

    Bike riding was pretty much a daily “default” for me. I worked five days a week and got in a 12 mile round trip out of it. Plus anything I did on the days off were done by bike here in Portland.

    Then things changed. A couple years ago I quit that job, and since then I’ve “worked from home”. Getting on the bike was no longer automatic, if it wasn’t a day I had to run some errands I needed to find an excuse to get on the bike. Then pandemic hit, and the reasons for going outside got less and less. Yeah, for some folks the last year has been “the best biking year they’ve ever had”. But it wasn’t for me. And while I don’t technically own a car, my partner (whom I live with) does, so now after almost a couple decades of car-free living, I have easy access to a motor vehicle. And that’s changed my habits more than I thought, and more than I’d like.

    I’ve been trying to get out on the bike as much as possible. I have a bike tour planned next week. I’m looking forward to it, but also apprehensive since I haven’t really done more than 30 miles in a day in over a couple years. I’ve set up this tour with easy days and I won’t be camping, but still, it’s more than I’ve done in a long time. I’m trying to let the enthusiasm overcome the anxiety.

    I’ve got a couple pieces of advice for ya:

    First, just figure out some (some) way to get out on the bike again. Make it easy, don’t get hung up on details. Make it fun. If it requires you to drive somewhere and just ride for a little bit, that’s okay. Bring cameras, take photos.

    Second, for the commuting bit: There’s no shame in a hybrid, multi-modal approach. If riding in your suburban area sucks, hop on a bus or train with the bike and get somewhere where the riding will be easier and more pleasurable. Work it into your commute routine, maybe not daily at first, but maybe once a week or so. Start now as it’s summer and the easiest time to try it. If it works, you may be able to pull it off into the crappier months.

    Good luck.

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