Thursday, July 17, 2014

Riding a Bike: Why It Doesn't Get Old

Unlike my "it's complicated" relationship with running, I love cycling. And while I'm mostly a road cyclist, I enjoy all forms of riding a bike. Commuting to work, cruising on fat tires on a bike path, plowing along a gravel road or trail. I don't have much experience on singletrack or trails, generally, but I'm pretty sure I'd like that too.

Now, compared to running, there is really no contest. Riding is way better. And I don't want to make this all too complicated. So here's my simple test: is it enjoyable while I am actually doing it? Bike: yes! Run: not really.

But just in case you need a nudge, here's a list of things that, for me, never get old about riding a bike:
  1. Speed. It is fun to go fast. Feeling the wind in your face. You can go fast on a bike. Even if you aren't some kind of hard core racer, you can  still go fast downhill. It makes grownups smile just like kids every time.
  2. Getting to know the land. You really learn a lot about the roads and the terrain, the sights and the natural features, and yes the traffic and the people who live near you when you ride a lot. Every bump and pothole, every stretch of silky new tarmac, every wooded glade with a country lane winding through it become part of your consciousness, on a bike, in ways that they never do in a car. It's possible to get to know places this way on foot too, but you just can't cover anything like the same amount of area that way.
  3. People who ride bikes are pretty great people. The bike tends to create experiences that challenge riders, and for those that have shared the challenges, there is a bond. This bond makes us want to help each other - we've been there or, maybe, we'll one day be there - and, beyond the karma of paying one forward, we likely have a reason to pay one back. 
  4.  Riding is an activity where you can actually talk - we aren't hammering all the time - and get to know each other. 
  5. Riding with others builds trust. When you are riding close together in a group, it benefits everyone to get to know the others nearby. Not just names (or sometimes not even names) but habits, strengths, experience. It helps keep everybody safer when we are all able to trust the wheel ahead, especially when we are zipping along at 25mph.
  6. Recovery from a bike ride is easier. Easier than running, easier than most other hard workouts. I can almost always ride again the following day even after a long or hard ride. This means I can ride more often too. And get more out of each ride if I have some kind of health or fitness goals that I am working on.
  7. The bike will take whatever you give it. Some days, you can give it all and the bike will happily oblige, letting you empty the tank only to wobble home cross-eyed in desperate need of rest and calories. But the bike is also happy to spin along at 10 miles an hour while you laugh with your kids. 
  8. Bikes fix what is wrong with you. Emotionally and physically, there are few problems that a bike can't help with at least a little bit. Only if you ride them, though. I've seen them transform lives - mine included - and make a bad day into a good one countless times.
The other day, I was talking with a friend of mine bitten by the bike bug last year. He's in deep now. I was mentioning that I don't try to evangelize bikes, nor do I think of my own affinity as something like a religious conversion. But he convinced me that despite that, I did manage to spread the good word whether I meant to or not. By example, sometimes. And by recommendation (if not admonition) at others. I concede the point. But you needn't convert or do what I do or what he does. There are lots of ways to ride a bike and to experience all the things I listed here. Nobody even has to know.

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