I was recently told that I must REALLY like bicycling to ride on days when the weather isn’t nice, in other word, when it’s rainy, snowy, cold, windy, hot, cloudy, etc. I couldn’t think of a way to explain why I prefer riding my bike to driving a car, at least not in a way that I thought the person would understand.
Later that week, I was in an outdoor gear and clothing store, looking for a neck warmer that I could pull up to also protect my face from the wind. A male employee grabbed a striped, brightly colored, fleece neck warmer from a display and said, “This one is warm.”
I said, “That looks like it’s for fashion. I’m looking for something for bicycling that still breathes and will dry when it gets wet.”
“For yourself?” the employee said.
“Yes, for myself.” I said.
In my head, the response went something like this, “Hey! Are you looking at me like I’m some damn old lady who might break a hip if I ride my bike in the big, bad wintertime? You know what? I might. So might you, just crossing the bloody street! Especially if I’m waiting outside and trip you with my cane!”
I did not buy a neck warmer.
So now that I’ve had some time to think (and to cool off), here’s my explanation for why I ride my bike, walk my dogs, snow ski, and do all sorts of craziness outdoors.
Let me start with a question.
How many “not nice” days compared to “nice” days are there? In Minnesota, you can pretty much rule out the entire winter. And during the spring, it’s rainy, muddy and unpredictable, switching from nice to not nice in a matter of minutes. In the summer, it’s hot and muggy. The fall is perhaps the best weather-wise, except this year it rained a lot and several days were extremely windy.
Never mind the weather…
How many “good days” compared to “bad days” are there? How many “enough time days” compared to “not enough time days” can you count? How many “work days” compared to “days off” or “days retired” do you have in your basket? I won’t even get into the “enough money” days…
In other words, how many days are the conditions right to enjoy the outdoors, to relax, to travel, to spend time with family and friends, to do the things we love or dream of doing?
Why do we wait, putting things off for the right conditions when the wrong conditions are more abundant? So yes, I ride my bike on the not-so-nice-days.
Because I love the feel of my muscles working. It makes me feel alive and strong and able and free — feelings I treasure as they grow more elusive with age.
Do you ever feel alive, strong and free when you drive your car? Perhaps if you are a race car driver or you drive on the public roads as IF you were a race car driver. But your thrill is my terror.
On my bike, I have more choices to get out of traffic on bike paths and quiet side roads — to avoid traffic jams and road rage.
And the benefits of riding don’t end after I get off my bike. When I arrive at my destination, I feel energized. My brain functions better. I’m more creative. I’m not sure why that is but I’m thinking that the ride has worked off some stress and that there’s some kind of subconscious problem solving that goes on that comes into play.
But what about the additional time it takes, Maery? I know you’re already super busy, aren’t you making it even harder to get things done?
My average commute time by car is 45 minutes one way. Bicycling adds about 15 minutes to my trip because of needing to allow plenty of time to make it to the train station. During the winter, that will probably double. The actual time on the train is less than my drive. During the train ride, I catch up on emails and social networks or, if I want a more relaxing trip, I read a book or write.
So while I end up adding time to my commute, I am spending that time getting exercise on my bike, enjoying the outdoors, and having uninterrupted time to catch up on a few things or relax with a book. This seems like time well spent.
So, not to lecture or tell you what you should do, I will recommend you give the outdoors a chance on even the not-so-nice days. Do it when you can, however you can, even if that just means standing outside long enough to catch a few snow flakes.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here — you already know all this — but perhaps this post will help you out if at some time you have to explain your own level of craziness. Or maybe just simplify your answer down to this…
It’s how I stay sane.
For your indoor enjoyment, here’s a few recommended reads:
- “How We Live Now” by Theodora Goss: Guidelines for living during times of unrest and overwhelm (in other words, guidelines for daily living).
“When I’m not sure what to do, how to live, I give myself principles to live by. I find they help because, no matter what happens in the world outside me, at least I know what I should do in response. At least I can control the world inside myself, to some extent. ~ Theodora Goss.
- “Following the Bear” by Terri Windling: Originally posted in 2014 — this is a perfect winter read if you are feeling the need to hibernate, plus the artwork in this post is absolutely gorgeous.
“the oppositional nature of bear symbology is useful to all artists, men and women alike, who struggle to balance their public and private selves, and the often-conflicting demands of family life, community engagement, and creative work. To be available to others, while protecting time to be available only to ourselves and our muse…” ~ Terri Windling