Down This Road
It’s April. Time for April showers and 30 Days of Biking.
Taking the pledge to ride my bike every day in April last year is what got me started down this road of bicycling in all four seasons. It was the getting out every day – no matter how windy, rainy or snowy – and discovering how much I loved riding that has led to some unexpected changes in my life.
Being that I started bike/train commuting at the end of last month and have been fat biking through the winter, saying I’d ride for 30 days in April 2015 didn’t hold the same challenge as it did in 2014.
Still, there are challenges — like time. Some days it’s tricky fitting bicycling into the day. It will be tough this week with the AWP conference Thursday through Saturday (and recuperation on Sunday).
I’m reading May Sarton’s book, “Journal of Solitude,” and in it she wrote:
“I am proud of being fifty-eight, and still alive and kicking, in love, more creative, balanced, and potent than I have ever been… Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in the past year.” ~ May Sarton, “Journal of Solitude”
Perhaps just turning fifty-eight myself in March, this is the perfect time to be reading Sarton’s story again. I too feel more vibrant, balanced, and strong than I did when I was younger. Not really physically stronger but a strength inside that I didn’t have previously.
I’m still fearful, but am better able to face my fears and not let them stop me from doing the things that are important to me.
I actually credit bicycling with many of the positive feelings I have now. Something about being able to navigate the streets and bike paths with all the obstacles and rough, pot-holed pavement, and being able to deal with the threat of cars while maneuvering through traffic has helped me better navigate through life. It has built confidence in myself that wasn’t there before.
I’ve been surprised by the way my bicycling has improved. I’m surprised because I didn’t think there was anything to improve. What is needed to ride a bike besides some balance and turning pedals?
A lot more, it turns out, if you are making left turns in the lane with the cars and trying to avoid people unexpectedly backing out in front of you or pulling too far out at a stoplight, right into your lane.
I was like a newby driver at first, riding my brakes out of fear of picking up too much speed and then slowing almost to a stop to turn a corner. It’s not that I’m now overly confident. I’m aware that my age means I don’t bounce back from falls the way I did thirty or more years ago. But with experience I’ve learned how fast I can make a corner, how much I can lean my bike into it. I’ve become more attuned to my surroundings, which is always a good thing, whether you are on a bike or not.
Decisions come more easily and quickly with practice. This is true for anything in life, not just bicycling. And that ability to see, think and act has leaked over into other areas of my life.
And one more thing my bicycle (and my helmet) has done for me, it starts up many a conversation with interesting people on the train, at work, at stores, on trails, at traffic stop lights — all over the place! I’ve conversed with people I never would have met or talked to, all because I’m bike riding and somehow it makes talking to people come more naturally.
So when people wonder why I ride my bike when it would be easier and more comfortable and convenient to simply hop into a car, those are my reasons. The skills and confidence I’ve gained have done so much more for me than just make me a better bicyclist.
It’s had a positive effect on my life overall. I’m so glad 30 Days of Biking in April of 2014 got me headed down this road.