Not Waiting for a Nice Day

fat bike parked in garage

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.

fat bike tire

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.

fat biking on trail

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.

fat biking along Mississippi River

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.

dog in the snow

For your indoor enjoyment, here’s a few recommended reads:

“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.

“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

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  1. You and I are made of the same stuff, Maery. I agree with you 100%. For me, I just tell people that I ride my bike almost every day, regardless of weather, to keep my back from hurting too much. It’s an easy answer but the reality is that my reasons are far more complex. Even if I woke up with a perfect back tomorrow, I’d still ride my bike in bad weather 🙂

    And I’d definitely trip that guy with my cane. LOL!

  2. I can only echo and attest to what you’ve already said better than I can. Being sidelined because of injuries and age related mishaps can cause depression, changes on every level of being, and being indoors in one of the less healthy places a body can be for long periods of time.

    My health declined after an injury I sustained while walking around our man-made neighborhood bayou. I sit more, remember less, and feel bad unless I’m outside. I try to walk the perimeter of our rather large back yard several times a day, no matter the weather or questions regarding my sanity.

    I love weather! Dove gray days are as embracing as cold, rainy . . . Hot? Not so much. We’re in Texas. So, power to you, girl!

  3. OMG! Every word is true. Now I have been ill for quite a while and this has given me even more excuses!! Getting back on the bike is proving impossible. But your bike looks great. Any more details of getting the right old lady bike? I already have the neck warmer! X

    1. Getting the right bike is key to actually enjoying riding. So many people quit not realizing that their lack of fun is being caused by a poor fitting or not the right type of bike. If you can find a bike shop where there are women to help you, that can help. Wherever they go, before they point you at a bike, they should ask you what you plan to use the bike for: riding to run errands, pleasure rides on paved bike trails, riding dirt trails, or long distance treks across the globe. If they just base what you should have on your age or gender or what they have available in their store, they aren’t a good bike shop. Maybe even consider an incumbent bike, which many people seem to turn to with back and other physical issues. Good luck!

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