I ride for fun and to get places. Fortunately, riding to get places can be just as fun as riding for fun! I commute 25 miles a week. This was recently shortened from 50 miles a week when I moved closer to work. I’ve commuted by bicycle for the past 7 or 8 years because I can. Before that, I worked on the west side of Lincoln where there is unfortunately very little cycling-friendly infrastructure. This made riding to work a very dangerous endeavor on a four-lane road with no shoulders or sidewalk and quite a bit of heavy truck traffic. Every day during that time of my life, I pondered how I could make it possible and I knew it just wasn’t safe. Now that I can ride quiet neighborhoods from my driveway to my employer’s parking lot, I love every ride. Surprisingly, there are times when I don’t feel like riding, but once I’m on the bike, that goes away.
I try my best to ride another 20 “just because” miles every week. These are usually errands on my day off or a loop out to some gravel road in a direction determined by the wind (ride out into the wind and return home with the wind, or so one hopes). For me, riding is an opportunity to clear my head or do some thinking. To space out or to do a better job of tuning in to my surroundings. Cycling for me is whatever I need it to be at the time.
Upon learning of my intent to ride 30, 40, or 50+ miles, non-cycling acquaintances often ask, “where do you go?” My answer is usually “I don’t know yet.” I try to sound whimsical but I usually have some goal of a particular place to reach or a specific road to ride. The details are often improvised along the way. Turns are determined by a quick glance at Google maps or simply choosing which way looks more pleasant or appears to offer more adventure.
Some things I turn toward include large or numerous hills, large or numerous trees, minimum maintenance roads, bridges, and train trestles. Trees, curves, and hills hide interesting things to look at which are not discovered until one rides along at a reasonable pace to discover them. Some things I turn away from include roads spread with large white rock, roads with motor vehicle traffic, concrete and asphalt. I and my bicycles do not enjoy white rock as it offers significant rolling resistance and an uncomfortable ride. A wise man once said, “comfort is fast”.
Comfortable commutes and rides create a state of mind that allows one to be present among as many sensory stimulants as possible. I see cars, people, dogs, squirrels, etc and I enjoy mentally calculating the movements of these objects/animals in relation to my own trajectory. This repetitive, though always changing, calculation somehow feels good for my mental health.
Other sensory stimulants include the smells that come and go along a given route. I smell smoke from someone’s fireplace, someone baking cookies, maple syrup from someone’s breakfast is one of my favorites. I smell exhaust and vaguely acknowledge the differences of gasoline vs diesel, rich versus lean. I smell the garbage truck as I ride by. None of these smells are bad, they just are. Many of them are great.
There are things to hear on a ride. My favorite is my own tires on the pavement or gravel. This is typically only heard when there are no other sounds like on a Sunday morning ride. That’s not to say that the sounds of birds, squirrels, dogs, cars, trucks, sirens, bells, conversation, etc aren’t appreciated when they are present as they most often are.
Some days I get to appreciate the warm sun on my face and some days I simply acknowledge a bitter wind reminding me that my shirt is not fully tucked in. In a crosswind, I can feel the air push my bike and my body together and I gently correct to maintain my line. With a tailwind, I pedal harder until I can feel the wind in my face, and give a glance to the leaf dancing alongside me in the same direction. Racing such leaves in the wind is one of the best experiences I’ve discovered and so it inspired the name of this blog.
The above description is meant to explain where and why I ride. I’m always interested to hear of the other ways that people enjoy their bicycles and the places they travel. Bicycles are wonderful and can do many things for many people.