Recently I started riding my bicycle to work again. I first started cycling several years ago when I inherited a bike from a friend who moved cross-country. I had been contemplating purchasing a bike anyway, so I was thrilled to get a good one, just my size, for free! I promptly had it serviced with a tune-up, bought a helmet and lock and some other gear, and started learning routes around town that felt safe and manageable. (Louisville isn't a particularly bike-friendly city, though efforts are being made to improve existing bike paths, build new ones and paint bike lanes onto streets that get new pavement.)
Then I had an accident, and it took a while to heal and re-gain my confidence. Just as I started riding again, a friend was killed while riding his bicycle, at a complicated intersection I traversed (and dreaded) every day on my way to work. That kept me off the bike even longer. I would ride occasionally, but only for recreation in parks. I was afraid to make cycling a primary mode of transportation, because doing so involved streets and cars, and I feared drivers who aren't educated or aware enough to share the road responsibly with cyclists. Recently I began reading about bike safety and learning laws and strategies, and sure enough, my readiness and confidence returned.
There are so many reasons I love riding my bike! First of all, it's just plain fun. Riding a bike was a simple, joyful part of childhood that meant speed and strength and freedom. I'm fortunate to have a strong, healthy body, and the abilities to pedal, balance and move quickly. I love to feel the wind and fresh air. I love to feel my muscles' strength as I use my own energy (rather than fossil fuels) to get where I need to go. I love the feel of adrenaline and blood pumping, of lungs and heart being challenged and growing stronger. I love the camaraderie with other cyclists as we pass each other on the path or road. In the morning I love the quiet time the ride affords me to start thinking about the day and mentally prepare; I arrive to work alert and ready for the day's challenges. In the afternoon I love the opportunity to pedal out any stress after a long day's work and process any difficult situations. I love the satisfaction of getting around on my own two feet, of getting to work and back completely free of cost (no gas or bus tickets needed). I love to ride through the park and along the creek. I love sleeping more soundly at night because I've had a good workout. I love it all.
Sure, it takes me longer to get to work (by about 15 minutes each way), but at the end of the day, I have already exercised and don't need to schedule that additional time. Sure, it takes a little extra preparation, as I must pack my work clothes for the day and change once I get to the office. But the benefits far outweigh the extra time spent allowing for--and doing--something I truly love.
Did you love riding a bike as a kid, too? Do you ride as an adult? What other activities strengthen you in body, mind and spirit?