Life is Better on a Bike

In My Head, by Vincent Bourilhon

In My Head, by Vincent Bourilhon

Last week’s post about buying a female bike seat was a little more provocative than usual for me.

I meant every word, and was pleased by all the comments readers offered on their thoughts about colour-coding and gender stereotypes.

But I was angry when I wrote that post, and anger isn’t an emotion I’m used to associating with biking.

Because I love it.  I love it for being green, fast, cheap,  and good for me.  Although not necessarily in that order.

I often tell people that unemployment and its resultant frugality made me a cyclist back in 2006, but impatience kept me doing it, and the environmental benefits are just one of several other bonuses that have made biking an important part of my life.

The cure for impatience

But I can be impatient.

I’ve really tamped down my eye-rolling, finger-drumming, sighing, and sarcasm over the years, but as someone who’s naturally efficient, decisive, scheduled, and organized, I turn into a veritable Mount St. Helens inside when forced to deal with people and situations that aren’t.

Like the morning commute, for example.

And it’s only 4 kilometers.

The beauty of biking to work is that the moment I wheel my bike outside and hop on, I’m instantly getting somewhere.

The most crucial piece of cycling rain gear: the shoe covers.

The most crucial piece of cycling rain gear: shoe covers.

If I don’t bike, I have to take first a bus and then the Skytrain.  But where I live, it takes 5-7 minutes just to walk to the bus stop.  Wasted time!  I could ride a whole kilometer in that span.

Add in the fact that buses must contend with traffic, roadwork, are often too full for additional passengers, and generally stop at EVERY SINGLE STOP, it’s actually faster for me to ride to work than transit.

Even in the rain, despite the extra time it takes me to suit up in my cycling rain gear.

The cure for indecision

I’m decisive by nature, except when I’m not, and biking is a big help during those times.

I can be hell on two wheels** when I have to get somewhere in a hurry.  But when I’ve got the time, I like to take it and contemplate life.

Be it a personal problem, a challenge at work, or difficulty with the latest scene in my novel-in-progress, more often than not, my bike is where all these issues get resolved.

I’ve been bike commuting for so long now (seven years), it’s become like walking for me.  That is to say, I don’t think about it while I’m doing it, for my bike has become an extension of my body.  I just jump on and away I go.

A lot of my various thought puzzles are solved in my subconscious, where they’ve all along been running in the background as I consciously attend to my daily obligations.  Biking enables my conscious and subconscious to meet and shake hands, granting my conscious the time and access to discover what lies beneath, and to turn these dreamy ideas into reality.

The cure for insomnia

Speaking of dreams, not only does biking reveal my figurative dreams, it does my literal ones as well.

I have all the makings of a textbook insomniac: impatient; hyper-controlling of both myself and my surroundings; difficulty stilling my thoughts, always instead trying to work out some puzzle, or scheduling problem, or to remember something long forgotten.

Yet I sleep like one whose conscience is untouched by guilt and sin.  This is because I’ve discovered how important physical activity is in helping me get a good night’s rest.

When I was younger and much less active, it used to take me HOURS to fall asleep, not to mention the stress from worrying each night that it would take me hours to fall asleep.

When I started working out, this problem disappeared.

I ride a minimum of 8 kilometers a day to and from work, which takes about 45 minutes (20 going and 25 to return since it’s more hilly).  Biking has become an important part of my total exercise regime that allows me to sleep soundly every night through essentially exhausting myself.

And as I’m fond of saying, I could take over the world as long as I slept well the night before.

A cyclist for life

Trying on helmetsI ride all you ‘round (it barely snows in Vancouver), but now that spring has sprung, the riding has been particularly good.  The days are drier and warmer, the cherry blossoms are out, and I no longer need my bike lights and reflective sash to ride home at 4:30pm.

I’ve already had my bike in for its annual spring tune-up, and in another month, Vancouver’s streets are going to explode with other riders.

At this time, I’ll likely get as close as I ever come to experiencing cycling-induced anger when finding a free spot on a bike rack suddenly becomes a challenge.

But I’ll get over it, as I always do, and ride a little further until I find one, all the while, freeing my mind, improving physical and mental health, helping the Earth, and loving life on my bike.

A/N: **Always according to the rules of the road; I’m not one of THOSE kind of cyclists, and believe all riders need to be good ambassadors of cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation.

What sport(s) or physical activity(ies) do participate in?  What benefits does it bring to your life?  Tell me about it in the comments.

(Image source #1 and #2)

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13 thoughts on “Life is Better on a Bike

  1. Good on you! Were it practical for me to bike to work, I likely would, however, that I am in New Westminster would make for a treacherous commute and I am seriously not physically fit enough to even think about that. If I were living back in the city, I just might consider it. And being that I drive, I do have a vehicle that is excellent on gas.
    I have no issue sharing the roads. Quite happy to. I give props to all of those who suit up and cycle daily.
    Today as I dropped off my daughter at her work place on Great Northern Way, I noted that a cyclist was coming and waited until she had passed before turning into the driveway. The girl, I quickly noted, was not wearing a helmet.
    I see many cyclists too, who often run red lights. Last week as I headed down to the gym at 5:00 AM in the rain (and it’s still dark out), a cyclist had no helmet, no reflective gear and was wearing dark clothing.
    I would implore them to mind the rules of the road and let us see you! The last thing I would ever want to do is hit someone. That would crush me.
    For me, the exercise that really gets me going on every level is running.

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    • I see a lot of reckless behaviour from my fellow cyclists that I don’t approve of, which is why I say every rider has a responsibility to be a good ambassador of the sport. The motto “Share the Road” goes both ways, and seriously, THOSE types of cyclists aren’t doing any of us any favours in helping advance cycling as a legitimate former of transportation for those who are able.

      Yes, I know all about you and your running. 🙂 I run as well, but mostly on the treadmill because the concrete really hurts my legs. But I don’t really love running the way I do cycling, and mainly only do so because it’s a cheap and easy form of cardio. (I’m starting to see a pattern in how I go about choosing my activities: cheap and easy seems to be the way I roll!)

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  2. I solve problems when I walk, or I listen to podcasts to learn something so I can get something else accomplished. In the last two years, I’ve learned the advantages of cycling and do enjoy it when I have a safe road. But actually, I’ve employed another method longer, washing dishes. For some reason, it’s like meditating. I do not mind washing dishes, as long as I can be alone and just think. Then I have a clean work area, a feeling of accomplishment and issues resolved or at least examined in my head, three wins for one activity.

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    • I almost never walk, and do so recreationally even less often than that. It’s the impatience thing rearing its head again: whenever I walk to get somewhere, about a third of the way in, I realize I would have arrived already if I’d biked, and then I get mad at myself. 😡

      But I’m right there with you when it comes to dishes – that and shampooing my hair. There’s something about soapy water (or perhaps, more so, hands occupied by repetitive motions) that is inspiring – another instance where the conscious mind is permitted to turn inward and see what’s been cooking, I think.

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  3. I wouldn’t call New Jersey an ideal place for cyclists. The roads are old and skinny (many of them in the same place since the American Revolution), and the potholes are deadly. And, of course, the drivers. We earned our reputation for having bad attitudes on the road. You did a good job putting your readers in the scene, though, I have to say. Vancouver seems well regarded as an outdoor city.

    I enjoy hiking but I wouldn’t call myself avid. No backpacks or overnights for me. The exercise I get is mostly behind a drum set. If you haven’t done it, you’d be surprised how strenuous it can be.

    I like the atmospheric perspective in the painting up top. When was that done? Aside from the subject, the painting technique reminds me of French Academic painting from the mid-late 19th century. I’m not sure what to make of the third image. I’m used to seeing a lot more attitude from that particular subject.

    😉

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    • Vancouver has a strong biking culture, which I find appealing. In no other city in Canada can you go to the fanciest, most expensive hotel in the city and find a bike rack right outside the door. Plus, since the weather is so relatively mild, you really can ride all year ’round so long as you’re not put off by the rain (and really, if what are you doing living in Vancouver if you’re put off by rain?) That said, we did have about two weeks of snow this year during which I was forced to take public transit.

      The top image is produced by a modern photographer who mixes and manipulates various images to create a sort of magic realism-esque final product. Very surreal and enchanting. As for the third image, I too am surprised I don’t look more annoyed, as I was trying on new helmets after my old one was stolen!

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  4. I absolutely love walking, Janna. But when I’m upset or distressed about anything at all I RUN. I can physically run away or catch a plane or a train, but I am a real ‘runner’. I gave this character trait to one of my main book characters (in The Everything Theory). When my husband was seriously injured many years ago I remember coming home from the hospital every day and just taking off, running through the farm, along the creeks and down the roads until I was so exhausted I just couldn’t go another step. It’s weird – but it’s just me! lol 😀

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    • As I was saying to Ciara, I almost never walk; I’m too destination-focused for it and always lament that I could have already been there had I biked. You remind me of Forrest Gump with your running, but that’s a nice, healthy way to deal with your troubles (compared to going on a drunken bender or picking fights with people).

      I’m leaving on a trip for Easter in two days and I’ve got The Everything Theory all loaded up on my iPad to read on the plane. I’m so excited to be FINALLY reading your work! 😀

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  5. I’m too old to be dicing with the traffic on two wheels. Plus it’s no more than a 20-min walk into the office from my place. But you’ve built cycling into your life in a way that is both enjoyable and beneficial Janna. Good for you.

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  6. As you can see I’m a long-time cyclist, car-free last 3 decades, cycling for over last 23 yrs. 🙂

    I just returned from a few days in Vancouver …a 2nd home for me. Meanwhile here in Calgary there is incredible heated debate for a $9 million (pilot) downtown cycle track network. Only 2% of the entire City’s transportation budget. Just mind-boggling. But then we have fond memories of the fight over Burrard Bridge lanes a few year ago, right?

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    • Hi Jean, thanks for the comment. I hope it works out with the bike lanes in Calgary. It always amazes me when various Canadian cities (e.g. Vancouver) call themselves “world class” in one breath and then hue and cry against bike lanes in the next when cycling has been a legitimate form of transportation the world over for generations.

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