I was once a velophile. Our family had one car. Full time bike commuting was my normal. Beard-freezing rides stopped being novel. When a coworker said of me riding on ice “you’re going to crash one of these days!” I replied that I crashed EVERY day, and as I said it I realized it was true.
Life’s distraction wore at me. After moving from a major metropolitan area back to my rural Appalachian hometown cycling became a chore. But I had signed up for a big mountain bike race “back West” before we moved so I was sort of obligated to keep turning the pedals. The race came and went. In the aftermath I struggled to find reason and purpose in cycling again.
But I was no longer car-lite; I had become car-grossly-obese. In the city I had ridden my bike twenty miles a day–one hundred miles a week–to get to and from work. Back in bucolic climes I found myself behind the wheel of a car driving a minimum of four hundred and fifty miles a week! Life has conspired to strip me of my velophilic identity. And I’ve not put up much of a fight.
I took up running. There’s less gear and less issue with weather and traffic and the paucity of legal mountain biking trails where I live. Running was new and novel and just easier. Since I wasn’t using the bike for utility or transportation purposes I didn’t miss cycling as much. I had forgotten the effort it takes to cover thirty miles for transportation purposes; when you’re not out for a leisurely ride but that you need to connect Point A and Point B with a line within a specific timeframe. It’s a different activity than a mountain bike ride or a road bike ride for fun. To plan to be presentable when you read your destination and to have enough fuel takes effort. It’s more than just riding your bike. It’s a journey, or a mini-journey, and we take these kinds of trips for granted when we go by car. On a bike it’s commuting, but it can also be an adventure.
Inspiration comes in strange turns. I’m the king of the unconventional bike commute. In Colorado I frequently rode my mountain bike to work so I could detour over a mesa for some singletrack action before reporting to my cubicle work release program. I took classes at CU Boulder and commuted twenty miles one way by bike through open space and suburban wastelands on both my mountain bike and my cargo bike. I have actually biked my ninety mile round trip Kentucky commute, but it’s hard to get excited about riding in traffic in Lexington. It’s more suburban hell than urban heaven. Throw in a healthy serving of extremely rolling rural countryside and it’s just TOO MUCH bike commute to bite off and choke down.
Recently I have recommitted to being my cyclo-centric in my life. I have a cargo bike stationed by the basement door ready to roll at a moment’s notice. I’ve made a couple of jaunts to town to the hardware store and grocery store. Winter is settling in, but it’s an El Niño year so maybe this new resolve to bike in life will take hold.
While it’s hard to take up biking for transportation for the first time, it’s also not easy to go back to it after being gone for a long time. Cyclocentrism works best when it’s habit-formed and anchored into your lifestyle. If you’ve got it hold on to it.