So on Friday, I hit my 40th commute by bicycle this year. I’ve been driving in once a week or less and I know it’s trite and everyone says it, but commuting by bicycle changes your perspective. It has become instinctive to take my bike out of the basement in the morning and put it back when I get home.
There are a lot of things that I never anticipated. When I get home, I am much more relaxed than when I drive. I think spending 40 minutes alert and trying not to get run over stops the musing over the day, frustrations that I had at work, or fuming over dumb drivers. There just isn’t time for that, you just ride, watch for cars, and ride more. I take the long way home (19-27 miles) home a few times a week, and pass cows, sheepies, sometimes both. Fields, historic houses, so pleasant. Driving has become the exception, and I find myself wondering what will I do when it isn’t summer and it is dark and cold, driving will become normal again, and I am a little sad about that.
One thing I never thought about before was the smells. One thing that is drastically different on a bicycle is that you can smell things. In fact I think this is, besides the sheepies, my favorite part of bicycling to work and around town. People mowing lawns, charcoal barbecues being lit, the pizza place at mile 4.5 on the short way home. One thing that has always for me marked the seasons is distinctive smells. The smell of leaves in the fall, the first night it smells like snow, fresh spring smells, salt air at the beach. Even the M&M’s in the silver baby bowls at Christmas have a distinctive smell (I think it’s the silver bowls, but it could be just M&M’s at christmastime).
This year I have noticed the lilacs, the charcoal grills, and this week some flower that I vaguely thing is honeysuckle has bloomed at a few points on my ride home. Even the time Waltham Center smelled like sour milk (not sure what that was, but it was very distinctive) I am glad for, I would have missed it completely in a car.
It has slowed my pace down. I don’t listen to the news on the way home, and unless I check I don’t know what the stocks did that day. I say hello to the Hispanic guy on a yellow bike that I see in the same spot by the rail road tracks most days on his way to work. The weather is good most days, even when it’s raining. In short, it has greatly improved my days. 1100 miles so far, hopefully at least as much again before I have to put it on the trainer for the winter.
I was always a runner, and I thought of myself as a runner. Long distance running was where it was at, and where it would still be at if my adductor would hold itself together. But I am beginning to think I am a distance traveler instead. I am still sad when I see people out for runs that I can not go on, but I am generally satisfied and very happy about my rides and glad for them in ways I didn’t expect. Where one door closes, another one opens. And for anyone thinking, even mildly considering a Brooks Saddle, I say GET IT NOW. You will not regret it. I’ve had it a little over a week. It was comfy from day 1. I’ve done 200 miles, including a 45 mile flat and a 40 mile hilly ride on it so far and it has only gotten better. I am so in love with it. It goes so well with my bike, which as it turns out is exactly the bike I’d be if I were in fact a bike. I thought I wanted a new bike, because those are shiny and new and who doesn’t want a new of what they have. My bike is heavy. It has fenders. It is rugged – built for cyclocross and trails and jumping over barriers. I thought I wanted something sleek and fast and light. But as it turns out, I am slightly heavy, rugged – not mt bike rugged, but cross country rugged, camping/touring rugged – and all it wanted was a handmade, leather seat to point that fact out to me. If I were a bike, I’d have a handmade leather seat for sure. We’re soul mates. It’s color is officially listed as gangrene. Who wouldn’t want to ride her!