10 Things I Love About Biking

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My New Bike!

I have been wanting to write this post for a while, especially since I wrote the 10 Things I Hate About Biking. So here it is:

10 Things I Love About Biking:

  1. Biking is Challenging – I love a good challenge. I tend to be singular in what I challenge myself with. Mostly, the only challenge I really have is my work. Last year was particularly difficult and work took up a huge amount of my time and focus. Biking offered a counter balance to the work challenge. It was personally challenging for me to get on the bike. I forced myself push a little farther every day.
  2. Biking is Fun! – Honestly, it really is. I have said many times it was hard work, but the pay-off for that hard work is that I get to bike. I love the feel of the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. I love flying down hills, or the steady pedaling of riding on a flat trail. I feel free in a way that I do not feel walking or *gasp* running, or doing any other kind of exercise.
  3.  The “Biking Community” –  I am not sure if it is the same in every community, but in Arlington, there is a big informal, (and probably formal if I looked into it more), biking community. A lot of people bike here. There are bike trails everywhere and most of the streets are accommodating to bikers. And other bikers kind of look out for one another. This is something I was not really aware of. One day in August was particularly hot. I was thirsty and pulled off the trail for a moment to drink some water. I’m sure my face was red and I was very sweaty and panting. One girl slowly road by me and asked if I was OK. I assured her I was just thirsty and she pedaled on her way. Occasionally, you get the person who is aggressively concerned with your biking. Annoyingly so, in fact. “That bike is too small for you!” One such person yelled to me as I was slowly riding up hill. “You need to raise your seat! You’ll blow out your knees!” I had to stop and walk the bike up the hill and he came over to try to show me how to raise my seat. Dude! Seriously? At that point in my biking I was just a few days out and feeling very unstable on the bike. Raising my seat was not something I was quite comfortable with yet. I waved him off and told him I was OK, and he grumbled his disapproval and walked away. Creepy. Fortunately, my experiences with other bikers has been much more pleasant.
  4. Supportive Bikers – This is probably a sub-group of the biking community, but I have really come across so many bikers who have been very supportive of my efforts. There’s the girl who offered to fix my flat tire. The guy who stopped to see if he could fix my handle bars. And bikers who just acknowledge me with a polite nod as they pass. But my favorite person, I “met” on one of my first rides. I was re-entering the Four Mile Run trail from South Glebe. There is a slight incline as you enter the trail. I was really struggling to get up the teeny hill. I wanted to push myself to the top. I was traveling at a snail’s pace. A woman rides up behind me and announces she’s passing me on my left. I was literally about to give up and get off my bike when she said as she rode by, “Keep pushing! You got this!” Her words were just the impetus I needed. Two, maybe, three pedals later, I crested the hill and yelled out, “I did it!” She raised her fist in the air in solidarity and rode off.
  5. Being Outside – I could go to gym and ride the stationary bike or join a spin class, but that really never held any appeal for me. I love being outside. The feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. Amazing. Plus I get to see all the beauty around me. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons. I love the feeling of renewal in the spring air, the blooming of the cherry blossoms, azaleas, budding trees. And the last splash of color and cool air of autumn. And everything in between.
  6. Pushing Myself – I love pushing myself. This past year, I have ridden harder and farther than I ever thought I could. I love to see how far I can go. There have been times I have pushed too far, but I’ve always made it back home, even if I had to walk. The farthest I ever pushed myself to date is my ride from home to Chinatown in DC. It was much farther than I thought it was. Google Maps initially said it was only 6 miles from my house and would take an hour. Google lied. On the bike trail, it was probably 10 or 11 miles. And it took almost two hours. I do not regret doing this though. It was hard and a little scary, but I had a lot of fun.
  7. Riding Downhill – Need I say more? Yes, it is a little scary, but man is it ever fun! I push myself to ride a 4 miles on a slow steady incline on my regular ride. The reward is, I get to ride about 4 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home. The downhill part of the ride is what everyone who dreams of riding thinks biking is like, pedaling effortlessly down the trail and enjoying the ride. And that is what it is like sometimes. But you do not think of the long slog of pushing up hill to get there. The uphill is what makes the downhill really worth it though.
  8. It Is Hard – I like that biking is difficult. One of my favorite movie quotes is from A League of Her Own when the obnoxious Tom Hanks character says to star player who is walking away from the game, “It’s supposed to be hard.  If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Of course, in Northern Virginia, I think everyone does bike, but that’s not the point. The point is, that I have forced myself to do something that was difficult for me. And the rewards have been immeasurable.
  9. Being Present – There are numerous articles about the benefits of being present in your life, living in he moment, appreciating the here and now. So many of us just coast through our days. Or our schedules are so full, we are just racing to get to the end of the day so we can collapse on our beds for a few hours of respite before we begin again. I often say that when I’m at work, I feel like I’m wishing my life away 8 hours at a time. I’m never fully there. Always planning for the next thing. When I’m biking, I’m not doing that. I have to be focused and present all the time. There are so many things that can derail my ride, cars, traffic, pedestrians, obstacles on the trail errant two-year olds running in front of the bike. You have to pay attention if you want to be safe. Of course, my mind wanders and I think of other things while I’m biking. I think about writing, and all the things I have to do when I get home or get to work, but always, I’m paying attention to the trail, the bike, how I feel, am I hydrated, should I rest, how far I am from home. Biking is one of the few parts of my life where I’m not just waiting for the time to pass so I can get to the next part of my day. I am happy just to be in the moment biking and loving it.
  10. Overall Feeling of Well Being And Accomplishment – I feel better when I bike. My health is better. My breathing is better. I feel stronger and more confident because of biking. I know something about myself. I know that I can push myself physically to achieve a goal. This is something I have not always felt I could do. As someone who spent most of her adult life morbidly obese, the idea of excelling in any kind of physical activity was almost unthinkable. That is no longer the case.

10 Things I Hate About Biking

I wrote this post a few months ago on my other blog, A Skinny Girl Inside. I plan to follow up in a day or two with the 10 Things I Love About Biking.

 

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Post biking face

I have decided that since I am biking a lot, 3-5 times per week, that I want to do a few more posts about biking. I have another two in mind after this one. But it has become such a big part of my life recently that I have been thinking about it a lot, and since I have a blog, I have decided to share those thoughts with my readers.

Biking as a kid, I did not really think about it much. I just got on the bike and peddled away. Biking was transportation. It was freedom. It was a way to hang out with the other kids in my neighborhood. I never really thought of it as exercise, although clearly it is. It was just fun.

As an adult who recently started biking again after a 20+ year hiatus, I think about it probably way too much.

Today, I’m going to write about 10 things I hate about biking.

  1. It is hard work – OMG it is hard work. People who bike regularly make it look so easy. Don’t fool yourself. It is not.
  2. Hills – Hills suck, and by hills, I mean up-hills. Down-hills are kind of awesome. Up-hills feed back into #1. They are hard. I have to peddle harder. I sweat more. I breathe heavier. I struggle. I fight. Sometimes, I get off the bike and walk up the hill.
  3. Peddling – Peddling is hard, especially if I am peddling up-hill. Nonetheless, I cannot bike if I do not peddle.
  4. It is scary – Biking is scary. Especially if I’m going fast, and by fast I mean, well slow really. Because I’m way slower than most other people on the trails. But still, the potential for crashing, falling over, running into people is very real.
  5. Crashing my bike – I haven’t yet. I’ve been pretty lucky. I have stumbled here or there. I even ran into a wall, sort of. But I haven’t really had a wreck or even tipped all the way over.
  6. Cars – Let’s face it, cars are very scary to people who bike. They are very dangerous. If you’re in a car and you have a small accident with a car, chances are good you will be fine. If you’re on a bike, and are in a small accident with a car, maybe not so much. You would think cars would be more careful around bikers, but they are not. At least I assume they are not. That’s the safest way to be around cars. Assume they are dangerous and have every intention of hitting you. Get out of their way.
  7. Pedestrians – Pedestrian and other bike trail traffic are dangerous as well. Pedestrians, small children, they all just walk right out in front of you. They don’t look. And they never will. I saw an accident in DC one time when I was walking to work from the metro. A pedestrian crossed against the light and while she looked for cars, she did not look for bike traffic. She walked right into the bike lane without looking and the biker ran right into her. She then got up and berated him. The laws tend to favor the pedestrian as the biker or should be on the lookout for them at all times, but seriously, pedestrians are stupid sometimes.
  8. Hot weather – Weather can make all the difference in a good ride or a bad ride sometimes. I have biked in extreme heat. The one time, it was about 100 degrees and because of the humidity, we were under a heat warning. I required a lot more water. I actually ran out before I made it back home and was afraid I was going to pass out. I ended up walking my bike the last quarter mile. I’ve been sunburned and even have a strange tan pattern on my hands because of my biking gloves.
  9. Cold, wet, windy weather – The weather here is starting to cool off. I actually like biking on cooler days, but colder weather comes with it’s own risks. If I do not dress properly, I could catch a chill and get sick. The wind also makes it harder. Biking on really windy days is tough. It is kind of like biking through marshmallows. The peddling is harder. Going up-hill is harder. It sucks. Oh and across bridges on a windy day? Scary! I’m also concerned about the falling leaves. If they get wet and I bike through them, my tires could slip and I could have an accident. Plus as the temperature drops and precipitation turns to ice or snow, the weather will eventually prevent me from being able to bike.
  10. Fear that I will quit – All of the above things I hate are basically about me facing my fears. The nine reasons I hate biking are all reasons I could use to quit. I fight every day that I bike to get out there are peddle my 8 mile roundtrip route. Every time I get out there, I consider it a success no matter how far I ride, how difficult the ride, or how I feel. Some days, it is all I can do just to get my biking gear on let alone get the bike out the door. I have to fight the myriad of things going through my head that tell me it is OK not to bike today. I have a headache. I’m tired. I have to work later. I worked last night. I have to do laundry. The cat needs me to stay home. The sun is shining. It is cloudy. I could get caught up on XYZ tv show before work. I slept too late. I never game anymore. I could get an hour of gaming in. The day ends in a Y. Yet, so far, none of that has deterred me.

Today’s Fearless Biking Adventure

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Being February, one would not think that I could bike very much. But thanks to global climate change, it was 60 degrees here in our nation’s capitol.

I had a very hard time getting motivated today. I biked yesterday and was still a little bit sore. My butt had 3 months of sitting on the couch under a blanket drinking coffee and I lost my biker’s butt. Despite my padded pants, it was almost impossible to think of getting back on the bike today.

Nonetheless, I did.

I got dressed and dragged myself out of the house. It could be 30 tomorrow, so I’ve got to enjoy the sun while it lasts, right?

My front tire felt a little low when I got home yesterday, so I decided that my first stop would be the gas station. The very nice Shell station at the bottom of my hill has free air, something you do not see often anymore. The nice mechanic working there offered to help me, but I said no thanks, I got this. Then instead of filling my tire, I let all of the air out of it.

The mechanic did help me fill both of my tires and I was on my way.

I stopped and had coffee and got myself a nice protein snack of two hardboiled eggs and a small bowl of oatmeal. The spoonful of peanut butter I ate before leaving the house probably would not sustain me on an 8-9 mile bike ride.

That’s my usual  ride. I ride from my house to the Bluemont Caboose on the W&OD trail. That is about 4.5 miles. The ride is 4.5 miles on a slow stead incline on the way to the caboose and 4.5 miles on a slow steady decline on the way home.

After my snack, I hit the trail. About two miles in I was incredibly thirsty, so I stopped and drank some water. I checked my tire and it seemed fine. I was a little worried after letting the air out that maybe I had a leak. Everything seemed fine. The tire was firm and tight. So, I made my way to the caboose.

You can see where this is going, no?

Yeah, I arrived at my destination only to feel as if I was pedaling through molasses. And my tire was making this horrible noise. Yep, I had a flat. So, where was I? On a bike trail, almost 5 miles from home.

I had a choice, I could walk the bike all the way home. Something I was not relishing. Or I could try to find a place to get the tire fixed. I whipped out my phone and did a search for nearby bike shops.

The nearest open bike shop was almost two miles away. I called them to ensure they were actually open, being President’s Day, one cannot assume.

So, I walked the bike to the shop, listening to the sad noise of my flat tire dragging on the sidewalk the entire way. When I arrived, I was tired, hungry, upset, and mad at myself for not recognizing the warning signs of a potential flat earlier.

I’ve had flat tires before. But the last time it happened I was at home and popped the bike on my bike rack and drove it to the bike shop.

I know, total first world problems for sure.

I started looking around the shop and realized they only sold Giant bikes. My brother bought a Giant bike a few years ago for, I don’t know, a couple hundred bucks maybe? He brags about it. Basically, a Giant bike is about $1200 or more, but they sell scaled down models with low-grade parts that are much more affordable. What my brother has done replace the low-grade parts when they wear out with the much better high-end parts. So, now he brags he has a $1200 bike for a few hundred dollars.

I decided to look around while I was there to see if they had any deals. I’ve wanted a new bike for a while. My sister gave me my bike and it has been great as a beginner bike. But it is too small for me, with small heavy tires, and it is difficult to ride.

I found a bike for about $300 dollars. I pulled the sales guy over and asked, “Is this a new bike?”

“Yes it is!”

“Is that price for real?”

“Absolutely!”

“I want it!”

He was astonished. He asked me if I was serious and I said absolutely! He told me the bike I picked out was too big for me, but he has one for the same price he thought I would like.

I had been saving for a new bike and I was planning on waiting a few more months before I buy one. I had been researching and the best prices I came across were around the $400-$450 price range. I could not pass up $300 for a Giant.

It took me a long time to get home. I was very far from the trail and I knew how to get home by car, but the streets on that route are not always bike friendly. I finally made it home about 6 hours after I had originally left my house. Normally, I’m home in less than two. I was quite exhausted, but very excited about my new acquisition, which I should have by Friday.

A good friend of mine asked if her daughter could have my bike when I bought a new one. If she still wants it, I’m going to give it to her. If not, I’m probably going to donate it to Phoenix Bikes. They are a great community bike shop. They sell used bikes and have a great community program where they teach kids to build and repair bikes. At the end of the program, they get their own bike that they have put together.

 

Welcome!

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Welcome to Biking Fearlessly! As I said on my front page, I am a novice, middle-aged biker who is rediscovering my love of biking. I have been posting my biking adventures on both Facebook and my weight loss blog, A Skinny Girl Inside, and a friend of mine so loved my stories she thought I should start telling them on a blog. She even thought of the title.

She was so impressed with my fearless efforts to get on my bike several days a week and just take off wherever my pedaling feet may take me.

The truth is, I’m terrified every time I leave the house on my bike. I’m afraid of crashing or falling over. I’m scared of hills, both uphill and downhill. I’m terrified I’ll get myself into a biking situation I cannot get out of. I’m afraid that I will bike so far out I will not have the energy or strength to bike back home.

With the exception of having a crash, I have done pretty much all of the above. I’ve run into walls, struggled uphill. Braked all the way down a hill. I biked so far out I had to take the subway most of the way home. I’ve managed to get lost on the bike trails in DC and had to use the navigation on my phone to get home.

I’ve been dehydrated. Run out of water. Biked on the hottest day of the year. I have been so tired I actually considered locking up my bike and taking an Uber home to get my car. Flat tires, popped chains. You name it.

Yet, several days a week before work, on weekends,  I get up, put my biking gear on, and pedal off into the great unknown.

Care to join me?