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12,000 miles

April 8, 2015

April 2015, it’s now been 4 years since I started riding my bike to work.

Give or take a few days, I’ve ridden the bike through rain, hail, snow, storm, wind, and blazing sun.

I stopped religiously recording the miles a few years back, but I tally more than 3000 miles a year just with the commute, so that’s more than 12,000 miles todate. The annual commute of 230 days x 15 miles = 3450 miles.

The bike’s still going strong – the annual service keeps it in check.

You can see my cycle related posts here: “cycle” or “bike” or “commute

I’m not going to waffle on but April… Spring… Is an ideal time to start… Go on, you know you want to!

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I don’t recall what made me do it, but one Sunday morning in Early 2011, I said to Em “I’m going round the block on my bike!”. A quick but knackering ride around a few villages, but boy was it invigorating. No kit, no cycling paraphernalia, no agenda… just me wheels and a road (and a few sweaty inclines).

To the prospect of ‘cycling to work once a week?’, I recall adamantly thinking ‘never in a month of Sundays!‘ – it was seriously not an option.

However, after a month or so I found myself riding to work and back daily.

4 years later and a lot’s changed. I invested in a new bike early on, and in 2012 we eventually decided to sell the family’s second car. I’ve been through the phase of supposed “must have cycle-wear” that is foisted at you from the pseudo-cycle-subculture – (ignore most of it – save some money and soul). I have been through four winters of cycle commuting, and frankly the thought of it can be far worse than the reality! I’ve slowly moved towards more of a cycle-based or more pedestrian frame of mind while cycling. Initially the prospect of the “cycle-route” seemed silly and again ‘not an option’. Due to my indoctrinated vehicle/road based mindset, it took a good while to see sense and use alternative routes and cycle provision where available and fit for use. It’s an ongoing lesson and the prevailing attitude ‘out there’ can be survival of the fittest. Steer clear and let them fight it out I say. The current state of cyclist awareness and road/path design/provision is another discussion.

Cycling has it’s perceived negative moments, but to be honest if you are prepared, it’s all relative. What is “a soaking” from a heavy shower? (actually quite rare) Just a rare soaking. What’s riding in the dark with adequate lighting? It’s fun, it’s invigorating, it’s enlightening!! What’s having to be part of the push and pull of other road users? Give it space and it’s edifying. Yes some things are a challenge. I am no fanatic, but again I rode to work daily this winter and kept my combat shorts on this year – shorts (and thick socks) are easier! The thought of it is far worse than the reality. I am learning daily.

Coincidentally, a few years ago, I started looked at a my (mid-life) physical and mental habits and practices. At a desk from 9-5, I saw almost zero daily exercise. The nature of my work was “head down and get on with it”. My work environment sees no visitors and its cut-off location means little opportunity to escape for the occasional brief distraction. Probably many jobs are similarly suffocating. These, and other genetic/chemical factors, led to a diagnosis of ‘clinical depression’ (another story). On the whole, I was probably a good example of covertly ‘unfit and unhealthy’.

After much reading and sharing, adopting new routines and practices (including ongoing mild medication), riding a bike helps me realise a different outlook. Many other things have been part of the experience, such as; world-music singing with a large choir; the study of aspects ‘mindfulness’; the awareness of one’s diet of foodstuffs and also ‘consumption’ generally; new realisations about how one’s mind works. But riding a bike has had a significant role to play in the generation of a new physical, mental, (and possibly spiritual?) mind. Riding a bike induces endorphins and exercises the breathing and the mind. Riding a bike is only one of many things that helps me rise above and duck below the ongoing ‘stuff’ that the world breeds. The experience of cycling has many facets and I can recommend reconsideration to most people!

I do suggest you try to think of it as “riding a bike” and not necessarily “cycling” – the “cycling” subculture can be another dragon which can consume – steer clear of dragons. 🙂

I am not a follower of the sport of cycling, worthy though it is. Just as an average driver is probably not a follower of Rallying or Formula 1, exciting though they are. I am not a lycra lover. I don’t (anymore) try to beat my time! I don’t think you should have to “dress like a cyclist” to ride a bike – practical ‘normal’ clothes can be found to suit most purposes. It’s just riding a bike to get from a to b.

The simple act of riding a bike is good for so many reasons – personally, socially, mentally, physically, community, interaction, pace, progress, ambition… all can be fed by a new way (an old way) of experiencing things…

Think again, and ride your bike again. Go on you know you want to!

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