This is a topic that is a little tender for me. For years, I bicycled almost everywhere, no matter what. I once balanced 25 pounds of groceries on my back. Before I bought storage baskets for the bike, I tied hoses and watering cans and other awkward items to my bicycle frame and somehow was able to pedal with my legs splayed out. I bicycled in snow, rain and wind, in everything from baggy pants to super tight denim skirts. A few summers ago, I even transported a wading pool to my sister’s house on my bicycle trailer.
In short, I kicked ass as a bicycle commuter.
After I left my teaching job, my passion for bicycle commuting started to wane, somewhat inexplicably. I think the loss of the routine of having to go out every single day started to chip away at my motivation. At some point, I became more and more reluctant to get all sweaty before social gatherings, as well. And then I got sick of the near-misses with thoughtless drivers who weren’t paying attention. I hated parking the bicycle trailer when grocery shopping – it took up so much space and I was always worried some punky teenager would sit or stand on it and break the frame.
After my bicycle commuting days hit a serious dry spell, the most enjoyable bicycling I did was with Former Boyfriend. We would go out late on hot summer nights, enjoying the night air on our skin. We’d chat about our days, and watch the sun set, then turn on the bicycle headlights and pedal home. It was very happy bicycling, even when we got into arguments.
Once he lost interest in bicycling with me, I tried to keep it up on my own, returning a very old routine of bicycling 10 miles a day as my workout. And oddly, I hated it. I hated counting the miles – not nearly as fun as just bicycling to the store or work. But for some reason, I didn’t want to do that, either, except every now and then when it seemed like it would be fun to bicycle to my sister’s house.
For some reason, I started feeling really exposed on my bicycle and almost afraid. It’s like I didn’t want to be seen and didn’t want to “relate” that “personally” to the road. You can kinda hide in a car – no one looks at you, no one notices you and you are protected by a huge steel, glass and plastic frame. On a bike, everyone looks at you, everyone can see you, your whole body is exposed. I didn’t want to be seen anymore. Why? I’m still not sure – something I will have to continue exploring.
I know the passion for bicycling is still in my blood, in my bones. I still look on the years bicycling to my teaching job with such fondness – the stillness in the mornings, the relaxation of riding home in the afternoons with the breeze blowing in my face, the way the kids yelled and waved to me when I passed by the school playground, smelling the buds in April and riding over the dried leaves that had fallen off the trees in October. Those are some of the best memories of my life.
I hope, in time, that I’m willing to put myself out there again – out on the road, out where I’m seen and interacting with the world. Hopefully, I will get back into it if I give myself some space.