Of all the goals that I’ve been successful at this year, I’m going to have to say that cycling has proven to be the one where I’ve had the most success at this stage. I’ve just finished a weekend where I’ve logged 100km on my bike, and through the end of August I’ve logged a total of about 800km from when I started riding again in April. That nets out to an average of 58km per week from June through August. I’m proud of that number, as it is well ahead of the 50km per week I set as a goal; I’m especially proud of it as we wind down into the tail end of the prime riding season, and the rain sets in over the Lower Mainland. I set a goal of goal for the year, and I met it – well done me, at least for something I set for myself this year.
What I’m really glad about is how much I’ve actually progressed in my cycling pace, ability, and speed. I’ve become not just smarter about how I approach a big hill or a long slow climb, but I’m also stronger and have built my riding physique to the point where I don’t dread the worst of my rides. I love the speed, I love the different muscles it uses from running or other sports, and I love the freedom it gives.
My rides are also less about novelty now than they were. Last year, the first year I’d owned a bike since I was about 20, I would go out on pleasure rides, and occasional runs to the grocery store. Now, I regularly take my bike on errands, grocery or otherwise, and blasted all over my neighbourhood. I’ve ridden to work several times this year, which I love, but I’ve also taken to riding to and from my badminton club, which itself is a good 16km hike. I am proud to say that I’ve truly used my bike to commute quite a bit, and have all the respect in the world for those that commute on their bike every day, rain or shine.
That isn’t to say that all of my rides are solely shopping jaunts or runs to work – far from it. I’ve done a lot of pleasure riding, going on three really long burns, two of which were 50+ km runs from my house to Stanley Park and back. I’ve also done some great exploration around my wider neighbourhood, which I’ve discovered has a lot more hills than I ever thought. Many of these longer excursions I’ve had the pleasure of some company, and I have to say that unlike when I’m running, the company is quite a welcome accompaniment, as when I run I tend to have my headphones on and be concentrating straight ahead – I’m zombie’d right out. Having someone join me on these has been an absolute pleasure, and made me feel like a kid again at times. By complete serendipity, on the last trip to Stanley Park, we discovered that we were helping celebrate the park’s 125th Anniversary!
I was also seconded to Calgary, Alberta for work for six weeks this summer. I elected to drive out, rather than fly, as I could bring more stuff with me – including my bike. I have to admit, I must have looked a little bit like Clark Griswold while driving out there, my company vehicle loaded up with a bike hanging on the back. Still, I rode about 12km nearly every morning. It helped to rev me up for the day, and I really enjoyed my early morning rides around the hotel – nothing overly special, no bike paths really, but a lovely ride in the mornings even so. The rides even helped to smooth out the problems I was having with running, allowing me to have a non-impact cardio exercise that actually got me outside and didn’t have me bored out of my skull in a gym.
All credit needs to be given to the municipalities in the Lower Mainland, who have really done a spectacular job of improving their bike path network over the last five years. In fact, most cities have done a tremendous job with bicycle lanes (barring perhaps the City of Toronto, which should have kept the Jarvis, Birchmount and Pharmacy bike lanes and planned bike lanes, along with expanding the others). It is really easy to get around, and while it is anything but flat, the majority of the routes are very clearly marked and are well laid out for cyclists. It makes it quicker to ride my bike to work on the mornings where I can, than to drive my car, and the dedicated and enforced bike lanes in downtown Vancouver are incredibly well laid out
If you haven’t really been out on your bike much this year, I encourage you to do it. Get it out, oil the chain, and go for a spin. Do it as often as the nice weather allows from now until your hands are cold in the wind – then put on some gloves and keep going. The freedom, the strength, and the fun it will give you is amazing, as is the cardio workout. Try taking your bike out if you are headed to the local grocery store – that especially helps you avoid buying things you can’t stuff into (in my case) a backpack. Take it on that quick run to pick up a widget at the hardware store, or out to the local breakfast place to work up your appetite. Get out with your kids. Get out with your dog. Just get out there, it’s all totally worth it, and often something you don’t think much about.
All in all, I’m loving my bike, and a part of me wishes that I would ride more during the wet months of the year. Then again, I essentially trade my biking in for something else I truly love, that also works my legs and cardio…