Bike Log #2

After posting the first bike log, several friends (including friend-of-the-blog Matt Surch) encouraged me to dive in and bike every day. At the time, one of the things I wondered was what kind of excuses I’d come up with for not taking in my bike (“I’ve got an early meeting”, “my legs are sore”, “cars drive by closer and closer each day and today they’ll probably hit me and maim or kill me”)—but in fact, it was the very reverse: on most days, it just felt wrong not to jump on the bike. Without needing to commit to a plan or try to convince myself to bike in, I found I was doing so three or four days out of the work week for the last couple of weeks.

I can confirm what people told me: it doesn’t take long for one’s legs to get accustomed and stop feeling like lead when you get off the bike. Although it took me almost an hour to make the trip the first two times, by the third I was averaging just over 30 minutes. (Attribution here is complicated: it could be my legs became more conditioned; it could be because after those first two times I bought an air pump with a gauge and realized I was under-pumping the tires; it could be related to how much energy I had since previously I’d gone vegan for the almost fifty days of Lent and Holy Week, which tends to leave my body feeling weaker than normal).

Some quick thoughts:

  • Even if it looks like a beautiful day outside, it’s still cold in the morning.
  • Even if it seems cold when you step outside your door, it’ll be really cold when you start pedaling and the wind smacks you in the face.
  • A lifetime of sports has made me very familiar with the Pretty Girl Effect (on the bike, this manifests itself when you think you’re pedaling as fast as you can, then you see a pretty girl watching you and suddenly you’re pedaling twice as fast. Strange but true: sometimes I’d find myself pedaling faster and only then notice the pretty girl. How do you explain that?) But I’ve discovered a new effect, the Someone’s-Passing-You, which, like the P.G.E., makes your legs pedal harder without direct orders to do so from your conscious mind.
  • Remember the tired joke that older generations tell a younger, more pampered generation? “In my day, we didn’t have roads or cars or public transit. We walked 20 kilometres to get to school . . . in the snow . . . and uphill both ways.” I’m not so sure it’s a joke anymore. The path between my house and work does seem like it’s uphill both ways, probably because the downhill portions don’t leave a big impression but the uphill parts are quite memorable.
  • Sometimes you’ll leave your house without your water bottle and you’ll think, “You know what, it’s not worth the minute it will take me to go back and get it … I probably won’t even be that thirsty on this ride.” Wrong. Take the minute to grab the water bottle; you’ll thank yourself later.
  • I’ve never paid such close attention to weather forecasts.
  • Bicycling is fun (once your legs become conditioned, and so long as wind and weather are playing nice). This make sense (as a kid, my friends and I spent most of our weekends on our bikes), but it’s something I’d forgotten. It’s really nice to have a bike ride home to look forward to after a long day at work.

I’ll post another update on my progress in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you aren’t already commuting to work by bicycle and you live reasonably close, I recommend you give it a try. (If you do, consider starting up a blog so you can have your very own “web blog bike log,” which is almost as funny as “The Bob Loblaw Law Blog” of Arrested Development fame).

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Karl El-Koura was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and currently lives with his beautiful editor-wife in Canada’s capital city. More than sixty of his short stories and articles have been published in magazines since 1998, and in 2012 he independently published his debut novel Father John VS the Zombies.

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2 comments on “Bike Log #2
  1. Matt Surch says:

    Awesome! You’ve accomplished a lot already. I applaud your efforts.\r\rThis log is really valuable. Many of us seasoned cyclists lose touch with the feelings and perceptions that constitute the experience of taking up cycling in the city. In order for us to forge a path toward a better future for cycling in Ottawa, we need to understand what the hurdles are for those who want to get going. Your log is a part of this dialogue. I hope others follow suit. Keep it up!

    • Thanks Matt!

      Without a doubt, the biggest psychological hurdle for me is the feeling that I’m a nuisance when I commute to work by bicycle (which is backwards, of course, given the health and environmental benefits that this type of commuting represents). Most Ottawa streets are built for cars, and I can often feel the annoyance coming off drivers when they go around me and other cyclists (for those blessed people who actually make a bit of room for us on the roads); bike lanes are great for the streets that have them, but even then you could be forced on the sidewalk if you find yourself behind a city bus and exhausted from all the starting and stopping, and I find a lot of cars take bike lanes as a mild suggestion and nothing more; as for the last-resort sidewalks, you’re not cycling at that point but dodging pedestrians and apologizing.

      In summary, I’d say that cyclist-commuters don’t get the respect they deserve (in Ottawa). Part of the solution, I think, is educating drivers about the great benefits to the city cyclists provide, and trying to encourage “share the road” attitudes among all commuters.

      The one exception to this pariah-feeling is the path along the canal. Luckily, half my commute to work is along the canal–which I’m grateful for! If it was city streets all the way, I may have given up already.

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