I didn’t bike today. It’s been the first day in more than a month that I could say that, having just completed the 30 Days of Biking Challenge. The experience was surprisingly challenging and insightful.
Usually, I don’t bike every day. There’s a good reason I didn’t have any ride reports over the winter. Even in the spring, because my ride into work is about 20 miles each way, I don’t have that route built into my schedule like many cyclists do. So to ride every day of the entire month, I had to find new and creative ways to get my butt on the bike.
My most common fall-back was riding back and forth to the Metro, which is just over three-quarters of a mile each way. I usually walk there, which takes about 15 minutes. Previously, I had always written off riding there as saving very little time, between the effort needed to get my bike out of the shed and locking it up at the station. In addition, I didn’t want to be limited by the stuff I could fit in my bike bag. As I quickly found out, both of those assumptions didn’t hold a lot of water. Biking took at least five minutes less to the Metro and often allowed me to board the earlier train instead of having to wait six to eight minutes for the next one. When I walked this morning, it felt like I was plodding in comparison to the power I get with each stroke down on the pedal. In addition, it wasn’t hard for me to get used to using my regular messenger bag for such a short distance, even with my yoga mat crammed on top.
When I didn’t bring my bike to the Metro, I often used Capital Bikeshare instead. I recently re-upped my membership and have been trying to make the most of it. I found the safest and considering traffic, perhaps fastest, on-road route from work to Farragut North during rush hour. (The Metro is probably faster still, but doesn’t get you a workout.) I discovered new bike lanes right near where I work that I would have never found otherwise. I learned that Union Station is hideous to bike around, especially with a lot of surrounding construction. I burned a surprising number of calories trying to haul ass on those indestructible but very heavy bikes.
Despite those efforts, there were a few times I had to scramble to get a ride in. A number of trips to the grocery store – which is also within easy walking distance – were made by bike to meet the requirements. But much like getting to the Metro, biking to the grocery store has hidden advantages, like the ability to carry beverages that would be too heavy for a walk home. However, my most desperate measure kicked in during two rainy days when the temperature didn’t rise above 48 degrees. To squeeze that required ride in, I geared up in my bright yellow jacket, turned on my lights a-blazing, and rode – literally around the block. It was 0.8 miles, which takes about 4 minutes. Believe me, those were four long minutes.
But none of those circumstances resulted in the best rides I had on my bike during 30 Days of Biking. No, those fell into two categories – rides with Chris and riding into D.C. from Rockville. As I mentioned in this post, Chris is not a cyclist. Nonetheless, I still managed to get him to come riding with me a few times – to the ice cream shop and around our neighborhood. Beyond the fact that I enjoy his company, it was rewarding to see him willing to come out with me. In fact, these rides seem to have precipitated a minor miracle – he chose independently to bike somewhere on his own this weekend! It was just over to the pho restaurant near the grocery store, but I was so proud of him.
My other favorite moments came from my long rides into and through D.C. Whether on the way to experience the cherry blossom fireworks or riding with my friend Melanie to Eastern Market, the bike as a method of exploration, both transportation and recreation combined into one, is always rewarding. I saw so much from that seat it would be easy to miss otherwise – shadows on the Capital Crescent Trail, a sunset over the Georgetown bridge, quirky brownstones in Capital Hill. The bike affords me the speed that my feet never can, and yet the ability to take in the scenery impossible from a car.
So what did 30 Days of Biking amount to for me? 173.9 miles, give or take. A realization that some trips are better and more convenient on bike than they appear at first glance. Two pairs of pants ripped in the same location that makes me think that I should stick to biking pants rather than dress pants or jeans. Three pounds lost, much to my pleasant surprise. But perhaps most of all, a deep sense of satisfaction that I actually did follow through on my commitment. Sure, it wasn’t nearly as impressive as doing the Climate Ride was. But being out faithfully every single day helped me both see that it is possible and feel part of the much larger community participating.
Did you participate in 30 Days of Biking? What did you get out of it, if anything?