Rules for Biking

Sunset at Bayfront Park; Chula Vista; California; USA. Taken 20 January 2016.Why I bike

I am as passionate about biking as I am about hiking and backpacking. I have been a road biker for many years, a pursuit that gradually infiltrated my life when I finally accepted that I could no longer run effectively.  While I still miss running,  I can honestly say that I have developed a similar “feel good, happy place, introspective mindset” on my bike as I previously had when I ran.

Over the years, I have developed and refined some “rules” for myself about biking, to keep me getting out and about on a regular basis.

My rules for biking

If it isn’t fun, don’t do it…but as long as it’s fun, do it regularly!   

With that in mind, most of my biking takes place from March through October. I don’t ride when it’s cold, wet, or super windy out. During that eight-month period, however, I ride regularly if conditions are favorable. Generally, I commute to and from work on two of my four work days. I also ride on one of my days off. I aim for 100 miles a week…sometimes I make that, sometimes I don’t. I am not rigid or attached to outcomes with biking. I do it because I love to be outside and traveling at a pace slower than a car, but faster than on foot. I am a “zen” biker. Which leads to my second rule…

Go for the mindset.

I usually ride alone, as the solitude brings about a particular state of mind  that I don’t get when riding with others. When I get on the bike, I can and do ponder life, problem solve, and effectively let things go. A solo bike ride is a meditative and therapeutic experience for me.  When I am feeling particularly challenged by life, I will get on my bike and ride until I feel calmer and have regained a clearer perspective on whatever problem or situation I set out with. I DO at times ride with others. While I enjoy companion rides just as much, they are for a different purpose and call for and create a different mindset altogether. I find myself riding alone, most often and in part, because of my next rule…

Ride at a comfortable pace.  

I am not a fast rider, and I get passed often. Riding with others (especially people I don’t know…) creates a worry that I am too slow, or holding them up. While I can and do sometimes “turn it on,” I generally ride with the motto “slow and steady wins the race”…or at least gets me from point A to point B. I take it slowly, especially on hills. You can’t ride in and around Bellingham without encountering hills and hills hurt my arthritic knees. Instead of letting that keep me from riding, I gear way down, and ride slowly. I have discovered that I can ride up a steep hill as slowly as 3.6 mph…and still stay on the bike! Knowing that, I can make it up and over each and every hill I encounter. Riding at a comfortable pace also allows me to to take careful notice of my surroundings, leading right into my next rule…

Be hyper-vigilant!   

When I ride,  I pay very close attention to traffic patterns and individual cars and anticipate what drivers may do. I sometimes ride busy roads and roads with no shoulder and fast speed limits. I have never been hit by a car or even been in a bike accident (aside from two incidents of hitting the edge of the road incorrectly and taking a spill).  I attribute this to riding “defensively,” not obnoxiously so, but to “taking my rightful place on the road.” Bikers have a right to be there and to assert that without being overbearing seems to bring about a respect from drivers. I adopt a safety mindset when I ride…I assume I will be safe when I ride AND I always anticipate and plan for driver’s unpredictable actions. Taking careful notice also allows for my final and favorite rule of biking…

Take notice of the beautiful surroundings.  

My favorite "biking flower" -- Foxglove
My favorite “biking flower” — Foxglove

Bellingham is a beautiful place, and consequently riding in and around is a feast for the senses. Some of my favorite rides are out to Birch Bay, down Chuckanut Drive onto the flat roads of Skagit County, down and around Lake Samish and home through Alger, out to Riverside Park in Everson…the list is long, and it is impossible for me to pick a true favorite. I ride based on practicality (am I going somewhere or just out for a ride?), my mood, and what type of environment I want to be in. One thing is for certain…I ALWAYS notice the scenery, whether it’s the first foxgloves in May, the first trees budding in early spring, the moss-laden trees hanging down over shady roads, the turning colors of Autumn, the streams and flowing water I pass as I go. I am absolutely enamored by bird calls in spring and summer and I sometimes feel as if the birds are singing just for me!  I thank the birds for singing and the flowers for showing up. Frequently,  I am completely overtaken by the sense of peace, comfort, and the knowing that all is well and right with the world when I am out on my bike.

As I ride, I open my mind…and as my mind opens, insights come. Some of my best insights about life come on the bike.

In the next biking post, I will pass on a few gems that have come about on my rides. Until then, you can click here to listen to my favorite bird call heard on the bike  🙂  Swainson’s Thrush

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