After a fair amount of ballyhooing in an attempt to talk myself into it and approximately 70 or so straight Mondays with snow, I finally managed to pull the bike off the hooks this morning and take it out for a spin. And by a spin, I mean the 11 miles to work. It’s finally not so bad out there. It was almost above freezing. There weren’t that many sheets of ice between the two cities. Most of the paths are fairly clear and you can ever start to see where the bike lanes are most of the time on Summit. And it took me quite a while longer than it will once I am riding more and it’s warmer, but it wasn’t all that bad considering the shape of the roads out there and the shape that I am in. Which is to say neither is too terrible, but both could use a little more work now that it’s getting warmer. It’s just been a while since I biked (my last ride to work was January 10th…ain’t technology grand?) and it’s different mechanics than going for a run or even jumping on an exercise bike. And all told, it was pretty good. I made it to work on time. The locker room wasn’t too crazy. The ride home felt a lot nicer other than the rotten shifting line (damn salt). I sussed out the maintenance my bike needs before the first truly nice day when Freewheel suddenly gets backed up 2 weeks just to get some minor work. And best of all, I didn’t use any gas today (at least until I randomly decide to go to First Ave later…that’s a different problem). Which is nice.

Sitting on a bike isn’t always luxurious. Waiting at lights, getting splashed on days like today when there are giant puddles, trying to augur exactly whether that driver wants you to go or just thinks you’re too incompetent to follow traffic signals, it’s not always particularly glamorous. I don’t miss that stuff when I’m not biking. I don’t miss the black ice. I don’t miss riding into a 10 mile an hour wind. I don’t miss the fact that it takes me a lot longer every time it’s cold just to put on all the layers. But all of that sure as hell beats sitting in totally inexplicable traffic. And while I know that it doesn’t (at least in any perceptible way), hopefully me being on that bike leads to a few slightly less frustrated drivers out there, and a little more space on the road. I’m not gonna go crazy and think that all of a sudden everyone out there is going to give up driving. But it is nice to change your relationship with it. Biking does that for me. Hell, biking does that for a lot of things for me. Even when I’m lollygagging (or at least that’s how it feels sometimes) on the bike, I’m still riding 22 miles a day, give or take a bit. And that’s still a lot of calories, so it helps keep me honest. But it’s more than that. There’s the cascading of driving.

Driving makes lots of things easier. I like to have a coffee every day, and I can get that at work. I don’t need anything fancy, I’m perfectly happy with a good cup of black coffee (or a mediocre one as the case is). And really, there are a ton of options for that. I also happen to enjoy a good pastry. The Twin Cities has a number of nice little bakeries that all have the fortune of being relatively convenient on my way to work. Which isn’t a problem when you are driving an average of once a week. Then it’s a treat. The stuff at work largely sucks, so it’s not that hard to avoid, but when I have the option to get a blueberry buttermilk scone at Isles Bun & Coffee sometimes I’ve got to avail myself. The problem is, I’ve had that option too much. Especially with the erratic winter road conditions. I leave early to make sure that I have plenty of time to get there and all of a sudden I have time to kill. And while there’s nothing wrong with something like that every once and a while, it adds up. In so many ways. Even if it is delicious. Biking doesn’t necessarily make me eat better anymore than it makes me spend less (at least relatively). But I do spend a lot of time working that off (and a lot more money on something I’d rather put it into). Not that I was sitting on my hands or anything. I still worked out. But another funny thing that biking does is it makes lots of stuff a lot more inconvenient.

I’m not a huge fan of stopping on the way to work when I bike. It’s a much more regimented schedule that I don’t leave a ton of room in to make a stop that’s inconvenient. Even when I used to stop at the Donut Cooperative (R.I.P.), which was all of 2 blocks off the Greenway, it usually ended up being a 10 minute affair. Nor do I particularly enjoy stopping on the way home. While I have more time in the sense that I usually don’t have to be somewhere right away, I still just want to get home and get on with whatever my evening has in store for me. Sure, if I need to pick something up at the store, something small like a prescription, that’s all fine and well. But picking up food on the way home is kind of a pain. So it just makes me go home. And then I’m home, and I have all this stuff here, so I cook or have some leftovers or whatever. I know that all of this must seem a little stupid. But we all only have so much willpower in a day. And after 8 hours of keeping my wits about me and trying to not say anything too stupid at work, well, I’ve spent all the willpower I’ve got many days. So yeah, I’m gonna swing by someplace a lot of times. Because I just want to be home, sure, but the difference between stopping in a car isn’t necessarily as big. Because I don’t consciously have to do the work. Right it takes more gas, and it certainly takes more time, but the difference just doesn’t seem significant enough to keep me away from it in regards to those aspects. I know myself. I know the easiest way for me is to just not make something an easy option. It’s the kind of personality I have. I’m not particularly ashamed of that. There are some good sides to the converse of that (another time). But I know biking does a lot of good things for me. Besides perhaps the obvious things that you might associate with biking. Because I tell you, it doesn’t end up costing a whole lot less. I just spend it on that bike. I’m sure if I got rid of my car, that’d be a totally different scenario, but at present, that’s just not the case.

So yeah, it’s gonna start to be that time where I complain about double-wind days. Or where I lament the fact that I’m getting up just before 6 am again consistently. Or where I curse how so many parts could break on my bike at once. But it’s also time where I get that great feeling of seeing the buildings in downtown are that brilliant pink-orange in the morning. Or when I see a bald eagle flying along the Mississippi like I did today (I know, without Instagram, it never happened). Or when I start to actually make better use of those bike racks in front of First Ave once more. It’s weird sunburns and rides to Wisconsin and rides by Minnehaha because one should go there often, regardless of season. It’s getting to bed a touch earlier because that’s what it takes though it comes easier after a day of riding. Anyway, early for me is probably different than early is for you.
Besides, it all gets a touch easier when I get back into the swing of things. So here is to a good first day of what will hopefully be many, many more. Perhaps one of these years there won’t be a need to feel this way because I’ll never stop. But I imagine a lot of things will change, even between now and next winter. And let’s face it, Minnesotans, we can finally say winter is on its way out, so let’s not think about that for a while. In the meantime, let’s get out there. You’d be amazed what you’ll find.

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