8 Things I Learned with a Bike as My Sole Method of Transportation
This entry was posted on April 7, 2015.
After graduating high school and moving out of my parents' house, I found myself without a car, a job, or any money. Finally securing a part-time job, I saved up and bought a bike for $300. This old Giant road bike became my primary form of transportation for the next five years, carrying me from home to school to work and back home every day. Recently, I purchased my first car, causing me to think back on all the things I learned from biking nearly every day for those five years.
Getting up at 5:30 in the morning in below zero temperatures to bike to work; deciding to do a sunrise hike that requires biking to the trailhead; biking up hill after hill after hill; commuting over 60 miles in a day: These things all require serious determination -- a trait I noticed myself developing as I biked more and more.
2. Confidence in my abilities
Watching my skill level increase as I rode more and more built confidence in my abilities. I remember the first time my boyfriend (who lives at the top of a very large, steep hill) asked me if I wanted to bike up to his house, or if I wanted a ride. I told him, arrogantly, that I could handle biking up there and set off. I made it to the bottom of the hill, took one look, and promptly jumped off my bike and walked up, panting the whole way. Now I bike up it with only a small amount of hatred, mostly outweighed by a sense of accomplishment. Seeing my progress in cycling has showed me that while I might not initially be good at something, I can improve through hard work and persistence.
I don't love asking people for favors, so asking for rides was not something I did very often. Those times when I did ask for a ride were difficult and annoying for me, causing me to push myself further in my riding and becoming more independent in the process. Because of this, I developed an independent mindset, taking my transportation into my own hands.
4. Appreciation (and sometimes hatred) of the elements
Cyclists experience the weather in a much more dramatic way than most other people. Consequently, I became very familiar with the elements and Mother Nature's whims. Riding through wind so strong that it blew me off my bike, rain that froze to my goggles, or snow storms that kept many cars off the road made me simultaneously love and hate the weather. From the unique perspective of a bike commuter, I was able to see the changing of the seasons very closely, which brought an appreciation of what each season has to offer. And those terrible days really weren't that awful; with the right gear, any bike ride can be comfortable.
5. Confidence in my body
On top of the great exercise I got from cycling everywhere, it has helped me to appreciate and focus on what my body can do for me, rather than how it looks. These days, the media is always telling us our bodies aren't good enough. We need to be leaner, more muscular, taller. By the media's standards, my body is not perfect. But, man, my legs are strong. And my lungs carry me up and down hills without too much panting. My heart beats consistently in my chest, successfully pumping blood to my muscles mile after mile. Focusing on what my body can do has made me more confident and positive.
6. Non-cyclists don’t understand cyclists
The looks I got when my friends found out I'd biked somewhere were almost always accompanied by "What. You biked HERE? Today? In this weather/time of day/distance/sketchy place?" Trying to get people to understand that I did it because I truly enjoyed it was nearly impossible.
7. Dislike of cars
When I started biking everywhere, I was driven primarily by financial motivation. However, over time I began to hate driving. I began noticing a disconnect between drivers and cyclists. As I drive, I don't notice the small things in the world, whether it's the smell of the blossoms on a tree or the dog that excitedly wags its tail as I pass. It's difficult to observe everyday beauties as I speed past in a car.
On top of that, driving leaves me disconnected from the harmful effects -- both to me and the environment -- of driving every day. Biking every day improved my health and life quality. By sitting in a car, in traffic, neither my health nor quality of life is improved. Commuting by bike in Salt Lake City, where we have notoriously bad air in the winter, I noticed every one of the bad air days and its effect on me. As a driver, it's easier to pretend the pollution isn't as much of an issue because it isn't immediately affecting me.
8. Love of cycling
There were definitely those days -- usually when I was biking home around 10 o'clock at night in the middle of a snowstorm -- when I hated biking. When the entire time I dreamt of buying a car. When every car that passed me was the devil for not offering me a ride. But for every one of those days, there were twice as many days when I turned down rides, or went out just for fun because, truly, I love biking.
All in all, bike commuting is a great experience that I recommend for anyone. What have you learned by switching to commuting by bike? Share it with us below!