Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why Bike Transportation? Reason #6

Reason #10 – "Unrighteous Pride"
Reason #9 - The Environment
Reason #8 – Sense of Achievement
Reason #7 - Social Responsibility / Conservation

Reason #6 - A Feast for the Senses

(They're getting EASIER now!)

You get in your car (or SUV, truck, etc.) – a climate-controlled isolation pod. Windows rolled up, air conditioner or heater humming, but not quite drowning out the sounds of the power plant. So you turn on the drive-time radio, or CD player. You pull into traffic on the nearest arterial… and you're off.

I get on my bike. It's 33 this morning, and as I embark on my journey I'm puffin' steam, and feel the bite of that brisk morning air on my cheeks. (A face mask covers my ears; gloves insulate my fingers, so I'm fine.) My heartbeat quickens ever so slightly as I begin pedaling and pull out of the driveway, heading due east up the road. (Some people seem to avoid that "elevated heartbeat" at all costs! Too bad.)

I greet my neighbor – he's walking down the side of the road, headed for the park with his cocker spaniel, just like 'most every morning.

A block up the street, I see a couple mallards coming in for a landing at the ditch. They join a hundred other mallards, quacking contentedly.

The sunrise is rather ordinary this morning, due to the clear sky. Every now and then it's truly spectacular, and I'll alter my route just to ride into the sunrise for a bit longer.

Further down the road, I smell the unmistakable fragrance of roasting coffee beans. (The breeze must be coming from the west this morning.) In another couple weeks, I'll smell the lilacs and tree blossoms.

The scenery is constantly changing. (If I were in a car, I'd most likely be looking at the back end of the car in front of me. You know what they say about sled dogs – "If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.")

Oh – I hear the sound of a diesel coming up behind me. Not nearly as pleasant as ducks, or birds twittering, or even the wind whistling past my ears. But it'll come and go quickly. (Not so for the poor pathetic guy driving it.) Yep – it's that giant maroon Dodge super-cab pickup. Criminy! What a racket! And what a stink!

I love the FEEL of bicycling. The cold in winter and hot in summer – even the wet on those occasional rainy days. Much better than life in a hyperbaric chamber. Sure, it's nice on perfect spring and autumn days… but variety is the spice. I love the "burn" as I ride up a hill, and the exhilaration of coasting down the hill. I love the wind at my back! It feels great to ride – it feels great to stop riding at my destination.

I love the SIGHTS of bicycling. The changing seasons; the treat of a glorious sunrise or a million cotton-ball clouds floating overhead. Sure – you can see some of it through the windshield of a car. (You can see it in the movie theater, too.) But you're more likely to see that big truck you're tailgating.

I love the SOUNDS of bicycling. The faint whirr of the chain and wind-noise – oh, and breathing – are the only sounds I'm generating. I'm not surrounded by materials specifically designed to insulate me from all sounds. So I hear birds, squirrels, the ripple of the river at times, or the breeze in the treetops. Sometimes I'll run over a flattened aluminum can in the roadway, just to hear the clickety-click.

I love the SMELLS of bicycling. (Except for exhaust… which unfortunately sometimes goes with the territory. I ride right past bumper-to-bumper traffic jams… but I have to breathe their stench.) The subtle fragrance of flowers in the springtime. The pungent aroma of fallen leaves in autumn. The intoxicating smell of somebody grilling a T-bone steak nearby. (Women tend to name "vanilla," "jasmine," etc., when asked about their favorite smell. Men lean more toward steaks and cookies.) The best smells (and some BAD smells) can be found out in "the country." There's nothing like riding downwind of a summertime spearmint field, or just-mowed alfalfa.

Motorcycle riders know somethin' - they refer to the cars, SUVs, etc., as "cages." But they don't know ALL of it. You're only part-way there on a motorcycle.

Would I trade my bike-riding experience for 72 climate-controlled degrees, tinted windows, leather upholstery and a cell phone? Nah.


Tim said...

Perfect! You've summed up all the wonderful feelings and sensations that come from riding a bicycle. One of the reasons I commute by bike as well. It's just so good to be a part of the world you are in, instead of a spectator.

db said...

I am enjoying this series. Really helps to articulate to non-riders what we get out of bike commuting.

I don't know if this will figure into your 10 reasons, but one of my biggest reasons for biking to work -- especially on a cold morning like today or a windy morning like yesterday -- is that I'm much more alert and proactive toward my workload when I get to work.

That higher aerobic level, increased bloodflow, and increased endorphin level can really boost you. Even when your ride is only 7.5 miles long...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful writing and riding today.

Your writing encompasses your passion in a very whimsical way. A pleasure to read.

As for the smells, most of my ride is carbon filled except for the smell of meat sizzling and smoking as I pass Donnie Mac's on the way home.

Anonymous said...

Related is the weather acclimatization from cycling. I stayed more comfortable on the hottest days last summer, and the coldest days in winter, than all of my car-addicted coworkers. When you're always in a climate-modified environment, your body gets soft, and it's so much more miserable to step outside.

Bikeboy said...

Dear friends... it it TRULY gratifying to read your positive comments. And your responses indicate you "get it." Sometimes it seems the whole community has gone mad, in some kind of automotive hypnotic spell!

"Participant" is WAY better than "spectator." Indeed, contrary to the mistaken perception that bike-transportation would lead to fatigue... it is invigorating! (Now maybe that would be different after a 50-, or 100-mile ride! db... my commute is only about 4 miles each way. 7.5 is fantastic!) Yeah, when I'm headed home, I dream that the Missus might be cooking ME a T-bone! (My wish goes unfulfilled about 362 days of the year... she's got this "health" kick going...haha) Danielo... you are RIGHT about getting acclimatized! I'd much rather feel comfortable in a 35-100-degree range, than 70-72 degrees.

NOW is the time to try to share our enthusiasm with the world. I believe it's easier to take up bike-transportation in late March, or April or May, than in January or August... know what I mean?

Thanks again - stay tuned!