By John Ray
If you haven’t noticed, the weather outside is niiiicccceeeee. We are past Thanksgiving, compadres, and still able to hit the trail most afternoons in short sleeves. What a gift. Problem is, I’ve been noticing this mostly through the windshield of my car and not while on my bike.
It seems I’ve fallen off the bike-commuting wagon.
As a person who derives a great deal of personal satisfaction and much-needed health (mental, spiritual and physical) benefits, who even financially budgets for getting places by burning calories instead of dead dinosaurs, this ain’t a small thing. Heck, I even (sporadically) scribble down this here column on commuting by bike. So what gives?
Well, I think it is worth exploring a bit, both as a way of helping all of us get back on the bike or, even better, not fall off in the first place.
Now, I’m not talking about taking breaks: We all have seasons of life where it just isn’t possible or even healthy to stick to our routine. Breaks are needed and necessary. Seasons also affect our riding; it is natural and normal to ride more at certain times of the year.
But we have to guard against unintentional and unexpected breaks that go long, then even longer, then eventually become the norm. The norm of not riding. The norm of automatically picking up the SUV keys and not strapping on the helmet when we head for the door. It’s the attrition that comes from “taking a break” pretty soon, the momentum swings towards inertia. Rust sets in, and the tires go flat.
And once something stops, it takes much more energy to get going again (Second Law of Thermodynamics, entropy and all that). Plus, life. So what’s the answer?
To find it, we need to know why we fell off in the first place. Were we paying attention? Taking the small breaks that prevent burnout and the big breakdown? Were we taking care of basics, or letting our maintenance (or lack thereof) lead to frustration? Were we pushing through seasons that should have been for cutting back, or vice versa? Were we feeding our imagination by differing our routine, being creative and connecting with others, or did we end up feeling isolated and disconnected? Did we lose sight of the big picture? Did we start to take the benefits for granted and forget about the reward of intentional effort?
Did we expect it to always be easy?
Before you find yourself lying in the ditch while the wagon rumbles on down the road without you (metaphorically, that is), take time to consider the above questions and make sure you are in a strong place. If you have joined me in the ditch, let’s take time to figure out why and take steps to get back on track — well-equipped with a good dose of humility, self-understanding and conviction to learn and ride stronger in the future.
Grace and peace, y’all.