I hadn’t really planned on riding today, but I suddenly found my schedule booked for the next few days, or possibly, weeks. Fortunately, I had a brief window of opportunity this morning before going in for an MRI this afternoon for yet another follow-up to the infamous bee encounter.
So naturally, I grabbed my bike and hit the road.
The very first thing I saw was a dog peeing on an Obama sign; following the giddiness of yesterday’s election results, that seemed to sum up the current state of politics in this country.
As I rode, I found myself giving some thought to why we ride.
Of course, every bicyclist has his or her own reasons for climbing up on the saddle. But for me, it’s not a question of transportation, or concern for the environment, or even a reaction to high gas prices.
No, my riding is primarily of the recreational variety, though I suppose there’s also a social element to it, as I sometimes fall in with other rider and enjoy the company of a new-found friend, at least until our routes take us our separate ways.
It’s also my primary form of exercise — and a very effective one, at that. I started riding seriously again about three years ago, after a layoff of a few years. Since then, I’ve dropped 45 pounds, lowered my blood pressure, resting pulse rate and cholesterol levels. And I’m no longer embarrassed to get caught without a shirt on.
That’s what I was thinking as I rode today.
Then I looked up and saw a perfect azure sky coming to rest on a sea as smooth as glass, with only a few small breakers rolling gently into shore. As I rolled down the coast on a nearly deserted path, I watched pods of dolphins playing just off shore, while pelicans dive-bombed straight down into the surf like a squadron of feathered Japanese Zeros.
And it occurred to me that life seldom gets better than this.
In that moment, I realized that this is why I really ride. Because there are moments like this that only occur on a bike; I could have seen the same things walking along the beach, but it just wouldn’t be the same. Because so many of the best moments of my life have occurred as I rolled silently along mountains and plains, bayous and bays, and countless urban scenes of every description.
And because, as Timur pointed out in the second link above, it’s fun.
Really, really fun.
Connecticut now requires drivers to allow at least three feet of separation when passing a cyclist on state roads, something I called for here recently. An Indiana paper reminds you to take extra precautions when riding through the cold and dark. Finally, the Washington Post reports that vigorous exercise — such as bicycling on hills — can help a woman cut her risk of breast cancer 30%.