Friday, April 13, 2012

Bicycle Diaries of a Big Girl: The excuses we make

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRANDON KNAPP

The bicycling gods have smiled on me, but they work in mysterious ways: by killing my car battery, to be exact. They say it takes two weeks to form a new habit. After challenging myself last week to ride anywhere I went alone, the challenge unexpectedly continues this week.

With my car out of commission, the principle challenge to ride everywhere became one of necessity. I've found the real obstacles to my success are the excuses I make not to ride. Now, with no car to lean on, my excuses simply don't matter. I view this as a gift, an opportunity to debunk my irrational reasoning:

1. Weather: "I can't ride today - it's too windy... too rainy...too hot... too cold."

It's an unavoidable fact: bicycle riding pits man against nature. Since I started riding, I've become compulsive about checking the weather. Even the slightest chance of rain is reason enough for me to jump behind the wheel rather than hop behind the handle bars. Lately, the wind has become my biggest weather nemesis. When faced with stiff gusts, tears involuntarily stream from my eyes. As air rips through my jacket and my marrow, I pedal in the lowest gear, going so slowly that retired couples pass me on foot. I try to focus on the benefits of resistance training, but instead I regret having to ride at all.

However, the bout isn't always bad. The fragrance of spring flowers doesn't make it through my car's AC, but by bike any blooming bush becomes an odoriferous feast. It's all a matter of mindset.

2. The Aches: No bones about it, I'm out of shape.

Cycling uses parts of my body I had forgotten existed. But there's a price to pay for prodding my muscles into existence. So far, my lower back has given out, I've pulled muscles in both of my thighs and my left knee feels chronically stiff. According to WebMD (the cheapest way to avoid healthcare), this is a normal bodily reaction to new physical activity called "micro damage." But I'm not completely sold. I took a few days off to nurse my stiff knee, but then once I had reasonably recovered, I kept using the possibility of pain as an excuse not to ride.

If I can't work through "micro damage", does that make me a macro weenie? I guess I have no choice but to keep pushing.

3. Hot-mess syndrome: "I can't ride my bike to meet friends for dinner; I'll turn up a hot mess."

From helmet hair and the unseemly red line left on my forehead by the helmet, to sweat-drenched armpits, its easy to feel unsure. But NUVO photography intern Brandon Knapp changed my perspective entirely when he said, "Wear the red line on your forehead as a badge of intelligence."

Which leads me to the question: Can I wear hot-mess syndrome as a badge of self-improvement?

4. Traffic: "I can't ride right now: It's rush hour, and drivers are crazy."

Many an afternoon/early evening, when I've finished my work for the day, I'll head to the grocery for dinner ingredients. But the thought of facing down rush-hour craziness has me choosing to join auto-mania instead of biking the short distance. I've got no way to get around rush-hour insanity as a lone beginner bicyclist, but INDYCOG does.

Their Courteous Mass Bicycle Ride "emphasizes being a part of traffic instead of apart from it - to be a visible positive example of the cooperation that can exist between cars and bicycles." This mass bike ride, starting at the American Legion Mall at 5:45 p.m. every second Friday of the month, lets cyclists who care lead by example. There really is strength in numbers when it comes to cycling.

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