Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 5-14-08
When I first turned to cycling as a fitness strategy, I never imagined I would become a bicycle commuter. But here I am, spinning, year round, rain or shine. And here we are as a community celebrating Bike to Work and School Day; celebrating a technology that has hardly changed since the first chain-driven model was developed around 1885.
Chronic back issues and two back surgeries later, I decided to hang up my soccer cleats and jogging shoes in my late forties. Yes, I wanted to remain fit, but the pounding needed to stop. Swimming didn’t do it for me. I tried.
I had relied upon cycling to get around Boston in my pre-car college days. Why not turn to cycling again, only this time to get my cardio-vascular exercise?
So I tried. Thirty minute sprints offered me the kind of workout I enjoyed in my jogging days. My back improved. The more I biked the healthier I felt. I stepped up to a high-performance hybrid bike, allowing me to sit more upright than on a road bike; I switched to clips, allowing my feet and pedals to work as one; strategically located carbon-fiber created a lighter, more efficient machine. I came to learn, and my experience reinforced the fact, that bicycling is the most efficient self-powered means of transportation ever devised by humanity.
I tried biking to work a few times during the summer of ’05 and adored it. The 4.5 mile one way trip was just right, home being atop south hill and work being on Northwest Avenue just past Birchwood Avenue. Twenty minutes there, flying downhill from Highland Dr. to Garden St.; thirty minutes back climbing Indian Street from Holly to summit south hill. Sure, it took me a few minutes more time than using a car, but incorporating my fitness into my commute was a net time saver! When I got home I was done working and working out! I was hooked.
The benefits don’t stop there. I save money; I decrease my ecological footprint – less pollution and greenhouse gas; I decrease our dependence upon petroleum; I decrease road congestion.
Then there’s the ‘nod’. Even though I rarely know the identity of adjacent cyclists there’s this unspoken body language – nodding – to one another. Watch for it. It’s like we all know each other. We don’t. What we know, what we recognize and share, is this win-win world of human powered mobility.
These benefits I describe don’t touch the most significant aspect of cycling for me; an unintended consequence of trying to remain fit with my back problem. Getting outside, rain or shine, working my body, powering the drive train with my own energy allows me to touch nature. Flying through fresh air; feeling the wind; breathing hard; touching wildness twice a day.
Touching nature through human powered motion. Helping community. Helping the planet. Helping my health.
To this end I celebrate Bike to Work and School Day. Come join me on the road.
And be sure to nod.