I've started to ride my bike to work. I wish I could say I was doing it for my health or even for the environment, but really it is just because it is cheaper than riding the bus. That in and of itself is probably quite sad seeing as how the bus is the chariot of the car-less. Yet the less money I spend on the things I need (such as transportation) the more money I have for the little pleasant things in life.
When you start biking on a regular basis you quickly come to learn a number of things. Many of them you learn quite fast, such as the sudden realization that you are out of shape. By the look of me I appear to be in decent shape and for the life of me I have no idea why that is. If the world was a fair place this surely would not be so. However, as I wheeze my way up inclines and feel the sore muscles in the morning it quickly become apparent that appearances are deceiving.
Because of this the ride to work is especially daunting as it is full of hills. In a car, or even on foot, a hill isn't anything special. Yet when you're on a bike, hills start to bear the appearance of a battlefield. They are the arena in which you are forced to do battle with gravity herself. For most bikes you can cheat, switch into a low gear and laugh your way up the hill, albeit rather slowly. Unfortunately for me, my bike is in need of a tune-up and I cannot switch gears. A more proactive person would be outside fixing it right now instead of sitting inside, drinking a root beer, and whining about it, but that is just not how I roll. Although to be fair this means that “how I roll” is rather slowly and with much panting. I'm just lucky I live in the Midwest where everything is generally rather flat. To be bicyclist in Portland must require calf muscles like shapely bricks. I suppose this is why the real bicyclists always wear those shape hugging outfits.
It isn't just hills that take on a new persona while on a bike. Cars, for instance, take on a whole new light: the ominous red light of something that hates you. My route to work doesn't even take me on many busy streets and yet I often meet with their anger. Horns screech at you, people yell at you, it is all rather unpleasant. The thing that angers them most often isn't a bicyclist doing something stupid like not signaling or not wearing proper night-time gear, but instead is merely the fact that they are on the road at all.
In case you didn't know, bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as cars. In fact I'm pretty positive they talk about this in the DMV handbook that everyone is supposed to learn before they get a license. Despite this many drivers seem to see bicycles as a nuisance.
It takes a lot of imagination, but if I try really hard I can see things from an angry motorist's point of view. I mean there you are trying to get to work, your car payments and gas tank along for the ride. After work you should probably go to the gym, but you'll probably be too mentally exhausted to go. Then up ahead you see some cheeky sod on his bike. This punk is out there getting a workout and traveling at the same time. You try to reconcile yourself by thinking of your advantages: you can go on the freeway, you can carry passengers and cargo, you have temperature control, and you can go a lot faster. Well, you could go a lot faster if this bicyclist wasn't in the way. “Get off the fucking road, ASSHOLE!”
Despite all the disadvantages, I quite enjoy riding my bike. Eventually it won't even be as hard as it is now. I'll get better and in time I'll even get around to fixing my bike. The hills are a pain in the butt, but you know what? I may have to strain and wheeze my way to get to the top. I may have to get off a walk for a bit so I don't get dragged back down the hill. But when I get to the top I can see things sprawled out before me. Then after taking a brief moment to appreciate it all, I can finally give in, embrace gravity, and hop upon her whims. While zipping down the hill I can feel the exhilaration bubbling in my gut, just as I can feel the wind twirling after me like dolphins playing in the wake of a ship. Even if it isn't for very long, I can put my feet up and let the world carry me for awhile.
Then someone calls me an asshole and I'm given an excuse to think they're a dick. Say what you will, but being given an excuse to dislike someone can be quite nice. So I indulge in that simple pleasure, smile, and then put my feet back on the pedals and do it all over again.