4 Realties I Learned From Cycling

Let me start off by saying that I went back and forth switching the word ‘biking’ for ‘cycling’ about ten times in the title of this post. What is the difference? Is it like running vs. yogging (soft j – someone please acknowledge that reference!!). I will use them interchangeably and beg your forgiveness if I’m breaking some unwritten biking (cycling?!?!) rule. Amateur over here!

Not long ago, I bought a road bike from a friend at work. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know that over the past couple of years I’ve really concerted my efforts toward becoming a runner, even completing a couple half marathons and marathons along the way! Running certainly taught me a few lessons – for example, did you know that you can chafe in just about any area you have skin? Who knew.

After marathon #2, I decided that long distance running was not doing my body any favours, and decided to focus more on strength training. As I spent more and more time lifting weights, I came to dread the hour-long sessions on the stepmill that I had previously loved.  This revelation happened to coincide with my move to what some would call the suburbs (it’s NOT!!) and the advent of the commute to and from work. This was fine and dandy until sun started to shine and the flowers started to bloom and the thought of sitting in the car made my skin crawl. So, I decided to do what every other Ottawa resident does when the snow melts – bike!

And so, for the last two weeks I’ve been practicing commuting to work. Well, no, I guess you’d say I’ve been successfully commuting to work since I do, in fact, arrive at the office in the morning and back at home each evening with all appendages in tact. Semantics aside, biking 26km/day has been truly eye opening and today, I’d like to share with you three harsh realities that biking has taught me so far in my short career.

1) You have to come to terms with shorts.

I did my pre-commuting practice rides in Old Navy workout capris after getting along just fine with them in spin classes for YEARS. I  quickly learned the rationale behind those diaper-looking shorts that bikers wear. Turns out seams are BAD when you are going to squish your butt and other delicates onto a bike seat for a couple of hours. As a former fat person, I have no interest in wearing shorts…period. So, in the name of shame and modesty, I bought a pair of cycling capris from ebay, equipped with a padded crotch :D. Well, I don’t know who those pants were made for, but I can tell you that they were not designed for people with hips or torsos.

Downtrodden, I waddled into the local bike shop where my dear friend’s boyfriend works, where I was met with two cutting words: bike shorts. I tried on several pairs and realized that since my legs are both muscular and adorned with loose skin, a muffin top above each knee was inevitable, but that padded shorts were the key to my biking salvation. And now, I can say that not only do I wear shorts every day, but I have the added honor of looking like I’m due for a diaper change thanks to all the padding “down there”. I see a niche market here. Oh, before I move on, did you know the word “chamois” is pronounced “shammy?”. Worth adding to your mind bank before you ask where the “sham-wah” shorts are.

2) There is no bike wave.

Runners can be an elitist bunch, no doubt, but your commonalities bind you. These include things the wearing of some sort of sweat-wicking and/or breathable material, and sport-appropriate footwear. Everything else is gravy. If you are running often and you pass the same person a couple of times over the course of your runs, you’ll notice they start waving at you. Eventually, this becomes second nature and you pay forward the running love and wave at those that you see running. Or, on a bad day, maybe you smile or nod at them.

Bikers mean business. If you are going too slow, they will fly past you on their $10,000 bike in their ridiculously tight (and often white…why??) uniforms (I’m told these are called “kits’) emblazoned with companies who don’t actually sponsor them. My bike has pedals that would allow me to clip in with my cycling shoes (which I do actually own) and yet I don’t, because I’m afraid of the possibility – nay, reality – that I will pull some sort of side-face plant when forced to stop on a dime. I can’t help but think that the bikers are judging me because my shoes aren’t attached to my bike. My bike and I are not “one”. When people pass me on bikes, they either ring their annoying bells or grunt at me to signal that I should make room for them; if they are flying toward me, they pass me without so much as making eye contact. I can’t help but miss the runner’s wave.

So I’m under the impression that cycling is an elite and expensive sport, and that you are either legit, or you are a hobbyist biker who will be trampled by men in white spandex with pointy helmets. BUT…

3) Runners can be obnoxious, too.

When I was a runner, I wanted to stick my arms out whenever a biker rode along behind me obnoxiously dinging their bell, expecting me to make room for them despite a wide open path next to me. This was particularly the case after I’d been out running for hours on end and even minor changes in direction felt like I was running up Mount Everest with a backpack full of cement. However, any time spent on a bike on a shared path (or sidewalk, if you grew up in a small town where that jives, like I did) will show you that runners have a sense of entitlement that may only be rivaled by…well, bikers.

It seems that runners believe it is their prerogative to run 3-wide and to run wherever they feel like it in their lane, and as a biker, you are somehow to get around both oncoming “traffic” and said runner(s) without killing or causing harm to yourself or to others. Dog on a leash? Even better! When Fido decides to spring out for a pee spontaneously, cyclists are expected to gracefully manoevre around the pup without being clothes-lined.  I now understand that, even though as a runner you might feel like you are compact and generous with space, this is not always the case. I also understand that bikers don’t mean to sound like arrogant $*#*%(% when they ring their bells – they are simply trying to be courteous in case the Phoebe Buffay becomes the next barefoot running.

4. Biking Gives You Wings

I know, Red Bull beat me to it right? But let me tell you – it is one thing to huff and puff along a your running route and see some new things in your town/city. It is a WHOLE OTHER thing to FLY around your city on a bike…no, not like this:

Biking lets you make spontaneous decisions that running just doesn’t. For example, if you see that a light is about to change, you can accelerate pretty darn fast to get through before the red. And if you are bored of the route you took to get somewhere, you can choose to take another route without really worrying about whether you just accidentally added 3km to your trek. And you also get to go REALLY fast and feel the wind whip around you. Now, I know I’m not a fast runner, but I don’t think that feeling can be rivaled on legs!

So where do you fall? Biker? Runner? Both? Any sport-specific pet peeves you’d care to share?


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3 thoughts on “4 Realties I Learned From Cycling

  1. Love this D. And I agree with all your points but one. Bike shorts look horrendous and cause leg bulge (not to mention the gunt!) on all shapes and sizes. They are hideous, and like you, I’m gonna be sporting them all weekend (to add another downfall: hello tan lines). I even went to Lululemon- they have a new bike short- and they are also hideously tight and high waisted and bleck. If lulu can’t save us… no one can…

  2. Ha, I think that’s an Anchorman ref? You may have meant “running vs. yogging,” I think…

    Coincidentally, I just bought a used (er, “vintage”!) cruiser bike yesterday. I want to use it to visit the library, other stuff downtown, and perhaps the nearest grocery store (if I can find a safe route), so I didn’t go for a road or mtn bike. I’m excited to try it out. Need to grab a few more things (helmet, lock).

    • Ha! Yes! I totally meant running vs. yogging and I dashed over and corrected it because I can’t let an anchorman reference go astray ;)

      I love cruiser bikes. I’m not sure about my road bike decision – I think in hindsight I might have gotten a hybrid bike. Cruisers are awesome but there are a few good hills on my path home and I see those poor bikers huffing and puffing, while it’s much easier on road/hybrids from what I gather ( as I speed by, muahaha). What color is your new bike? Don’t forget you need a basket – no cruiser is complete without one :)

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