I’m pleased to present a guest post by Average Joe Cyclist, who’s a regular guy who gave biking a try—and wants regular folks like you to try it out too! (I didn’t mean to make that rhyme, but it’s so pleasing that I’m leaving it that way :) Make sure to check out his blog over at Averagejoecyclist.com and at BikeBytes for the Vancouver Observer.
This fall I went out and volunteered at one of the VACC’s Bike to Work Week stations. It was great fun (apart from the pouring rain, but hey, this is Vancouver). Standing there in the torrential downpour, I watched the constant stream of determined commuters cycling by on the Central Valley Greenway, braving the fall dark and the elements.
With my own winter-ready bike parked nearby, I realized that I have become one of those fearless bicycle commuters – and also reflected on what a long way I have come.
When I first moved to Vancouver, I worked with a dashing and stylish woman who cycled to work. I had never lived in a city where this was even possible, and it blew me away. I watched her as she came in every day, flushed and triumphant, and started to wonder if this was possible for me. But I was overweight and out of shape, and the thought of cycling over the Second Narrows Bridge just seemed impossible.
A few years passed, but the fantasy of commuting by bike just would not die.
At last I gathered my courage and bought a reasonably decent hybrid commuter – a 1999 Devinci Rio. I started off with baby steps, cycling a bit further every day. Every day, I got a little bit fitter and a little bit stronger.
Finally came the day that I was ready to take the giant step from recreational cyclist to commuter. I mapped out the route I would need to take to bike to work, and practiced it. By this time I was no longer working in North Vancouver. I was living in East Vancouver, and working in Burnaby Heights. The commute would be about 10 km, one-way, with a lot of hills. The first time I did it, it was a Sunday, and I only went one way, and then put my bike on a bus to get home. But I had done it!
After that I finally started commuting to work on my bike, and in no time I realized that not only was it possible, but it was tremendous fun! I quickly became addicted to it: the stress relief, the daily exercise, the endorphins that made sure I got to work feeling on top of the world.
As time went by, I purchased the accessories I needed to make cycling comfortable all year round: waterproof panniers, a Gore-tex rain jacket, almost waterproof gloves, decent lights, and so on. It seems that the process of making cycling more comfortable and safer is endless. Still, it’s cheaper than running a car – and it has so many benefits that I never even imagined.
Who would have thought I would get fitter than I’ve ever been in my life? I didn’t foresee this, but looking back, it’s a no-brainer: commuting to work means you get out and exercise twice a day, every day. It’s not like a gym membership that you can just blow off because you don’t feel like it: you have to get to work, and once you‘re there, you have to get home! Apart from the cardio fitness, my legs have changed from fat to muscular. Every day, I know I’m helping to save the planet for my children and my grandchildren. Every summer I have a great, natural tan. And year round, I glow with health.
And then of course, there’s the feeling of pride and accomplishment you get when you make one of your dreams come true.
I went from someone who thought cycling to work was for other, fitter, younger people, to someone who commutes to work on a bike year round, rain or shine. If I did it, anyone can do it.
Thanks so much, Joe! If you would like to write a guest post, please pitch your idea to firstname.lastname@example.org!