For 426 days beginning October 11, 2019, I have swung a leg over the top tube, fired up the Garmin watch, and pedaled my bike around Austin, Texas. Starting and maintaining several other daily habits like walking and writing back on January 1, 2018 eventually led me to do the obvious one for a bike rider and blogger. Although I’ve traveled the equivalent of around the equator, and surpassed this year’s bike goal (and several other goals since), for some reason I keep at it. Why, you might ask? Well, stopping a streak would be very easy, but getting here was extremely hard. So I just keep on keeping on, so far, for now. Doing my small part to help Keep Austin Weird.
I think the reason for my continuing is that while it’s been extremely hard to maintain, starting it over would be even harder. So I take it a month at a time. There’s no minimum distance, though except for a few days of mechanicals, busy-ness like moving, after or to rest before a long ride, I’ve done around 18 miles a day average. That’s doable for lots of people, and certainly there are plenty of younger, fitter, stronger and faster folks on bicycles around the world. I’m a mid-aged fathlete with my various challenges (mostly, not sleeping enough). But to do it day in, day out, with no rest days, I find it hard. Or maybe it’s cool or dumb — insert your own adjectives here.
I’ve never claimed I was smart. In fact, in the last five years of starting this extended mid-life crisis, biking and blogging, walking, writing and avoiding flour-y foods, I’ve done a ton of stupid things. Or at least ignorant. Like bike longer and farter than someone like me probably should. Or go places I shouldn’t, especially at night. Oh, that’s a typo. longer and fartHer, not farter! (I knew something about that sentence stank.)
Other ill-advised things from my biking career include: adding 30 miles to make the MS 150 two centuries in two days (202 miles); going on a planes, trains, automobiles, hitchhiking, camping, Couchsurfing, Warm Showers and bike renting trip to Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming; despite all the exercise, remaining overweight, although pretty fit (at least my version of it); and generally just spending way too much time on the bicycle. There are a number of way dumb and even dumberer things one can do — like claim you didn’t lose an election when everyone knows you lost, you’re a big L-O-O-O-O-O-O-S-E-R.
But I suppose that I’m still standing, so I’ve done something right. Biking every day takes time (especially if you’re not fast), commitment, dedication, discipline, saying no to lots of things, fitness (despite the fatness), and a metric ton of will power. Someone asked me if it was fun. I didn’t say yes, but of course that is a big part of it. But there’s more to it, there’s meaning, satisfaction, significance, intentionality, mindfulness. But I sent this quote from the first Presiden Roosevelt (aka the Rough Rider) as my answer:
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.Theodore Roosevelt
I’m quite aware though that, to use an old phrase, “Your mileage may vary.” When I use words like suffering, struggle, difficult, hard, painful, exhausting, I’m not kidding. Biking as I have 639 hours in 2020 thus far equates to almost 27 days. That means that by the end of this month, I will have spent one entire month of the year riding my bike. Read that back to yourself again slowly. That’s pretty incredible to me (and again, probably pretty dumb). But for better or worse, I’ve done that, day in, day out. Of course, compared to many, Many, MANY people, my version of hard is easy for them. It is really a First World problem. That’s still a problem in my book, but a good problem.
So back to why? Well, to try to reduce some of that fat, and improve health. To prove to myself that I can do a lot more than I think, and in so doing, hopefully to inspire people, maybe even you. To maintain some semblance of normality during perhaps the most challenging year on record for the human race for probably a century. I do it to generate things to write about and share with you, dear blog reader. ALso, I do it because I can: I have the time, ability, and opportunity. I’m not married and have no kids as far as I know, and am more often than not, “in between work assignments.”
But most of all, biking IS fun. There’s nothing like going around a turn, or downhill, feeling the wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, being one with the bike, the road, and even with Mother Nature. Well, riding a motorcycle or driving a convertible is like that, but there’s far less effort so there’s no satisfaction from traveling under your own power. Conquering that hill, going that extra mile, appreciating the sights you never would otherwise (especially not from a fast motorcycle or car), or riding with friends are all noble pursuits and rewards of riding a bicycle. Biking is fun — hard fun. You define it, and you earn it.
So now I’m starting month 15 of this daily bicycling streak. Will I make it? We’ll see. If so, will I continue for month 16? I have no more bicycle goals, nothing more to prove. Sure, I’d like a new bicycle as I wrote in my holiday gift post. Would I like to be faster and stronger? Of course. But if I have one real goal for my biking, it’s to switch from quantity of miles to quality of rides. In fact, I hope to do about half of this year, and maybe even just go by time. An hour a day max, except for the occasional long ride for fun — a joy ride. Even if it’s still hard. Because if it were easy, everyone would do it. And if I can do it, most of you can too… if you want.
Choose your own adventure. But choose wisely, young Padawan.
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