When I started biking to work about six weeks ago, I had no idea the adventure I was in for. Although I have always been very active, I had not been on a bike in over a year, and had not done any real biking since I was in Junior High. I have learned much from my experience that has allowed me to tweak my rides for the better and I expect there will be more adjustments in the future. Though the temperature has been rising, I have enjoyed my rides and hope to continue indefinitely.
My first rides resulted in a very sore rear end and padded bike shorts didn’t help much. But, I seem to have broken in my derriere and now suffer no repercussions even when the ride gets bumpy. The bicycle I am riding is probably not the optimal style for my rides. I am using my daughter’s Walmart-special mountain bike since mine was stolen last year when three hoodlums broke into our house and decided to take off with their loot (my jewelry and cash) on our three bikes. We replaced both of my daughters’ bikes, but have yet to replace mine. I initially had trouble with her bike which was apparently not put together well, but after several disastrous trips where my pedal fell off, my handlebars twisted around or my tire popped halfway to work (you can read my accounts of these early rides at http://bikingmobile.wordpress.com/), all the parts on the bike have been tightened down and seem to be working fine. I am also short on equipment for the bike – I did not want to spend a lot of money on this project before I had even tried it and determined whether I could keep it up. I have a helmet and back pack, but baskets and other accessories would come in handy.
I am careful with any traffic and try not to give cars the chance to make a mistake. Some cars don’t seem to see me or the stop sign at intersections, while others stop to let me cross even when they don’t have a stop sign. I am cognizant that no matter who’s fault, I will surely be the loser in any collision.
I have also learned that the best route is not always a straight one. Mobile doesn’t seem to know what a bike lane is and I don’t expect they will be adding any anytime soon. After reading some of the “soundoffs” in the paper about bikes, I guess I know why – many Mobilians simply don’t see any advantages to encouraging biking over their gas guzzling ways. Yet, if people would stop relying on their cars as much and sit their butt on a bike occasionally, Mobile would be a quieter, cleaner and greener city with fewer obese residents. Unfortunately, although Mobile has many wonderful attributes, it has never been known for being green. So, since there are no bike lanes, the safest and best route for my 5 mile trek to work is to stay off as many busy streets as possible and instead wind through neighborhood streets all the way to downtown. This route has the added benefit that I get to see many beautiful historic houses and neighborhood scenery.
My favorite day to bike is Friday. Every Friday there are residents on each side of Brown Street that put out bubble machines facing the road. I never imagined that bubbles could be so uplifting! I’m not completely sure why, but I have found it impossible to ride through a cloud of bubbles without smiling. No matter how sweaty and tired I am, the first sight of floating bubbles always brightens my afternoon.
So, to anyone that is unsure about attempting to bike to work or just around the block, I strongly encourage you to, as Nike would say, just do it! I’m not suggesting you give up your car – heavens no! I still burn up the gas in mine when I have places to go that are too far to bike or when I can’t arrive dripping in sweat. It may not be easy at first, but I expect the adventure will be worth the trouble. Who knows, you might discover your own neighborhood bubbles.