A recent article in The Tyee about the so-called “War on Cars” cities such as Vancouver are accused of declaring by creating designated bike lines got me thinking about why more people aren’t cycling. The City seems to think it’s because people don’t feel safe enough, and while I admit it can be downright nerve wracking to cycle in this city, that’s not the reason I choose two feet over two wheels.
It’s because I feel embarrassed.
Frankly speaking, I’m out of shape. Yes, any destination that takes less than an hour to walk I’ll go by foot, if time allows, and I don’t own a car. But once I get on a bike, even the slightest of inclines leaves me panting for air, sweat streaming down my face, muscles screaming. For the steeper hills, I just get off and walk.
I believe in cycling. I’d really like to be one of those people who can bike everywhere, smug in the satisfaction that I don’t need a car or a bus pass (and that I have fabulous thighs).
But I’ve never been in shape. I’ve tried, sort of. I remember one summer when I was in elementary school promising myself that I would use my step-moms work out tapes every day to lose those extra pounds. That got old pretty quick. In more recent years I’ve joined gyms, tried yoga, taken up swimming, and even started dancing lessons. But while I’ve lost weight, and gained some muscle tone, I’ve never been “in shape.”
I’ve always made excuses for not taking my bike: I live on a big hill, I don’t have keys for my bike lock, I don’t have the proper clothes (I tend to wear a lot of skirts/dresses, and the one pair of jeans I do own are uncomfortably tight enough without sweat streaming down them). I’m always waiting for the perfect timing, and always making excuses as for why it’s not right now.
But last Wednesday I decided to throw caution to the wind and, as Freddy Mercury put it, “get on your bikes and ride!” I’d moved closer to work (albeit still on a hill), found my lock keys, and improvised on the clothing dilemma: I wore a pair of blue undies over my red tights, under my skirt. I was hoping that if my skirt flew up people would think I was wearing (really) short shorts. Or that I was a superhero.
Going to work was fine: it’s either downhill or flat most of the way. Going home was another story. I made all the way from Georgia and Main to Commercial Drive when I finally had to stop. While I stood there panting, gulping water to get the coppery taste of defeat out of my mouth, at least 10 other cyclists whizzed by me, their well-toned bodies carrying them forward with ease. I was sure they were staring at me, judging my inability to keep up.
I was really embarrassed. Much more so when the old man sitting on a park bench near me finally piped up after about two minutes and said, “Nice day for a ride, isn’t it?”
I agreed, and, after a beat, explained to him why I was stopped: out of shape, first day on a bike in at least nine months, blah, blah, blah.
“At least you’re keeping at it,” he offered.
And he’s right. I may be out of shape, but I’m not dead yet. It’s never too late to get back on your bike and ride again, and while it has been four days now since I last rode, I’m planning on getting astride my blue and silver stallion (okay, Clydesdale) again tomorrow. Hopefully walking my bike one less block than last time.