It’s a decision made early in the morning – you either will ride or you won’t.
You make the decision before the shades are pulled, before you feel the temperature of the air on your skin. You’re either in, or you’re out. If you wait to see what awaits outside the window, you’ve already lost. It’s Portland, after all.
I pull on my leggings, my warmer tops, socks that rise above my ankles. It’s misty. Weather calls for chance of rain. I snap on my cleats, fasten my helmet. I click into my pedals and push off.
The first few cycles, I feel my muscles waking up. The tiredness makes the bike feel heavy. A few blocks down my leg muscles click into auto-pilot. Now we’re cruising. Cars swoosh past, all in a hurry. I’m slower but I’ll get to work at the same time. Funny that.
On the way home, it’s not a matter of wanting to ride, it’s a matter of there not being another choice. There’s only one way home – six miles between work and relaxation. At first, it’s not bad – it feels good to be moving after a long day sitting down at a desk. The first hill wakes me up, my heart starts to beat faster, my breath gaining rhythm. If I downshift now, I know the bigger that awaits will only feel harder. I sit back in my seat and grind through it.
The bike lanes are empty – a result of windy wet weather. The car lanes are backed up. I count the cars as I stealthily pass by them. I won’t see them again. Cyclists pace themselves to hit the green lights, we slow down and glide waiting for the oncoming light to turn green. The occasional red light gives me a reprieve, lets me catch my breath.
I’m counting you see. Drivers, they’re bored – they check their phones, fiddle with the radio. But I’m out here, in the outdoors, in the elements. I’m counting seconds. I know when this light will turn green again – I’m watching all the signs. I’m ready. And when it does turn, I’m already 1/2 a cycle into moving. Nine times out of ten, I’m the first to cross the street. The car will catch up by then, but I’ve already made my point – I’m nimble and fast. I count the lights. I’m alert.
By the time I get home, I’m exhausted and yet reinvigorated. While car commuters get home exhausted from a long days work, I get home having worked off my 9-5 tension. Pull up to the house, pleased I made the choice this morning to ride, that I pushed up the hills, that I conquered the rain. That it was just me with the wind gliding past my ears and the soft sound of my tires on the road.
Later that night, I fall into bed. Already having made the decision on whether to ride tomorrow.