I love bicycles. Bicycles are a hobby, a religion, a sickness, and a source of great and hilarious farce. Bicycles are something I need in my life. That I can fix them skillfully improves my state of inner peace. And while I don't hope for an apocalypse, I recognize that my skillset would prove surprisingly valuable, and I would be an unlikely target for cannibals on foot. More usefully, though, having experience with bicycle touring prepares a person for frequent and inexpensive getaways. Taking a bicycle trip is probably the single best thing I can do to clear out my brain and give myself a renewed positive perspective on life.
I haven't ridden a bicycle much for the past few years. Maybe as little as ten times in a year, and not very far. People change. Interests change. I wasn't too hard on myself. I accepted this ebb of activity as natural.
Then, during the most recent van-cation, I began to severely miss the utility of my Diamondback with milk crate securely attached. When I've lived in a van before, I as much "lived in a van" as I did "live on a bicycle." The van is where you sleep, and the bicycle is your ticket to go exploring and fetch supplies. Ideally, you run around all day, and then have a cozy little home to return to. Not so during the last van trip. I drove that big fucker everywhere. Sure, I had my little Raleigh Twenty, but we did not really ride bikes. We had dogs, so we walked. We had dogs, so we couldn't leave the van for very long. What a load of grief.
In any case, that trip made me miss flying around on a heavy, unbreakable, permanently-tuned, impervious-to-disaster happiness machine.
We ran severely out of money from severely not working enough, and headed home double-stat. I made a new commitment to personal organization so such things would never happen again. I've been reading (parts of) books about the ADHD brain and how to go about finding systems of organization that are compatible with it, and new ways to think about organization that don't lead to the usual conclusion, which is "fuck it, we all end up dead."
Along with improvements in organization, I knew it was time to get back on a bicycle. In fact, every one of the ADHD books spent time talking about the importance of physical exercise. I know the benefits first-hand of flying around by bicycle. The books were reminding me and underscoring what I already know.
I can't explain why it took so long to start riding again, but I imagine the reasons are similar to the reasons why most people never start flying around by bicycle in the first place. It isn't hard to do - but it is always easier not to.
I drew my line in the sand, and determined that I would at least start riding some. I didn't work out the details of destination or distances, but did determine that zero riding equals lots of fucking up.
Hills that I would sail over years ago are now formidable once again. I rode an old favorite loop of mine from Kennett Square through northern Delaware. It's 18.5 miles of beautiful low-traffic roads. There are flat sections and rolling hills. The route goes along a creek, through the woods, across a mirror-surfaced reservoir. You go through small town Delaware, and then roll past farms and fields until you return to the starting point.
I felt like I was going to throw up.
I am so out of shape that a moderate effort up the first climb brought me close to puking. I guess that's one reason that some people don't start flying around by bicycle. But I'm familiar with riding up a hill too fast, and I know what comes next if you keep with it - the results are worth the effort, and the effort is something you can be proud of. I mean, you can't boast too much, but you should be confident that as soon as you hop on your bicycle you are a hero - in my mind and yours.