Essentials for bike commuting III: Not what you’re expecting

If you're just tuning in, welcome to this series of mental attitude warm-ups for bike commuting. Up, down, up, down! Now try those other brain cells.*

Tolerance. Thanks to Heath's comment on Essentials I, this got added as a mental essential for bike commuting. It tastes even better if you season it with a big dash of humor.

He's absolutely right--you have to be tolerant of those people at work who look at you like you're crazy (especially on days that are on the rainy or cold side). You might point them to my post that compares the hassle factor of bike commuting compared with driving (although it makes more sense to someone who's been through the complete psychological conversion process :D).

You also have to be tolerant of drivers who tell you all their stories about bad bikers--those sidewalk-terrorizing, helmetless scofflaws (or just cyclists who take the lane as they're legally entitled to).

If you ride the Centennial Trail you'll encounter pedestrians with baby strollers who think the "wheels only" lane in Riverfront Park is for them, people who are positive(ly wrong) their unleashed dogs are perfectly polite and would never take a chunk out of a passing cyclist, toddlers who zig when their parents think they're going to zag, rude cyclists who whiz past without yelling "left!" to let you know they're sneaking up behind you, and other joys of sharing a public space. Tolerance. Tolerance. Tolerance. We're all in this together.

Persistence. You can’t try this bike thing once and then quit. After all, that’s not how you learned to ride a bike in the first place.

Your first time testing out the route to work (which should be on a quiet Sunday, by the way, not a busy Monday morning when you’re nervous about being late) may not go that smoothly. You’ll feel discouraged at times by weather or road conditions. (I have this belief that no one—NO ONE—is more interested in seeing Spokane’s streets improved than cyclists. We are our own shock absorbers and we know street conditions far more—ahem—intimately than any driver.)

On the other hand, maybe your first few trips will be delightful and you’ll figure they’re all going to be like that. 

No, honey, they’re not. Sometimes a grouchy driver does honk and yell at you to get on the sidewalk. (Please don’t.)  Sometimes you leave in the morning on a beautiful sunny day and ride home in the afternoon in a cloudburst (or you get smart and throw your bike onto the rack on an STA bus to ride home in dry comfort). You get a flat tire (and realize that the ability to fix a flat is one of the great empowerment moments riding a bike offers--it's a lot easier than on your car).

But if you keep riding you’ll experience a transformation. You'll find you're a lot more comfortable with the vagaries of weather than when you were safely insulated in a cocoon. You'll be more aware of your neighborhood and your surroundings. You’ll see the world differently. You’re a bike commuter.

Tolerance and a sense of humor. Persistence. Comradeship. Creative thinking. Openness to new things. Friendliness. Willingness to take some risks. Huh. This isn’t a bad list for life in general.

Amazing what you learn from the vantage point of a bike saddle.

*With apologies to Bob Hope--at least I think it was Bob Hope--for ripping off a joke I read years ago in Reader's Digest. It went something like this:

Do I exercise? Sure I do! First thing every morning. Up, down, up, down. 

Okay, boy, now let's try the other eyelid.

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