What I’ve Learned Halfway Through 30 Days Of Biking

Last month I was in downtown Fargo when I noticed a flyer that promoted 30 Days of Biking, a movement that challenges people all over the world to bike every day for the month of April. It was founded in Minneapolis in 2010 and there are over 8,000 pledged riders from around the world.

Rides around the block totally count (and I’ve done a bunch of those…sometimes at 11:50 p.m.) and of course longer rides do too. The point is to be active, to be outside and to integrate riding a bicycle into your life in a more organic way. I was up for the challenge, since I’ve been looking for a way to do exactly that.

30-Days-of-Biking-Night-Riding

I grew up in tiny Hendrum, Minnesota and I used to ride constantly because, well, sorry Hendrum, but it was a pretty sleepy place and there wasn’t a lot to do other than walk up to Nepstad’s gas station or ride bike around town. (I’m super jealous that the town got a library a few years after I moved out.)

A caveat: I’d like to thank Amanda Hofland for pointing out that saying “ride bike” instead of “ride a bike” (or, God forbid, using an even “fancier” word like biking or cycling) is a total regionalism in her article, “Weird Things Fargoans Say”. I’d never thought about it before I read that, but it’s totally true. Does anybody else say this?

Anyway, riding a bike used to be a natural part of my life. And I spent a lot of time doing it. Now I’ll plunk my son in a bike cart and ride to the park or on a quick errand, but that’s about it. I wanted more.

I was doing my spring Twitter chat at the end of March when I realized that @Markus_Fargo, who I’ve followed for awhile, was, like, the local contact dude for 30 Days of Biking. He invited me to just try it. So now I totally had no excuse. I was in.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself and biking through Fargo and West Fargo halfway through the challenge.

30-Days-of-Biking-Mountain-Bike

– When riding my mountain bike, I instantly regress to the 12 year-old version of myself that picked it out. Seriously, I popped a wheelie. (And yes, the bike is really that old.)

– Speaking of the mountain bike — OMG, gears! Working gears! I’ve been riding a cruiser and pulling a toddler in a bike cart for so long, I kind of forgot what having options felt like.

– Dear motorist: You had time to smile and wave at my kid in said bike cart while we were waiting for the light. Doesn’t it seem a little weird that you almost hit the woman on her bicycle (me) who was pulling him? I mean, how did you think the kid appeared at that intersection, exactly?

– It is deeply, profoundly weird to almost wipe out on the exact same stretch of sidewalk that terrorized you as a kid. This happened to me as I explored my grandma’s old neighborhood a few days ago.

I hit a five inch drop in the sidewalk (my teeth survived) and simultaneously tried to avoid getting depapitated by a tree branch and suddenly, viscerally remembered doing the exact same thing as an elementary schooler. She moved when I was 11, which means that the L.E. Berger neighborhood’s sidewalks haven’t gotten much better in almost 30 years. That doesn’t seem like a good sign.

– Night bike rides are awesome. It’s quiet, my mind clears and it’s almost meditative. I love it. Why haven’t I been doing this before?

– I need a light. And reflectors. And I probably should rethink my 90% black wardrobe after sunset.

30-Days-of-Biking-Crosswalk

– When you ride by a house party and your neighbor says you’re over the speed limit and offers you a beer, say yes. New friends, exercise and beer — a triple win.

– There’s a serious lack of bike racks in this community. Do people normally ask business owners about installing bike racks? Does anyone have any tips for successfully lobbying for one?

– That said, we have some pretty solid trail options. I live in West Fargo and I can get on three different trails within about a block of my house. That’s awesome.

– My sense of distance is seriously screwed up. Whenever anybody asked me how long I was riding, I’d simply say “Not far. A few miles, maybe.” Last week I actually calculated the distance of one of my most common routes. It was five miles long. Whoa…

– When I stop at a four way stop, I will totally give you the super slow small town head nod to acknowledge you. My farm girl habits run deep.

– I am not quite brave enough to ride in traffic yet, especially with a kid behind me. I’ll be sticking to sidewalks and trails for a little bit longer. If anyone local has ideas for routes with good bike lanes to start with, I’m all ears.

30-Days-of-Biking-Baby-E

– If I can do a daily bike ride when it’s 30 degrees and raining, I can’t really make excuses anymore.

– The amount of clothing I bundle my child up in to take a cold and rainy bike ride is amusing. Yes, the cart has a plastic cover. And yes, that’s a giant blanket. He rides in style.

– Buying a helmet and actually remembering to wear it isn’t as much of a hassle as I expected. I know, I know, it’s terrible that I haven’t had one until now. I reasoned that it took me 18 years to wear a helmet on a snowmobile and longer than that on a motorcycle and I go way faster on those methods of transportation. This was clearly stupid.

– Dear high school guy who jokingly leapt off the bike path and then dropped and rolled with exaggerated courtliness: I was a goofball in high school too. Pretty much everybody I find interesting was too. You’re going to go far in life. Don’t change.

How about you? Are you doing the 30 Days of Biking challenge? If you regularly ride or commute in your city, tell me about it! What are your favorite places to explore on a bike? What have you learned from riding regularly?

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4 Replies to “What I’ve Learned Halfway Through 30 Days Of Biking”

  1. Awesome that you’re cycling! Couple things…

    Studies show cycling on the sidewalk is unsafe. It goes against conventional wisdom, but there you have it. Though of course I get why you or anyone would. Those big, nasty death machines farting pollution are intimidating, especially so when operated by luddite texting on their phone or speeding through a stop sign so they can wait at the red light longer.

    Still, the culture won’t change until said luddites get used to seeing bikes on the road. For now, I definitely get not wanting to do it with your kid in tow in case, Geez-Us forbid, you have to bail or otherwise make a quick decision to avoid the aforementioned pollution-farting death machines. Dedicated bike lanes and separated cycling infrastructure are ideal, but if that’s not an option, try 25mph streets to start and claim the lane.

    With respect to helmets… Studies actually show they don’t do much and actually discourage cycling, because it makes it seem dangerous. Some might say that it is dangerous. Look at that 5,000-pound war machine carrying just one person! It can kill me!

    I get it, but it’s like watching a crime show and thinking that’ll happen to you. Statistics show reality is different. That said, I absolutely never begrudge anyone for wearing a helmet if it’s their choice. (I wear one when sport cycling.) I just don’t think it should be made law, because that definitely discourages cycling.

    Keep cycling! It’s the best, healthiest way to get around and this country needs more cyclists.

    1. Thanks Joe! I was hoping you’d comment, since you know way more about this than I do. That helmet stuff is totally news to me. Now I’ll (slowly) work up my nerve to ride in traffic. Baby steps…

      1. Get a friend to join you. Do you have critical mass up there? If not, start one. But at least get a friend or two to join you, keep your lights flashing behind you, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep a GoPro rolling if you have one. (None of this is to say cyclists are obligated to have flashing lights or a GoPro running. Ultimately you have a right to the road.)

        1. We do have critical mass, but it looks like the group hasn’t been active lately. It’s a cool idea. And now I’m going to start asking my friends to ride with me. I don’t even know which ones have bikes at this point. Thanks for the ideas!

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