Bike commuting has been an unexpected pleasure of my college experience. I brought a bike with me my freshman year, with a faint idea that I might enjoy riding it as much as I did when I was 10. Over the last four and a half years, riding my bike to school, work and practice has been a near-daily joy for me. It’s not only the fastest way to get to school, it’s also good for me, it’s fun, it’s a cool bonding time to commute with other people, and it’s good for the environment.
Yes, I am preaching here, but I believe every single person at Baylor who drives their car to school is wasting their time. Ok, back up, if you live more than five miles away, or if you have to be somewhere immediately before/after class, or if it’s raining a ton, you might not be wasting your time. But the rest of you … why do you all complain about the lack of parking on campus?! Easy solution.
I’ve invested a little to make biking more pleasant. For the first three years of college, I rode my sister’s old bike from when we were preteens.
It took buying a real road bike for me to realize what lower plane of bike life I’d been existing on for years. I swapped the old bike for a zippier hybrid with a flat handlebar and skinny tires. It’s not road-bike fast, but it’s got good geometry for me, with a balance of visibility and speed. This was well worth the $375 I paid that dude on Craigslist, and I’ve never had to get work done on it after I learned to change my own flats.
Another thing that makes my commute more fun is music. I use one headphone only so I can hear the cars behind me. Explosions in the Sky is an especially epic life soundtrack. If I’m caught on campus after dark or I’m closing at the store, I wear some LED clip-on lights for better visibility to drivers. Getting some racks or panniers might be nice, but I usually just load up my backpack for the day – changes of clothes, food, textbooks – really carefully and carry my stuff on me own back.
A few days ago, it hit me: I’ve achieved bike commuting nirvana. This is the best part of my life right now, I thought, because despite stress fractures and loads of grad reading and disappointing people, nothing can go wrong here. I had been rushing to leave my apartment to get to school on time, but as soon as I mounted my bike, I knew it would be alright. I was soaking up the sun’s early morning rays. Wind was blowing in my hair – it never gets old. The stresses of lateness and the day ahead of me faded with each pedal stroke. On my bike, I feel in control and happy, in touch with the world but not controlled by it. Walking limits me by speed and occasionally my still-sore heel. Driving limits me to set routes and awful parking, and detachment with the world. But biking is just right. I’m tall, I’m fast, I’m making the most of life.
Running is my first love, and I never want to lose that competitive spirit. This has not replaced running in my life, because this kind of biking is not about exercising (even though that’s a benefit). It’s bigger than that. It’s a lifestyle, a life of connecting to the people and neighborhoods around you, a life of self-sufficiency, and a life of gratefulness to God for an amazing body that can power this two-wheeled machine. Life is best lived on the bike –