Monday night means one thing: football! But only during football season, which it currently isn't. So it means two things really, the other being my posting a guest post, which is a real treat. It's better than a rice krispie treat (by a lot) and also better than Treat Williams (by a little). Tonight's post is a conversion story and like that of St. Augustine, it involves fruit. Many, many thanks to CapCityChewy for generously providing his tale.
What exactly does it take to convince a 300 pound 30-something to begin biking to work? Grapefruit.
I needed some for a party last July and stores close to me didn’t have any so I hopped on a Circulator and rode up to a Harris Teeter and snagged their last bag. Pressed for time and with no return bus in site, I looked around for a cab but there were none. It was at that moment that I remembered the Capital Bikeshare around the corner and decided, ‘what the hell.’ I secured the sack of fruit to the front basket, jumped on the bike, pedaled down the block, and then nearly fell off the bike at the first stop sign. They say you never forget to ride a bike but they don’t say anything about forgetting to brake and stop correctly. Eight glorious minutes later (it was pretty much all downhill) I was back at my apartment feeling pretty good about myself. So good in fact, that I decided that I would bike to work the following Monday.
Monday came and went and it wasn’t until Thursday of that week until I actually got around to commuting; it took three days to convince myself that I could actually do it. So Thursday, July 21 ended up being my first day of commuting. It was also the day that the heat index reached 109 degrees. I was not a smart man.
On Thursday I woke up extra early and headed down the street to the nearest CaBi station and was dripping sweat by the time I got there. My commute had me going from the Navy Yard to the Golden Triangle area of DC and I was excited. And nervous. I had researched my route and the location of other CaBi stations along the way (I didn’t want to go beyond my 30 minutes). I was cruising along for the first mile or so. Once I got on the Pennsylvania Ave cycle track though, I began to feel a bit winded. For some reason I decided to abandon the safety of the Penn Ave track and head uphill through Chinatown. When I reach the corner of 7th and G, I stopped at the red light and did my best not to vomit on the tourists who were waiting to cross the street next to me. At that moment I seriously began to question myself. I also began to get mad for allowing myself to get so woefully out of shape. It wasn’t my fault that beer was so delicious. Anyway, I pressed onward and eventually made it to the stop near my office. It took me 29min and 43 seconds.
I was spent. My legs were dead. I couldn’t seem to drink enough water. I was tired all afternoon. And I couldn’t wait to do it again... although I did wait. Because I was sore and tired, I metro’d home that first evening and waited until the next day to ride again.
At some point the following week I rode to Capitol Hill on my home and bought a bike helmet. Between the brutal heat and physical exertion, I was dripping so much sweat that I’m pretty sure people on the street thought I was going through heroin withdrawal. I didn’t care though, I was doing something that I enjoyed and it was good for me.
In the months since my first ride I’ve noticed a number of things:
1. I have this desire to always get to work as quickly as possible now. I blame CaBi’s dashboard where I can login and check my rental time after every trip. My record is 17m 40s, in case you were wondering (you weren’t).
2. I am inching closer and closer to buying a bike but every time I do more research I’m introduced to 50 more bikes and possibilities. The task is far more daunting than I ever imagined; I don’t even know which bike shop is best for me.
3. I find myself finding reasons/excuses to go out and ride around. Whether it’s running errands or going to a friend’s place, I try to get there by bike.
4. I find myself blatantly staring at other people’s bikes all the time.
5. Contrary to every belief that I had at the beginning, my size has not hindered me at all. No one’s heckled me and many people actually like to fall in line behind me because I block A LOT of wind.
Having been to the Netherlands and Denmark, it’s clear that the US is terribly far behind in bike infrastructure but it’s also just as clear that we are nearing a tipping point—especially in DC—where visible, measureable, tangible things are happening at a staggering rate and people are taking notice. It’s a great first step and I encourage anyone who thinks they want to give biking a try to go ahead and just do it. I won’t judge you.