For the month of April, I signed on for the 30 Days of Biking challenge. It’s as simple as it sounds: you register at www.30daysofbiking.com and pledge to ride your bike every day, then share updates via social media. This is my half-time (plus a few days) progress report.
Since I’m a regular cyclist anyway, 30 Days of Biking has been less about motivation than about tuning in to the ride – exploring the particular engagement with the world that this mode of transportation and recreation affords and that I love best about it.
Like many participants, I’ve found that documenting my rides has helped anchor each day in time and place. For example, Sunday was Day #17, and in a small homage to one of my favorite photographers, Edward Burtynsky, I paused on my ride across the George Washington Bridge to capture the topography along with its lilliputian populous (above).
Exhilaration of Engaging with Nature
On the New Jersey side of the bridge, with miles of time on the ride to Piermont, New York, I reflected on the differences between how the cyclists and the motorists on Route 9W were experiencing the road that day — not in a smug way, just as a matter of contrast, and in appreciation of the exhilaration that accompanies interaction with the elements. I thought:
If I’m in a car, I’ll probably notice the bright blur of spring forsythia along the highway. But I won’t see cherry blossom petals pressed like pink confetti into the blacktop beneath my bicycle tires. While traveling inside a car, I’ll hear the radio or my mobile phone, but not the rush of the roadside stream, whipped up by last night’s storm, or the weird chirps and croaks from the wetland creatures that populate the Sparkill. In a car, my road is smoothed by sophisticated suspension, and conquering a hill is a simple matter of pressing an accelerator; on my bike, each incline registers on muscle and breath, and the wind, depending on which direction I’m traveling, is either conspirator or foe. The smoky smell of bacon issuing from the roadside deli? That’s not something I’ll be likely to savor from my car either.
And so it went — one ride, one photograph, one set of thoughts — among 18 days so far.
Maybe They’re on to Something
On April 1, I smiled when I read the following message in the #30daysofbiking twitter stream: “But I already ride my bike every day. Have I been doing something wrong?”
Whether intended or not, the writer’s comment highlights a certain artificiality in set-ups like 30 Days of Biking. But so what? The point is to plant people on bike saddles, to encourage them to soak up the fun and adventure of the road and to share it with a broader community.
It’s been fun to view fellow participants’ photos of far-off mountaintops and rural vistas, to read messages about coffee runs, supportive friends, dropped chains and toughing it out through wind and rain. Here in the #bikenyc twitter stream, recent messages about 30 Days of Biking have focused on trips to ballet classes with daughters, sore hamstrings and road rash, multi-borough hops and biking to bagel joints.
The organizers, Patrick Stephenson and Zachariah Schaap, cycling enthusiasts from Minneapolis who wanted to encourage biking among their friends, report that almost 2,000 people from across the country and around the world registered — triple last year’s number. I think they’re onto something…
Are you participating in 30 Days of Biking? What’s been your favorite ride so far?