Pedaling to Joy
I have cycled since I was wee tot, using a hand-me-down bike in suburban Louisville, Kentucky.
As a teenager, I delivered papers using my super-cool 1970s bikes, the first a red & silver thing with retro wings and a headlight, then a tamer (uncool-but-practical) blue thing onto which I twisted a generator light so I could see the lawns and curbs at 4:30 in the morning.
I was so fortunate to ride along the banks of the Ohio River and all the way to Frankfort, Elizabethtown and Lexington horse country. Then in my late 20s, I ventured to the great cities of Europe including Stuttgart, Munich, Vienna, and Paris. During that European experience, it struck me that this world is much smaller than I thought, and I made a plan to leave Louisville. I wound up here in Boston.
Now I have plenty of advice to offer fellow cyclists on how to deal with the weather.
I try to bike to work three to five days a week, and in weather like this past February, not at all…
I’ve biked in steady rain. My philosophy: There’s a limit to how wet a person can get. Once you’re soaked, just relax and be wet.
I’ve biked in 90º+ heat. My philosophy: Stay hydrated
I’ve biked in freezing cold. My philosophy: Challenge yourself and make it fun. (It’s better than the T, right??) However, having to bike in temperatures lower than freezing means that I will focus more on my uncomfortable fingers, toes, and cheeks and less on the road and the joy of biking. I want to be tough, but I also have to be practical. I might allow my bike to rest a bit more often from mid-December to mid-March, because snow and ice reduce most Boston roads by half during this time. Plus, the sun sets between 4:30 and 6:00. Boston poses unnecessary hazards even on clear, sunny days.
A word about safety: I look completely dorky in my yellow and orange reflective vest, thermal apparel, ankle reflectors, and the various lights on my spokes and helmet. My helmet is as super dorky as they come, but I wear it religiously. I used to share space with Kiwanis Trauma Institute folks at Tufts Medical and they really beat it into me how essential it is to protect one’s delicate cranium.
In 2005, I took a position at Fenway Health during their Ten Stories Campaign. (Jeff Cruikshank was my colleague then, too.) They participated in a 130-mile charity ride from Boston to Provincetown. The first year I worked for them, my oldest son and I served box lunches at the pit stop. The next year, I did half the ride from Back Bay to the Sagamore Bridge on my heavy, wide-tire clunker. The past seven years, I have biked the entire way on a sleek road bike.
The past three years, I have been the co-chair for “Team Fenway” bikers and crew. My role is to motivate folks to raise more money, recruit more bikers and volunteers, and get on the road and train all summer (and perhaps build community). Our small team of 23 really “brought it” the past two years. Last year, we raised almost $50,000 and came in third place for revenue generated. I have personally raised more than $5,000 for them every year since 2012 and approximately $30,000 since 2006.
Two of the years I biked, it rained buckets. Four of the years, the weather has been the most ideal one could ever imagine: breezy, sunny, and cool, with dappled light through the mature oaks and maples along the quirky byways, and shady, cottage-settled lanes of Cape Cod, and hilly, winding Atlantic-coast roads.
Last year we had a cool start, so I didn’t even break a sweat until past noon.
Whatever the weather, I love biking with a few dear friends among a group of 300+ bikers for a shared cause, whether to raise money for public schools, homelessness, or AIDS research. But I realize I am the true beneficiary. When I am on my bike I experience pure joy.