I’m guilty. As a runner, I’ve scoffed at cyclists. “They are taking the easy way,” I would think every time someone on a bike zipped past, leaving me to plod on foot. But after my first week of biking to work, I’m ready to make a few concessions.
First, cycling is not as easy as it appears. It requires a different type of muscle strength and fitness. I wasn’t exactly dying, but my legs were not prepared even for the short commute. For the first few days, I couldn’t find a gear that helped me either. I was either spinning out of control or having to stand up out of the saddle.
I also thought I knew the severity of Shreveport’s street issues. I knew nothing. I’ve run through the south highlands neighborhood almost daily for several years now, so I know every pothole and crack. But slightly altering my gait to avoid twisting my ankle is a minor inconvenience. Having a bike threaten to take away any future family plan I may have each time I hit a rough spot is much more serious.
Then there are Shreveport drivers. Not only do they not look where they are going (something I’m accustomed to anticipating as a runner), they are hateful. Multiple times, sitting at a stop sign or at a light, I felt a driver’s eyes cursing me. One woman, cigarette in hand, tried to brush me off the road with a flip of her hand.
Riding with traffic was a lot more frightening than I anticipated as well. As a runner, facing traffic, there is at least a mirage of control. If something is going to hit me, at lease I can see it coming and try to leap aside. Biking with traffic brought a whole new level of fear on the road.
I quickly improved in my ability to rotate just my head to check over my left shoulder to see if anyone was behind me. The first few rides, those peaks sent my shoulders, hands, bike and entire body all right into the middle of the road. Not a good way to stay safe.
Also, aerobars are cool, and it’s fun to feel like a real cyclist. But switching back and forth can be an adventure.
Here are a few more takeaways (that should have been obvious, but I had to learn the hard way). Having the correct psi in your tires makes a huge difference. Tight turns at 12 MPH+ is dangerous. And cyclists don’t adhere to the same waving protocols of runners.
My biggest epiphany? Cycling can be a lot of fun. Especially when it’s so hot that running feels like a self BBQ. Hitting decent speeds on the bike can make the heat of the day fade into the background. Powering downhill is exhilarating. I found myself seeking out hills to conquer just so I could enjoy the flight down the opposite side.
I’m not going to bike to work every day. And I’m still far from signing up for any group rides.
But I have a new-found respect for cyclists.
Now if I can work up enough courage to clip in …