Citius, Altius, Sapientius: Bicycle Commuting

By Brenda Clough
Activity does not come naturally to me.  Turning pages is about as much work I really like.  So for years and years I did nothing except what daily life called for.  Of course toting toddlers, loading and unloading groceries, and executing elaborate paint jobs upon house walls is not exactly the life of a hothouse flower, but it doesn’t count.  Physical activity apparently has to be more.  (This week Vogue Knitting has a bumper sticker that reads, If knitting were exercise you could bounce a quarter off my ass.)

Even turning 50 had no impact on my indolence.  What got me going was the price of gasoline.  When it first got to over $4 a gallon, about 3 years ago, that was enough.  I began to bicycle to work.  Every bicycle commute trims 20% off my weekly commuting costs, yes? A financial factor is far more influential than any other, for me!

And bicycle commuting is so much fun — much more fun than commuting by car.  I am lucky enough to have a trail connecting my two destinations, and to work in a ground-floor office.  So I never deal with car traffic and don’t even carry a lock — I can roll my bike in by my desk.  It is about 7.5 miles each way, which makes for a nice 15 mile ride.  I have gradually increased my bike commutes to two or even three days a week, weather allowing.  The only thing that stops me is weather — there is no real way to bike over ice.  I have seen box turtles, rabbits, a coyote pup (unless it was a fox), and snakes.

For a year or so I used my son’s bike, he being away at college, but I soon prevailed upon Santa to bring me my own. I have a wicker basket attached to the back (think the Wicked Witch of the West, kidnapping Toto at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz movie) to carry the daily paper. I have accumulated many amusing accessories and accoutrements, like an Ipod Nano and a red biking miniskirt. It obviously enhances safety, to have vivid clothing, and I am now on the lookout for neon green or yellow ankle socks.

The amount of bicycling I do doesn’t seem to have any weight-loss benefits; I would probably have to seriously train to get lean and whippet-like.  But my lower half is indeed more toned; if the quarter doesn’t bounce at least it doesn’t sink in and get lost!

My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Press.

I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies, including our latest, Beyond Grimm.

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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Citius, Altius, Sapientius: Bicycle Commuting — 11 Comments

  1. Why does this posting leave me conjuring an image of a homeless guy coming up to you when you’re on your bicycle and asking, “Got any quarters?”

  2. Exercise often causes you to eat more calories so as to maintain weight. Losing weight therefore often requires keeping an eye on that.

  3. Weight loss is a mug’s game; I don’t think that anything you really can do will achieve it. (There was a recent New York TIMES magazine cover story on the futility of it.) Nothing you do -counts-; it’s always receding before you and you have to do -more-. I quote Jerry Pournelle: Ye flipping gods, I have books to write.

  4. I’m glad that you’ve discovered the joy of cycling. It is the second best form of psychotherapy! Add just a few more miles to your ride, repeated 3 to 4 times a week, and you’ll definitely see the weight loss.

  5. Yes, often financial considerations are what it takes to get us to do things that are good for us. Whenever I flinch at the price of wild salmon, I remind myself that it’s cheaper than bypass surgery.

    I’ve been thinking about getting a bike so I can zip into town (it’s a mile and a half each way, so running an errand takes around an hour with errand-time). I’m a terrible bicyclist, erratic and apt to panic, but there’s a back road I can take, and then walk the bike a few blocks to bank and post office. But first I have to cause a bike to materialize…

    • Wish you lived closer to me. I have a bike I’m not using that I’d sell cheap. If I decide to bike again, I’m going to get an old-fashioned girl’s bike so that I can step through to the other pedal and not have to throw my leg over.

  6. Deb, is there a Freecycle group in your area? That’s where to go to get free items; at mine bicycles turn up (in various states of disrepair) often. Another possibility if it is in your area is the Zipcycle thing — renting the bike by the hour.
    Unfortunately it’s not easy to carry large heavy items on a bike, and acquiring racks/panniers/backpacks is a chore.

  7. I used a bike as my main form of transportation for several years in my younger days, but while I was in good shape, I never lost any weight from biking alone. Running causes me to lose weight, and a combination of running and biking did wonders for my aerobic conditioning and weight. But I can’t run these days — too hard on my knees and ankles.

    Martial arts training has never helped me lose weight either. Might have something to do with the fact that drinking beer after practice is an important ritual.

    OTOH, all that activity makes you healthier, regardless of what the scales say.

  8. It sounds like cycling is great for your mental health! 15 miles is nothing to sneeze at. I love meandering in woodsy / trailsy areas for exercise – you see such interesting things and it’s great for getting into a dreamy, stream-of-consciousness mindset that is great for working through story ideas.

    • …there is a profound sense of freedom and escape whenever you mount your bike and set off on your favorite trail; I now know how birds feel. And, as you leave the mundane world behind, your autonomic nervous system connects to the shift levers, brakes and pedals, as you and your bike becomes one thing.
      If you stick with it, your normal resting heart rate will decrease 30 – 40 beats per minute (the famous Spanish Tour de France winner, Miguel Indurain had a resting heart rate of 25 bpm). Gradually, you’ll experience a tremendous feeling of calm, tranquility and focus in your life as your mind is soothed by a sea of endorphins. Unfortunately, the price of this Zen-like state is pretty high; 100 – 200 miles of training every week; something few of us have the time or discipline for. But, it is a wonderful thing.

  9. Today is Bike To Work day in the DC area. It is also the Nebula Awards weekend. Although I signed up for the weekend long ago, it is not really possible to bike to the Nebs — I have to carry books to the Mass Book Signing this evening, and it’s just too bulky. Also, what about the evening gown I have to wear tomorrow? No, it can’t be done. But I did pop out very early to pick up my commemorative tee shirt, and I won a bike bag at the raffle!