June 18, 2019
Don’t be a Cyclist – Just Ride a Bike
I enthusiastically embrace biking in all its forms. Still, I often find the rituals surrounding ‘serious’ rides a deterrent to hopping on a bike more often. Sure, there is a place for the ubiquitous padded shorts, stiff clip-in cycling shoes and a purpose-built bike (road, gravel, cross, urban, trail, enduro, downhill, any I’ve missed?), but it’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget how instinctively practical, healthy, and fun riding can be.
I appreciate the grit and resilience it takes to challenge a long bike commute in Calgary, but incorporating a bike into the daily routine doesn’t need to be an ‘all-or-nothing’ event. Ever try a ‘hybrid commute’? I throw my bike in the car, park near work (for free), and pedal the rest of the way on a bike-friendly route. Elevated heart rate, fresh air, and a clear mind — it’s a no-sweat ride in casual work clothes. I get to be ‘one less car’, and the motivation to ride further distances comes naturally. A lock and my helmet are all I really need.
I recently used Vancouver’s ‘Mobi’ bike-share program on a four-day trip – no car required. I was surprised at the low cost and convenience of a ‘borrowed’ bike (1400 bikes distributed across the city at 143 docking stations). Calgary’s phase one ‘lime’ bike-share program has 375 electric-assisted dockless bikes, accessible with a phone app. No stress of ownership, no lock needed, and best of all, no pressure to look or be fast! The bikes are comfortable for shorter distances, and utilitarian to a fault — I’ll argue that makes them cool. Bike-shares (and well-designed bike routes) make a strong case for trying active forms of transportation.
On quiet roads north of the city, or at Nose Hill park, easy multi-surface rides with family or friends offer panoramic views of the Foothills and the Rockies. My preferred routes minimize interaction with cars, like quiet streets/secondary roads, dedicated bike lanes, scenic greenways, and the city’s pathway system. Exploring vibrant neighbourhoods, visiting a new small business, or just peoplewatching always provides some urban inspiration.
The mountains are always beckoning me to come and ‘shred’ technical singletrack, or make snowy tracks on a fat bike — these are truly motivating rides. Admittedly, I rely on fitness gained from urban rides to help me suffer less on big climbs. I might even rent a bike-box and visit a biking destination with the money saved on parking and gas. Still, I encourage myself to keep things simple: padded shorts, technical clothes or fancy shoes are always optional. Whether around-the-block, or ‘epic’, those moments on two wheels help me find the right amount of momentum in life — I find challenge and comfort in that.
So when I’m asked “what kind of riding…” my answer is that bikes are my tool for living well, staying active, and enjoying more of life. Whatever the reason to bike, just grab one and go.