A recent accident has meant a few months off cycling for me. As you might expect, it has been enormously frustrating, and dented both my confidence and my mood. It also got me thinking about how important cycling is to me.
Partly, it’s about having the freedom to get from A to B reasonably quickly without getting stuck in traffic, or having to find a park at the other end. (Or spend forever getting there by foot, or work around bus routes and timetables.) For most trips, I find it a convenient way to travel. And it’s relatively cheap – although I do seem to spend a small fortune on new chains, cassettes, tyres, brake pads and so on.
It’s also about being able to get outdoors and experience the wonderful environment Christchurch (and the rest of the country) has to offer. I miss my rides along the Ōtākaro Avon River and around the estuary. I miss biking out to Bottle Lake Forest and cycling along the coast to Spencerville and Brooklands. I miss the slow climb up Dyers Pass Road and riding along the Summit Road. And, while not quite as picturesque, I miss riding along the motorway via the Christchurch Northern Corridor.
Then there’s the act of cycling itself. I know it’s good for my physical health, and that’s important to me. But more importantly, I value the benefits to my mental wellbeing. Quite simply, cycling makes me feel good.
Often, getting into the rhythm of cycling frees up the mind and I resolve all sorts of decisions or problems while I’m riding. Other times, I am totally in the moment and focused on the cycling (especially on mountain bike tracks when I really don’t want to misjudge a bend and bang into a tree). And I get a real sense of achievement in riding somewhere new or making it up a particularly steep hill.
Then there are other rides where the scenery is just so awesome that it’s impossible not to take a deep breath and simply enjoy it.
I’m also mindful of the health of the environment. While it’s not my primary motivation for cycling, I do feel good about doing my bit to reduce carbon emissions. And over time I’ve increasingly looked to substitute trips across town that I might otherwise have done by motor vehicle.
Fortunately my legs are still are in good shape. So, as my injuries have started to heal, I have been able to capture some of these benefits by walking instead. I’m lucky to live a 15-20 minute walk to most services, and I work from home. Most of the routes I ride are also good for walking, and I have taken the time to walk other scenic places around Christchurch (like the Bridle Path or the beach).
But it’s not quite the same as cycling, and I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike again.
Why do you cycle? What does it mean to you?