Checking in with my bones, it seems April was colder this year than in years past. I climbed into the saddle each and every day despite rain, wind, and cold, driven by a desire to get onto the bike earlier in the year than I would otherwise.
I’m not much of a year-round rider; some friends ride 365 days a year, while others are weekday commuters and still others bundle up and bike camp in the snow, you know, just for fun. My riding pauses for the winter, as I lace up my waterproof boots and carry a hiking stick into the woods.
Spring comes, as it always does, and somehow I’m ready to ride — or I’m not, but I do it anyway.
This year, on March 31st I had breakfast with a dear friend who I had not seen in a while. (#COVID) As we were saying our goodbyes she asked: “Are you doing 30 Days of Biking this year? Are you riding tomorrow?”
How is it April tomorrow? I wondered where the first quarter of the year had gone, leaving me unprepared for 30 days of riding. The beauty of #30DaysOfBiking is distance doesn’t matter.
We’re building a muscle, creating a habit, getting our first flat tire and finding a way to fix it. We’re finding out what gear we’ve lost or broken, and seeking replacements.
We’re remembering that our rear-ends need to remember what it’s like to ride. We’re adjusting our bike seat to make it a little more comfortable. We’re breaking in a new Brooks saddle — it’s the most unforgiving leather that slowly molds to the shape of your sit bones with time, becoming the most comfortable seat you can imagine.
When the days are busy, and springtime daylight hours are especially valuable for getting the garden in order, that can mean there are a lot of evening rides. With windbreaker zipped up, lights charged, and reflective vest doing its job a night ride can be relaxing. It’s a nice way to wind down the day; I often wish I didn’t have to get up early the next morning, and I could ride much further.
Just as the midwestern world is coming out if hibernation, as we’re teased by “false spring,” finding ourselves in tank tops one day and wool sweaters the next, we realize that warmer weather is just around the corner. But it’s not here yet. It snowed this April, but I was never caught riding in or on snow; the dampness, however, made temperatures feel much colder than they were.
April is a tricky month to ride in, but that’s why we do it.
It’s uncomfortable sometimes, but that’s why we do it. If you want to get better at riding hills — ride hills! If you want to be a stronger rider — ride! If you want to be ready for the fun of 30 mile rides in May, 40 miles in June, and 50 in July — start slow, then ride longer and longer distances. If a century ride (100 miles) is a goal — there’s no better time to start than today!
So we ride, from April 1st to April 30th.
The goal is to ride outside, but sometimes this is a challenge. When traveling, it comes down to having access to a bike, proper clothing for inclement weather, and lights — to see the road at night and to be seen. When these things are lacking it’s good to know if your hotel has a bike in their modest gym.
Riding indoors, surrounded by mirrors and weightlifting machines isn’t ideal, but it “counts” as far as I’m concerned. Check the box; 30 days of biking success! Don’t forget to stretch!
The joy of riding when you travel, when it works out, is that you get to see so much more of a city than you would if you were exploring on foot. Many cities, including Washington, DC, have wonderful bike sharing available. Capital Bikeshare has bikes stationed all over the tourist areas of our nation’s capital and the network of bike options extends far. Check the website for locations, make sure you understand how the payments and bike system works before you buy a pass, and be careful to use the same credit card when you are attempting to return a bike and check out another.
Checking bikes out haphazardly in the damp dark of night can be frustrating, especially after a long day or work meetings – trust me!
Follow the rules of the road, remain visible and predictable to the motorists you’re sharing the road with, and if you ever feel unsafe get off the road and off the bike. There’s nothing wrong with docking the bike at the nearest bike station and walking (or Ubering) back to the hotel. Safety is first, and riding safely is the only way to make it fun in the long term.
At this point riding in April is a habit — thank you to my friends for reminding me, and expecting to see me on a bike every day. Even those who don’t understand why I do it appreciate that it’s good for me and boosts my spirits. It’s cold sometimes, and hard and frustrating. It’s beautiful and relaxing other times.
In the end it’s all worth it, because I’m excited to ride this summer! I celebrate with a Dilly Bar from the local Dairy Queen — cheers!
Join me on my next adventure,