Spoke Talk: The challenges of commuting
Norma Ruth Ryan
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
So, put down your coffee and take a seat.
I think mountain biking is ridiculous.
Biking uphill is unmitigated torture, and downhill seems like a fast, awkward way to get myself killed in nature.
Still sitting? Good: I don’t care about powder days, either. I’d rather grab the nearest cat and book and sit by a fire in a sweater.
This isn’t to say I don’t love our outdoor sports culture — I truly do, and I appreciate it. Steamboat trails are as pretty as they are because people care a whole lot about riding, biking, cruising and generally spending time in nature, supported by organizations like Routt County Riders and the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund.
Though one trait I might share with many of you athletic go-getters is that I’m incapable of turning down a good dare. I’ll try anything twice. If you dare me to run a half-marathon, I’m going to do it. I have no idea how, but I’ll do it. How many miles is that again?
Softball? I know nothing about it, but, hey, can I borrow your mitt?
Want to bike 2,019 commuter miles in 2019?
And so here I am, a very unassuming daily bike commuter with nearly 1,400 miles clocked since April.
Here are three things that have surprised me about biking daily:
- I actually like it, and it’s not just about how unspeakably cool I feel now that I can ride no-handed. Sure, it takes a little longer to get somewhere, but I feel less restricted on my bike. I get more time in my day to myself, and my therapist said the symmetry of using both sides of the body rhythmically and equally, as with biking, is good for physical and mental health.
- I’ve improved my time management skills. Knowing it takes 16 minutes to get to work via Lincoln Avenue or 18 minutes via the Yampa River Core Trail has added an element of planning and regimen that I didn’t know I needed in my life. I’ll still try to cram in that critical extra 75 seconds of sleep in the morning, but I’m much better at mapping my day out knowing how rigid travel times will be on bike.
- Drivers are, mostly, wonderfully respectful. Maybe I pay too much attention to a certain Facebook group that has many, many bones to pick with road cyclists, so I was nervous about getting honked at, edged off the road or worse. But, other than the occasional coal roller (why though? Just … why?), drivers are courteous and patient by moving over as much as is safe to give me some room or letting me in to turn or cross.
I have a new appreciation and respect for biking in all its forms, the drivers that make it safer and the folks that support me, especially those fine folks at Steamboat Springs Police Department that got me through that rookie digger back in May when I came in too hot on a scoria-covered street corner.
I’m excited to see how I bag the last 619 miles of my commuter challenge before the snow flies, though I’ll leave the technical stuff to you gearheads.
Unless you dare me.
Norma Ruth Ryan is a city of Steamboat employee and avid bike commuter.
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