Commuter Corner: The Small Stuff

As a writer for a bicycle club, I think a lot about the benefits of bike commuting and how to pitch them to new and returning cyclists. In that process, I often find myself listing off the same true, but sometimes predictable reasons – it’s good for the environment, it’s good for your health, you save money on gas, it’s fun, etc.

But I realized something: the reasons I started bicycling aren’t the same as the reasons I continue to bike. The health, environmental and financial benefits are happy side-effects, for sure, but they aren’t the things that come to mind when I think about why I truly love bike commuting.  

What keeps me riding? There are potent moments, these micro-interactions on the trail that refill my enthusiasm for cycling, even on drizzly mornings. Here are a few of my favorites:   

When a bicycling friend takes the long way home so you can keep riding together

There’s something about riding bikes that’s conducive to great conversations. And they’re even better when they don’t get cut short. It’s a small sacrifice for a friend to make, but one that’s surprisingly impactful. This is the two-wheeled equivalent of catching the next bus or ordering dessert.

Realizing you didn’t use your granny gear to get up a hill

As the work-week rolls on, it’s easy to feel sluggish and worn down on your commute. But every once in a while, I can tell I’m actually getting stronger as a cyclist. Maybe it’s toughing it out on a hill I usually have to walk up, maybe it’s doing a steady incline in my big chainring—small, but unexpected victories.

Unspoken trail friends

We’ve all got these. They’re the people doing your reverse commute that you see every morning, often in the same spot. There’s something great about knowing I’m running late because I see the beardy guy with aviator goggles earlier in the ride than usual. It’s a unique kind of social connection. Plus it’s fun to make up backstories for them.

Hitting all the traffic lights just right

But do you know what can be even better? Red lights just long enough to shed a layer. Bicycling has made me more of an optimist in this way. Sunny mornings are great, drizzly ones are refreshing. Detours are a chance to see my commute with fresh eyes. As a driver, I’m easily frustrated, but as a cyclist, I’m a zen master. 

If you’re considering bicycle commuting, you probably already know the compelling reasons there are for starting up. But my advice? Just try it. It’s a different way of seeing and experiencing what’s familiar. And that, more than anything, is why I still love riding a bike.