cycling · traveling

When All Else Fails, Start Over

Riding on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, feeling like a kid again on my cheap cruising bike.
Riding on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, feeling like a kid again on my cheap cruising bike.

I’ve had an amazing experience this week. After feeling demoralized and discouraged about cycling, I’ve actually re-discovered that feeling of “whee!” on my bicycle.

It was a feeling I’d all but lost, as I approached cycling with a “go further, get faster” attitude this summer. Instead of liking it more, I faced the prospect of riding with dread. Basically, I lost the desire to ride my bike.

Thankfully, this didn’t extend to my commuter bike. I’m still enjoying the simplicity of hopping on the hybrid and riding the bike path to work. The hill at the end of the ride has gotten easier and easier to climb. I am pretty sure I’m getting there faster each week that goes by.

But this week I really started over. I’m on vacation in Nevada and Arizona, headed to Burning Man, and I bought a cheap cruiser bike. It’s got no gears and no handbrakes. There’s a cute little woven basket on the front.

It’s stylish and simple. And I love it. The other day I took it for a stunning ride along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Renald and I slogged along on our $100 bicycles, up hills, down hills. We stopped at at least six different look-out points where we locked our bikes to the supplied racks so we could walk the paths to views so magnificent they seem unreal.  It was the perfect way to see the Canyon.

I had my bottle of water and a packed lunch stuffed into the little basket. And at the end of the day, when we were worn out from the sites and the climbs and the relentless sunshine, and feeling cautious of the approaching grey skies that might bring rain, we put our bikes on the front rack of a bus and it drove us back the 15 or so km to our parked vehicle.

What a brilliant day.

And that came one day after our bicycle adventure on the Las Vegas Strip, where we found a 24 hour restaurant serving an early-morning breakfast. After that the valets at Caesar’s Palace were so taken with our cruisers that they checked them for us and wheeled them into their storage room for safe keeping while we went inside to check out enormous aquarium behind the front desk.

What I’ve discovered is that I actually LOVE riding! It makes me feel free and fast and light and like I’m flying. If I can capture that feeling on a clunky cruiser, maybe I can find it when I’m riding my road bike.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that sometimes, doing less is more likely to get me where I need to go than trying to do more.

So for the rest of this vacation I’m going to enjoy my $100 cruiser. And when I get home, here’s hoping that I can sustain the joy when I get back on the road bike.

I’ve got another Olympic distance triathlon coming up on September 14 and I so desperately want to like the bike leg! But since I need to leave my cruiser in Nevada, the road bike will have to do.

5 thoughts on “When All Else Fails, Start Over

  1. I love your cruiser! I want a bike like that, one I can just ride around on without having to make it a whole damn production every time i take it outside.

    I think that you and I are realizing the same thing, which is that bike riding can be really pleasurable if done without a lot of pressure to do it a certain way. I found last week that I was running into that problem. I felt pressured by my husband to ride faster and to be more aggressive with intersections and the like, which made riding really stressful for me. I went by myself and I was fine. It turns out that riding beyond my abilities at this point in my development as a cyclist is not really a great idea. I totally accept that I need to push myself to become faster but I also think the time to do that is not now.

    Here’s hoping that when you get back home, you can bring some of this spirit to your road bike. I bet you will.

  2. What a great story, Tracy! I agree that nothing is more fun than scooting around on a cruiser bike, especially when it’s interspersed with stops, picture-taking, maybe ice cream, too. One of my favorite bike experiences was riding beach cruisers all around South Beach, Miami, with a friend– on the beach, off the beach, over to lagoons, stopping at galleries and restaurants, and having lots of fun. I wish I made more time for riding like this in my regular life; it tends to be limited to vacationing, but why not enjoy it more often and closer to home?

    re Caitlin’s comments: on vacation last week, on our last day my partner and I rode our road bikes to an Audubon preserve about 8 miles or so away, and spent an hour and a half walking on paths, trying to identify trees, searching for birds, etc. We then got back on the bikes, rode to the next town for a late lunch. Then we rode up along the beach road, fighting a headwind, but enjoying the kite boarding spectacle and stopping to admire them. Then we made our way back to the motel to pack up and take the ferry home.

    So far, so good. But after I gushed about how wonderful the day had been, he said to me, “well, if you look at our mileage, it’s very low”. I protested, but felt rather deflated and annoyed– we don’t have to ride 50 miles in order for a bike ride to count as something. Being supported in staking out a claim to multiple forms of active fun is part of why I love this blog.

  3. YES! YES! YES! I am so excited about this post. I too have a Cruiser – just one speed with back brakes. (I don’t even have a basket… yet.) I love it so much. I read everyone’s posts about road bikes, and clipless pedals and so on and I get a little overwhelmed. It sounds cool what you are all doing, but also, a little intimidating. (I just got on a bike for the first time in 24 years about a year ago.) But I love my ugly-as-sin, free-to-me, only-goes-as-fast-as-you-pedal bike. And like yours – it seems like a lot of people are taken by my bike too. I get far more compliments on it than one would expect. For me the simplicity is magical. It sounds like it was for you too. I love that.

    Who knows? Someday I may look at all the other wonderful bike options out there, but I love seeing that someone else is loving their basic Cruiser as much as I do.

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