Are we home yet?: How cycling changes your perception of distance

imageDriving home from Toronto the other day I realized again just how my sense of distance has changed since I started riding. I think of “home” as places within my riding range. So Westchester Bourne totally counts as home even though I don’t take that exit. It leads to Belmont and Nilestown, frequent cycling destinations.

Over time of course that range has changed. I remember laughing one time because I realized that a corner I once struggled to ride as far as now counted as “almost home.” Ilderton and Vanneck is still about 25 km from my home and at one point there and back was my longest ride. In fact, the first time I encountered that intersection I’d driven my car to the edge of town first with the bike on a rack on the back.

But now? Now I think of that final 25 km–10 of which is noodling on the multi-use pathway–as pretty much home. There’s only 15 km of fast riding left. And then a slow noodle…

I love how cycling has connected to me to the network of country roads, small towns, and coffee shops and diners around London, Ontario.

How about you? Do you know the names of all the small towns and coffee shops within a 100 km range of your home town? How far from home starts to feel “almost there”? 

6 thoughts on “Are we home yet?: How cycling changes your perception of distance

  1. As an urban cyclist this is also true. When driving a car, you usually think that the distance from A to B is quite long, and because of this, you drive a car. When you ride your bike, you realise that A and B are closer than you expected. Sometimes, my current thought is A and B are so close that is not worth to ride the bike, I would rather walk.

  2. A few months ago I rode from my house to my in-laws. I got a bit lost and stopped at a gas station for directions. The attendant determined I was about 6 miles (10 km) from my destination. “That’s a hell of a long way on a bike,” he said. I didn’t tell him I was already 48 miles into my ride, so “just 6 more” was a relief. I was almost there!

  3. On my cycle commute home from work there’s a set of traffic lights at the top of a long drag. They are exactly five miles from my house. I always feel I’m on the “home stretch” once I ride through those lights!

  4. I regularly ride to my In-Laws who live in Toronto, so all the signs on the 401 ( when I have to travel by car) tell of places which are “almost home”.
    In 2014 I rode a 1000km brevet from Toronto to Ottawa and back to Toronto. Later that summer we went to the family lake house in New Hampshire via the 401 through Quebec. Almost every sign between Toronto and Ottawa mentioned a town or place I biked through and brought a flood of nostalgia.

  5. I know some of the smaller towns outside of Calgary, but not all. Sam, you should try cycling from 1 big city …out in the prairies. It’s a very different thing compared to southern Ontario where there are way more cities, towns and villages with landscape broken by rolling hills and forest.

    Calgary is a sprawly city and dispiriting when going through the suburbs. It’s like cycling through Mississauga…if you aren’t cycling on the Waterfront Trail from downtown Toronto…which is what I used to do often.

    Going around the edges would be 100 km. or more in Calgary. In Toronto I’ve made up my own solo rides where I did do 100 km. within the city boundaries. Same for Metro Vancouver.

    What is startling is how drivers who give directions if vaguely lost, will say to lost cyclist: “It’s only 20 min. away.” Yup, right…it ends being a 1 hr. or more trip…especially if the car was speeding at 60-100 km. /hr.

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