This will not be a long post. To cut to the chase, I am in a fair amount of pain. As to why, it’s now a pretty good time to introduce you to yet another one of my hobbies.
I was a cautious kid when I was younger, and though it kept me from ever getting stitches, there were negative consequences also. For one, I was almost ten by the time I learned how to ride a bike. And, almost as a testament to the iron horse’s ability to help me throw caution to the wind, I biked down my driveway, into the street and straight into a chain link fence at full speed only a couple months after learning how to ride. Despite (or due to?) the rocky start, I held fast to biking for the rest of my life.
My dad deserves a lot of credit for this. In addition to being a fairly seasoned road biker in his own right, the best opportunity he had to publicly shame his own son (and I mean this with affection, seriously) came from his bike hobby. When I was 13, I, like most other Jewish boys of my age, became Bar Mitzvah and had a big party. A bunch of the guests gave me money. Instead of just giving me a wad of about 500 bucks, my parents made me choose a prudent purchase with the money. I wanted a bike. Not just any bike, a big honking full suspension mountain bike.
Protip: even in the year 2000, you couldn’t buy a full suspension bike worth shit for 500 bucks. Even now, a semi-decent hardtail will run you 700 minimum. Despite seeing 2500 dollar price tags, 13 year old me was not dissuaded. So we went to Costco. Yeah, you know where this is going. I’ll give them credit, though. I bought a Mongoose with actual Shimano components, mid-range front shocks (i.e. not Rock Shox but still a brand name at the time), and somewhat competent assembly. Sure, it was heavy as all fuck and the rear suspension geometry was garbage, but I was 13 and now it was mine.
Like most ambitious ideas that required physical exertion, my idea of actually mountain biking and being badass sat in the garage next to the bike.
After about six months, my dad finds himself in Costco. His only bike at the time was an essentially bespoke racing bike he bought off of an injured former racer for a fraction of the purchase price. I’ve ridden it, it’s fantastically cool despite the (mad dangerous) retro-tech, but a trail bike it is not. So he decides to buy himself THE EXACT SAME BIKE I HAD. So my dad, 47 at the time, was going to learn how to mountain bike.
Now, my dad had taken me on bike rides before, and I usually hated them. At 12 or 13 years old, I was not a fit kid, and trying to keep up with my dad on his lightweight road bike on a big hulking mountain bike made it even worse. So when he tells me we’re going to go rip around the woods instead, I agree a little more quickly.
The first ride was an unmitigated disaster. It was February, the trail was under a terrible combination of snow and running water, and we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We came home wet, muddy, cold and exhausted, but unlike every road ride I took with my dad, I wanted to go out and do it again. Something had clicked for me.
In a not entirely unrelated burst of motivation, I ran Track in high school. I continued to bike, and got faster and faster. As I grew, my dad got older, and even though we still rode together up through parts of undergrad, I could pretty consistently leave him in my dust. The old trails in Estabrook woods seemed more frustrating than fun, more filled with impediments than cool obstacles.
Towards the end of college, I rode a bit on my dad’s road bike, since it fit me now. In grad school I bought a cross bike for commuting. When it was stolen, I bought another one. But today marked the start of something else entirely.
As of today I am travelling my 9 mile commute by bicycle.
My dad shrugged at the distance when I told him. “You’ll just be getting warmed up around ten miles,” he tells me. I am sitting at home now, my ass is in terrible pain, and I kind of wobble like jelly up and down the stairs. I can tell tomorrow will be fun for sure. But it’s not going to stop me.
You don’t start these things for how you feel on the first day. And even besides the exercise, there are other things this sort of undertaking will accomplish. Though I had thought about bike commuting before, there was one thing that cemented it for me once I signed my job offer and knew this would actually happen:
I hate, hate commuting by car.
Now hold on, you say. You love cars, you love modding, you love driving! How can this be? Simple: Manual transmission turbocharged car in traffic. I hate traffic. Hate hate traffic. Think all drivers are idiots who are trying to kill me (think that on the bike too, but at least I can go as fast as my legs will take me). Add to that equation a car which, by virtue of the same characteristics that make it amazing on an open road, is hellish to drive in traffic. Even without the money and wear and tear factors of driving the car, being able to have a performance car and not hate it 90% of the time is worth the price of admission for me.
Minus the stress of commuting by car, plus 90 miles of riding a week, plus a different relationship with the Kendall Square area by virtue of my non-car approach, I fully expect to be a different person in 2-4 months. It’ll be a really good thing. But for these next couple weeks, I’m going to bitch and moan. Don’t let me stop riding. Getting past this opening act is what will make the pain worth it