Monday, December 22, 2014

Making Time

When talking about cycling - or, more accurately, complaining about cycling - there is a phrase I am loath to allow escape my lips. Don't get me wrong, I think it, just like everyone else; I'm only human after all. But should I catch myself about to say it, I just clamp my mouth shut and wait till the wave of frustration that brought it on crashes and dissipates safely. Because few ideas are more dangerous to articulate, more poisonous to the cyclist's delicate psyche, than this one.

"I don't have time to ride."

Like all popular false beliefs this one seduces us with its veneer of logic. Because, let's face it: Even under the best of circumstances most of us adults are ever so busy. When we aren't plagued with work, we are riddled with household responsibilities, family commitments, social obligations and miscellaneous errands. It's a testament to our superior time management skills, really, that we can manage to get on the bike at all. And then on top of that things happen. Sad things, happy things, scary things - all requiring strangely similar degrees of swift, high stress responsiveness. There are health problems and bouts of severe weather. There are work emergencies. One day the plumbing breaks and we wait for a handyman who never arrives. The next, a bear cub with an English accent is left at our door in a basket, with a note "please look after me" attached, compelling us to search for its parents while the household sinks into chaos from its merry ursine antics. In the midst of our already hectic lives these random crises erupt when we least expect them and gobble up those precious few tidbits of time that we do have to ride, compelling us to exclaim in exasperation that - while we'd love to ride our bikes, while we truly wish we could - we simply don't have the time! We then feel completely justified in wallowing in self-pity and calling those cyclists who do manage to get out "lucky."

And it's a reasonable enough stance. Except here is the thing that deep down we already know yet do not always take advantage of: Time is elastic. We've all had that paradoxical experience where, the busier we are, the easier it is to fit one more activity into our schedule - whereas had we been doing comparatively little that day, that very same activity would seem like a tremendous feat.

Time also has a way of getting lost, or misplaced - which, looking on the bright side, means it can be found. So when we really need to do a thing, we conduct a frantic search until - voila - we find the time, much as we would find loose change in the sofa cushions when pressed for money.

Finally, as the popular expression reveals (and don't be fooled into reading it as a metaphor), time can be made. When we truly want to do a thing, we make the time. We cobble it together out of scraps. We whip up a big bowl of it out of a tiny trickle until we get enough for our purposes.

Not convinced by these grand pronouncements? Well, okay, let me come down to reality a bit - and share some tactics I myself have adapted to keep riding when I don't have the time.

No ride too short
For those of us accustomed to long rides, it can be extremely difficult to switch to a mindset where, say, a sub-1 hour bicycle ride feels like it's "worth it." Our instincts tell us not to bother, to wait till we have time for a proper ride. Except if we're in the midst of a busy spell, that time may never come - particularly in the winter season, when days are short and weather is bad. Which means we'll be off the bike completely until our circumstances change. Fitness will fade, frustrations will mount, and getting back on the bike will grow more difficult with each passing day. The idea that no ride is too short is one I resisted for some time, but finally had to accept if I wanted to keep riding during a busy spell. When a multi-hour ride is not an option, even a 45 minute ride is better than no ride at all - both for my present state of mind, and for later on - so that when I do have time for long rides again, it will be easier to jump back in. To get the most out of a short spin - in terms of both fitness and maintaining interest - I try to make it more intense: do intervals, ride in a higher (or lower) gear than I normally would, climb a nearby hill. But even a meander is better than nothing. Anything that keeps me in the game.

Ignore the schedule
It may seem counterintuitive, but I've found it best not to schedule rides for specific times during extremely busy stretches. It only frustrates me, as inevitably other, important, things have a way of popping up at the last minute and taking precedence. And on days when that doesn't happen, the weather will do its best to ruin my plans. So instead, I wait till there is a gap in my day - any gap at all that promises a crisis-free 45 minutes (see above) - and just go for it. Go, go, go. Go!

Always be prepared
Which brings me to the next point. In order to take advantage of the gaps in my day and of the "no ride is too short principle," I need to be ready to go at any given moment. That means cutting down ride preparation time to an absolute minimum. To a accomplish that, I've found it helpful to employ time-saving tricks, such as: limiting my cycling clothing options to reduce decision making, keeping all accessories in one place and properly maintained, so that no frantic gathering/rinsing need take place before a ride, topping up the air in my tires before I go to bed, and storing my bicycle close to and pointed toward the exit. Basically, the goal is to reduce the time out the door to an absolute minimum, which makes short spontaneous rides more realistic.

Expanding definitions of acceptable weather
The adage that beggars can't be choosers certainly applies to the currency of time. The relationship between how hectic my day is and the type of weather I find acceptable for cycling tends to be directly proportional. Checking the forecast this morning, for instance, I was delighted to discover the wind to be a "mere" 27mph - whereas a couple of months ago I would have considered that an off the bike day. The more limited a resource time becomes, the less squeamish I am about things like rain, wind, hail, floods, locusts. I have rain gear hanging by the door, overshoes next to my cycling shoes, and fenders on my bike (see "always be prepared") - ready for any weather. And besides, once I get going it all kind of disappears anyway - as the pedals turn and the bicycle keeps its own time.

27 comments:

  1. Remember: Ride Bikes Everyday: http://explosm.net/comics/2317/

    I am amused that even your "might not be worth it" rides are still a lot longer than mine. I'm just happy to get my ~1 mile / 15 min ride on a Citibike in to and from Penn Station every day. Love to ride more of my commute but its just not feasible (at the moment?).

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  2. I laughed out loud (at work) at the melodramatic introduction but You Speak Truth. However, the only way I make the time is to schedule it. Don't wait for a gap when nothing "more important" is screaming, else it'll never happen. I put it in the diary and when the time comes, I walk away from everything else, don whatever clothing is needed (planned beforehand) and just get on my bike and go. About an hour does it. Anything longer in situations as you describe results in my head formulating justifications for being gone "so long". I don't need that head noise. An hour, I am entitled to - I don't care who's asking. That's my rule. :)

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  3. It's easy to find time for any ride but not easy to find time for THE ride.

    I ride to work nearly every day, 50 min. one way. But it's not the ride I have had in mind for some time. Longer rides to specific destinations definitely require more time.

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  4. Simple garment is an asset to save time: I prefer a cotton loose pants with a pair of clamps instead of Lycra with layer.
    L.

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  5. I completely understand this. If I did not commute to work (27 miles round trip) I would ride far less. I can justify the long rides because I am doing something useful with my time. It's true that it would take a little less than half the time to get to work driving, but then I'd be using the car etc. I would never feel right just taking say an hour leisure ride each day.

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  6. I've definitely been guilty of the "40 minutes is not worth it" routine, depending on fitness/event plans. As you say, intervals are a great way make 40 minutes feel like plenty. I also find that getting off the road and riding on grass/trail, if available, (i.e.-finding a local trail/mixed loop you can tackle with a mtb or cx bike) can help a rider reevaluate their sense of cycling time.

    Also, running/jogging (walking too!) is excellent for particularly time crunched moments--it can take some breaking in, so to speak, but can be a great adjunct to cycling.
    JG

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  7. Like some others, I made time by changing my commute. Before riding, I would run for 30-40 minutes before driving into work. Now I just run on the weekends and ride into work. What was once an 80-min morning routine (40 min run/40 min commute) is now 50min (my 8 mile -- one way -- ride into the office). True, my evening commute now takes more time, but VA/DC traffic is so unpleasant that I don't mind. But I very rarely have "fun" rides; it's almost always to get somewhere. Maybe if I could get my husband to ride, that would change.

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  8. I was just thinking this a few moments ago. We have the first sunshine after about 2 weeks of rain, and I was walking to get another cup of coffee to get me through my work day, I saw a guy riding away from from the LBS to go on a "ride". I looked on in envy as he rode off. I also haven't been on a "proper" ride in about 2-3 months due to a wrist injury and had to make due with my 8 minute, 1.5 mile commute. All your suggestions at the end are spot on and I have utilized them all to various degrees.

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  9. As a transportation cyclist, this post has little resonance with me even though i get it. Making time for our hobbies is a constant balancing act and finding suitable solutions, I suspect, is an individual thing. Being organized is wise advice. Maybe there are others like me who simply love pedaling bicycles and it never needs to be organized. When I'm stressed I'll hop on the bike for a simple bit of fresh air and a couple laps around the block. No ride is too small. Cycling to the grocery store, every day, is only two and a half miles up a little hill yet it provides pleasure and exercise. Imagine a two mile sprint up a hill! No ride is too small. You seem to be more about endurance. Decades ago I raced bikes and found it required more and more time to maintain an acceptable level of fitness. I began to hate it. Now, simply riding provides the most splendid of joys. Every day, all weather, it's healthy, it's lovely. Making time for things which are necessary for happiness is easy.

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  10. Sort of hits home with me.

    Yesterday, I was going to get out on the mountain (OK, hill) yesterday, but my son asked me to play with him. I was internally conflicted, but I will not say no to him. We got in three hours of dungeons and dragons.

    It's about choices and priorities, and I will not de priortize those around me. There are things that can "give" and if my yardwork isn't perfect (albeit still pretty good) - that will all be good when I mow over it later.

    But for issues of my wife or children, there will be no give, I will not be so selfish as to not give them of my time - whatever they wish or need.

    We had a great game. This morning I rode into work. I missed my weekend ride, but still ---- it's OK. I can read your blog and dream.

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    1. yuba mundo cargo bike... take your son with you! best thing we ever did for our family happiness levels. Now we can all go out, or just my husband and son - we ride that bike everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

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  11. Thank God for intervals.

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  12. I'm struggling to find a good way to say this but I find this post very easy to relate to. It's funny, I've never been one to exercise for the sake of exercise. As a matter of fact, I actually despise going out for a run or going to the gym, so I never do it. I'd much rather integrate my exercise into my lifestyle, which I do now, rather than setting time aside to do it. I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a naturally healthy body. As a child, the only exercise I would get is when I'd go out on rides around the neighborhood because I liked riding, but I would get bored very quickly because there's not much to see in suburban Michigan and my parents wouldn't let me go with friends.

    College started in 2013 and I became impatient with my walking speed so I rescued what I'd soon discover was a 1958 Raleigh ladies' Sports. That was the bike that made cycling into a true hobby of mine. Nothing could take me off this wonderful piece of machinery - I rode through rain, snow, and sun. Typical of myself though, I rarely went out purely for the sake of riding. I rode the bike to class and on shopping trips every day, as I still do now. Additionally, though, I'd take detours to see the city if I had even 15 minutes to spare. Because of that and my job driving the truck as the bike share technician, the rat's nest of streets that is Ann Arbor is becoming easier to navigate for me.

    When you mentioned to take advantage of rides that take less than hour, I realized those are the rides that make up most of my miles. I only average about 5-10 miles on any given day for commuting, but that amounts to about 60 miles a week which is a lot of work hauling a decked-out, 40+ pound 3-speed around hilly Ann Arbor. That's 60 more miles than I'd get if I only rode for the purpose of riding. As an architecture student, it's very hard to find spare time so I love being able to enjoy my bike and save time not having to walk or wait for the bus. Predictably, even though I'd never been "in shape" before, I became pretty fit just by riding every day. I didn't have to set aside exercise time in order to stay healthy. I didn't even ride to exercise; I rode because I loved rolling my own set of wheels (I've also been very into cars since age 4). I recently started exploring the areas surrounding the campus so I will sometimes go for 20-30 miles at a time when I get bored around midnight. I then get bored because I'm alone and it's dark and there's nothing I can see and nobody to talk to. Three nights ago, before I came home for the holidays, I got on the old ten-speed that I fixed up a few months ago and rode to the neighboring city of Dexter because I was bored at my apartment. I then got bored again on the dark, endless country road and rode back at a much faster pace. I find it so funny I have unintentionally become so in shape that what cut my ride down to only 30 miles was boredom, not fatigue. I would not have been able to do this if I didn't first get that Raleigh Sports.

    Something else that might concur with what you wrote is that I'm now sitting at home with nothing to do, yet I haven't hopped on my crummy old department-store mountain bike to go anywhere. I did explore the various neighborhoods in my town over the summer but it's harder to get myself up to ride if it's not a necessity. Plus, the bikes that I actually enjoy riding are at school, 20 miles away.

    It's hard to imagine I've only had the Raleigh for 13 months, yet it has had such a huge impact on my life.

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  13. As another poster here, I am also a transportation cyclist who happens to love cycling - since this is my means of transport I never have to plan time for riding, I am on my bike every day for work, shopping, paying bills, appointments etc and because I am already out and about I may choose to take a different route or do some cycling between commitments. On my free days I will just ride for fun, sometimes I will have a day at home on the weekend and enjoy doing other things. I never think about distance or time, I may be out on my bike for only half an hour or for several hours; I don't think I would like having to schedule bike riding, I prefer it as a lifestyle. I am always ready to ride my bike because that is how I move around and I am grateful for the independence my bike provides.

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  14. "storing my bicycle close to and pointed toward the exit"

    How funny. I have been trying to explain to my boyfriend why I need to keep my bicycle in the hallway, beside the front door (he suggests I hang it up on a wall hook in the living room). He still doesn't get it!

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    1. Just tell him your bike demands an easy exit strategy!

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  15. LOL Paddington bear reference. It sounds like there is a youngster in your life!

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    1. That is possible, though alas this youngster feels he is "too old" for Paddington the movie. Kids these days.

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  16. I am going to see Paddington with my 'better half'! And we're almost half a hundred (SAE years not Metric years!).

    Planning, I get annoyed at the transitional weather, not cold enough for the fleece tights, yet, maybe the heavier Woolie Boolie socks? Ear covering or not? Hmmm... go 2 blocks, I'll put them on. 1 mile from work? Gotta take these stupid things off....
    I have been too spooked to go out when it's wet.
    Give me hot summer when the clothing choice is easy!

    vsk

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  17. This post is the story of my life ... I struggle to find time to ride, and in winter the weather often derails my carefully laid plans. I don't mind the rain at all, but 18mph + winds are just too much for me. I am a relative beginner (I started a year ago) and I ride in parks and on river trails (in London) where the wind blows very freely indeed. As I am very petite and quite light (52 kilos) I struggle in the wind, especially on my Pashley! I make it a point to commute to a train station that is 30 minutes away by bike, so I fit in 1 hr of riding time when I go to work. I don't have a car either, so I use the Pashley for transportation too. This normally means short rides of 30-40 minutes at most, though. I would love to do more, but children and a full-time job mean i don't really have any free time. In summer I wake up at 6 am on Sundays and go for a 2 hr ride when everyone is still in bed ... like that I don't feel guilty about taking up family time. In winter, however, it gets light so late that I keep having to think about whether I want to spend Sunday morn with husband and kids or go out for a long ride on my own ... sometimes I do take the bike and head off, but I am always conflicted about it. I will try and make more time for riding this year!!

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    1. Don't worry, there will be time in the future when you will have more time for yourself - maybe some 'things' should not take precedence over your bike time but 'some ones' perhaps should - enjoy your time with your family, your children will grow up quickly enough. I think just ride your bike when you are totally comfortable to do so, you will enjoy it so much more, don't let it become a matter of conflict for you, there is enough pressure in life. The day will come when you can ride out without a backward glance :)

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  18. Bear cub: Having lived in the American West, and a reader of very few blogs, except yours and Coyote Diaries, for a moment, I thought I was in the wrong blog. Merry Christmas! Love your writing

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  19. Oh my, we all know some of the words to this song. You sing a version with slightly different, but still depressing lyrics, though your chorus is more uplifting and hopeful than the tedious plaintive moan we sing around here.

    My life is an ongoing, ever frantic battle to try to keep this in some sort of balance. Winter is usually a time where I can make some progress and catch up on things that get out of control over the other 3 seasons, but this year I've been riding much further into the winter and letting myself get lured into other peoples projects way too much("Got an hour to slip by and help me hook up a new gas range?" he asks, neglecting to tell me there has never been a gas range in that house and the path to achieving it runs through 50 feet of 14" crawl space HELL two more trips to the plumbing supply and another thousand hours to go you fiend I wish you read this blog I'm screening your calls for the rest of my life you can cook over a fire of broken dreams in a pot on the floor for all I care) so I'm far, far from being squared away for winter. A really sweet retired couple from church just reminded me for the 2nd time that I agreed to fix the handles on the Foosball table they keep for their grand kids. I'm afraid I may have to push them down a well to get out of that one...


    Last year after opening gifts and a really epic, heroic breakfast, I spent the rest of Christmas day building a replica retro-direct bicycle from junk I'd been hoarding, it was nice to wander up and down the stairs, alternately hanging out with my family and leisurely messing around with that project. What a pleasant way to spend the day and make that Christmas memorable for something besides carbohydrate poisoning. This Christmas I was planning to build some sew-ups for the old Raleigh International I've been tinkering with so I could ride it on the club New Years ride. Alas, it looks like tomorrow will have to be spent dismantling the "Collyer Bros. Living History Exhibit" I've created in my basement since last Christmas. You cannot actually see my truing stand, you can only just make out the near end of the bench to which it's bolted, the rest is just rolling hills and gentle valleys of innertubes, tools and firewood. There could be a dead man lying under there and no one would ever suspect a thing.

    The bright side of all this is that it's been caused partly by skiving off to go ride my bike more than usual, and I have to say, it's been a better, more glorious year because of it. I'm happier, a little skinnier(well, less Orson Wells-y) and probably kinder, if not to other peoples Grandparents, at least to my Family.

    Good post...

    Spindizzy

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    1. Where can I see photos of your life? And your bikes? You spin a good story and I'd like to see it illustrated. Merry, Merry!

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    2. So I've never really done any social media or anything like that (except for checking out this blog everyday and a couple of other bike related sites once or twice a week), partly because I'm really analog and getting up to speed with all the digital stuff is sort of daunting and partly because it's always seemed like there had to be a reason for it besides just the whole "LOOK at ME" sort of thing (which I'm sort of prone to in too many other ways). But I actually am almost finished with updating/creating a site for my Bike Rack business that will have a bunch of pictures of my bikes and stuff and a place for an occasional blog-y type post or essay. I think it's going to be called Red Barn Classic Bikes or something like that, my friend Ben is working on finishing that end of things now and BELIEVE ME, when it's ready, you'll hear about it. I won't be able to shut up about it.

      It's all Velouria's fault. I never looked at blogs until one day I was on-line searching for a Sturmey Archer assembly diagram and stumbled on this site, I never made a bike rack until she mentioned she couldn't find one for her DL1 and I thought that sounded like a lark and I hadn't written anything longer than an apology for a belated birthday card since dropping out of college 25 years before. And of course she is sort of inspirational in her dashing about back and forth across the Atlantic, riding neat bikes and making a zillion cool friends wherever she goes. I think we'd all like to go ride around Vienna and Ireland and Boston and those sort of places, and if we could do it with people like "Ant Bike Mike" and Emily O'Brien and the "Fixie Pixie" and get a letter from Justine and Jim and Corey and all those folks once a week or so, wouldn't that be grand? Even screwing around with bikes gets boring after awhile if you just do it by yourself, much more fun hanging out with all the other cool kids and this is a pretty swell place for that...

      Spindizzy

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  20. "As the pedals turn and the bicycle keeps it's own time".

    I like that sentence very much.

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