Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Non-Cycling Day


Neighbour:  You out on the bike today?

Me:  Oh no, not today.

Neighbour:  [looks at me quizzically] Sure you are!

Me:   Nah. Working from home today. And doing some spring cleaning.

Neighbour:  But... you're on your bicycle right now!

Me:  Hm?... [glancing down at my feet, which are rotating the pedals in slow motion as I hover to chat with him.] Oh! No, I just needed to post a letter.

For all of us there are bound to be days off the bike. For me these are days when I work entirely from home, and also take a break from sporty or leisure rides. That is not to say, though, that I don't touch a bicycle at all - I mean let's not get carried away here. At some point I might nip out to the shop down the road, or to check on something at the other end of the field if I'm too lazy to walk. But the distances are negligible. And while I don't keep a milage diary, even if I did I would not bother recording such trips.

In a way I guess that kind of thinking makes sense mathematically, if you think of it as rounding down distances under 1 mile to zero. So if, say, to the post office is 0.8 miles each way, that makes it really zero miles each way. And then of course, zero plus zero is once again zero. Ergo, nipping down to the post office is "not cycling."

But of course, that's a funny kind of logic. And my neighbour's reaction made me suddenly aware of its absurdity. It also made me curious what my "non-cycling" milage might be had I actually tallied it up. After all, that run to the post office was my 4th time out that day!

So, just for kicks, I counted. Let's see...There was the posting of the letter. Before that I'd run out of carpet shampoo. At some point earlier I'd gone to buy eggs form the farmer next door. Then later in the day I took a break to photograph a fallen tree in a nearby field...  And after that...

When I counted each fragmentary spin without negating it, all in all, the distance added up to 8.4 miles. Sure, that's not a lot in the course of a day. And the individual trips were so low-key as to be nearly effortless. Still, not bad for a day off the bike!

Mulling over these "non-cycling" rides, my eye fell on some left-over scraps of cloth from a sewing project and I could not help but observe a similarity. A pile of fabric scraps is not the same as one intact piece of cloth of equal measure. The scrap heap hasn't the same structure, or function, or, one might even say, usefulness. Nevertheless each scrap is a solid and real thing, no matter how tiny. And though when gathered the scraps lack the properties of the intact cloth, they form a character of their own - accumulating an undeniable heft and forming a colourful, unique mosaic. The scraps are not zero. They exist, each interesting in its own right, each a remnant of that day's experience.


29 comments:

  1. I have the same experience - adding up the distance I cycle on "non-cycling" days can be 5-10 miles.

    For me, one thing that differentiates "cycling" from "non-cycling" days, is clothing.

    On a "non-cycling" day when I cycle to the shops or meet up with friends in the area, I never wear bike clothes but dress for the destination.

    For "cycling" days involving commuting or leisure ride, I change into cycling clothes for the trip.

    I do tend to use a GPS app on my phone to record "cycling day" rides but I never record "non cycling" days.

    Maybe for some people there is an equivalent to the "If a tree falls in a forest...." question. "If a bike ride isn't on Strava..."

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    1. For me it's not really a sport vs transport thing, but probably more about the interaction of distance and terrain. For instance, I commute in ordinary clothing for distances of 5-12 miles one way. And although those rides are solely transportational and I don't try to go fast, I certainly feel them. The terrain and weather conditions take a toll over that distance, and my body definitely feels the milage. On the other hand, when I go on multiple sub-1 mile jaunts staying close to the house, there are no hills involved and the weather can only attack me in small doses. So the sum of the tiny trips is not as taxing as the one longer trip, even should they add up to the same distance.

      Funny about strava; I have seen people genuinely upset having forgotten to turn it on. "Oh great, that counted for nothing!"

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    2. What about multiple one to two mile jaunts? There's always a hill or incline not so far from my home so just going for these short trips means something to my sixty year old body. It's exactly two miles to the grocery store and I can get my heart rate to max quite easily and I'm quite glad. I guess all is relative as to whether it matters (the miles) so YMMV…;)

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    3. I never think in terms of 'cycling and non-cycling days' - though it would be a rare day that I would not use my bike - and my cycling includes commuting (work and shops) and leisure, which I think of as 'free' riding simply because there are no time constraints or other activities involved.
      I don't tally time or distance at all, apart from being aware of the time on my return home - can't imagine thinking my ride "counted for nothing" because I hadn't turned on a Strava - that is priceless.

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  2. kind of like the days of our lives where nothing monumental happens. Still, each day is precious.

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  3. A patchwork quilt of health and wellbeing.

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  4. Funny for me the non-sporting cycling trips are the ones I count, the leisurely/sporting trips not so much, because they are so few and far between. But that to me is a good thing, these days I get as much satisfaction out of making my time on the bicycle productive as I do just having fun. -Mas

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  5. on a more banal level, I tend to tally the walking miles and wonder why I'm not loosing weight? I mean 8 miles is a third of a marathon, almost. the problem for me is that im often too numbed or blue to really tune into the experiential part unless im on a bike. London is grim a lot of the year - passing walking speed really grim, passing car speed non existent 9but still grim), cycling is about the only good enough half surreal in-between at which it can feel OK.

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    1. I've been a "walker" since I can remember, and it's never resulted in weight loss. My fitnessy friends would say that it's about intensity rather than duration and would probably tell you to quit all that walking and do 30 second sprints instead! But where would be the fun in that.

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  6. Your neighbor was correct. The eyeball test is if one is on the bike it's a bike day. I don't understand it any other way. Just like walking, nothing is negligible, movement adds up and accumulates. Having just one bike, which is equipped with a cyclometer, and also working from my home it's amazing to see how many miles have piled up. Most the miles are errands and strangers tell me they see me everywhere on the bike. So it's not like I record the miles in a milage log but after four steady years of working from home and patching together little trips I'm up to fourteen thousand miles! I'm surprised you, of all people, would think these little excursions are meaningless. You should strike the phrase 'non-cycling day' from your mind or 'meaningful miles' or any other such notion.

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    1. love the idea of "the eyeball test" for whether one is cycling : ))

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    2. I agree, Anonymous. It's all cycling, and a mile is a mile. I don't see any reason to decide who is or isn't a "real cyclist" and which miles do or don't count. I don't count as a cyclist among those who do it mostly for sport, but I put on more miles per week than almost any of them. That's real enough for me.

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    3. It's really not about good vs bad cycling, but about subjective sensations of distance and "being away" in general.

      If we disconnect this from bicycles per se, an alternative way to put what I have described here would be that there are some days when I feel like I've stayed home all day, despite being out on short tiny trips multiple times. It just so happens that for me being out - whether it is for utility, sport, leisure, or no reason at all - automatically implies bicycles are involved.

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    4. Yes, rather like the concept of a 'day off work', when in fact you may do many things and in fact be busier than when at work, but subjectively it is still a non-working day.

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    5. Ha yes. And although this is unrelated, I am reminded of - not sure whether it's the same in Europe - the American concept of "needing a vacation after one's vacation."

      [This is why I never go on "vacation"!]

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    6. I think that concept would apply here in Australia too - people often complain about how exhausting their 'holiday' was and it seems they don't always quite measure up to expectation. I love to holiday at home.

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    7. A non-cycling day, for me, is truly a day when I don't venture out on my bicycle and believe me it's notable. Which is to say, cycling is so intwined with my daily breathing that on the rare day I don't get out the door and pedal about something feels off, wrong, worrisome, empty…..Some days of depression keep me shut in and forgetful and unhealthy….I don't think about cycling on good days because it's what makes the day good.

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  7. There is a very simple differentiator that I use for this distinction...

    Was the purpose of the bike ride 'to ride a bike' or was it something else which just happened to involve riding a bike?

    I'm pretty particular about recording my rides (mostly for the stats-geekery as it's nearly all private), and the last 4 years worth tells me I average 320 days a year where I 'ride a bike', but I think only 150-200 of those would have been 'cycling days'

    There is of course a pretty grey area around tasks or errands that need to be run, but could easily (perhaps more easily!) be completed by car, but where you choose to use the bike instead, like the time I ended up doing 3 back-to-back runs with all 4 panniers + a full trailer carrying things to the local recycling centre during a house clearance, I'm pretty sure that would have been a quick and simple single trip in the truck, and my legs would certainly have thanked me for it but instead I got a 20mile workout and had the extra fun of seeing the guys at the centre chuckling each time I turned up.

    However you want to classify it, a day where you get to ride a bike is a good day.

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  8. An odd conversation, an odd dynamic. No one states the obvious when in car or while walking. Too bad those who use a bicycle are considered different enough to draw that kind of question as if its only purpose is some sort of dedicated means of exercise. Or maybe it's odd that you must somehow view it as such, like it's officially a bike ride if only certain criteria are met. Or maybe you were just so distracted and focused with spring cleaning chores that you simply didn't register that you got on your bike, like always, just like putting on shoes when walking! No matter, I guess, the incident caused a moment to ponder and blog ;)

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    1. > No one states the obvious when in car or while walking.

      Funny you say that, as it makes me aware there are cultural differences at play. People around here would say something similar were I in a car or walking. "You away for the day then?" might be a sort of greeting when one sees a neighbour heading off in a car. It is indeed stating the obvious, but it's just chatter - an alternative to the hello/how are you.

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    2. You have very neighborly neighbors there :)

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  9. Those scraps all add up. My commute is about 1 mile each way, but I usually come home for lunch, so I average about 4 miles/day. I also ride 4-5 days a week, most weeks of the year. So by the end of the year, I've accumulated about 800 miles! not too bad considering...

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  10. Do you digitally alter your photos? This one is confusing.

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    1. I adjust things like colour balance and exposure on most photos, but don't alter the actual images.

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  11. You've probably seen this already….
    http://bikeyface.com/2016/03/18/habit-loop/

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    1. Only saw it after you posted the link. Psychic velo-energy!

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  12. Bicycles are just terrific - cycling to post the letter is so much faster than walking and a trip to the shops means the bike can take the weight of your shopping. All the little trips must add up to hundreds of efficient miles over the year, none of which have caused pollution and all of which are far less likely to have squished the local wildlife. Win win for everyone!

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    1. Agree so much - bikes are fast and efficient, at the same time they provide exercise and an opportunity to take in some fresh air - and they are wild life friendly :)

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