Health & Well-Being

Hey, Look Around You

Hey, Look Around You

One summer evening in the beginning of August, I was spinning home alone along Marine Drive in West Vancouver after a hot, hard and hilly 110 kilometer ride to Squamish and back. I had just separated from my riding buddy and I had 30 kilometers to go, my legs felt like jelly and I was having delusions of ice cream and strawberry milkshakes from White Spot. I was still relishing my ride of solitude (something you appreciate as a cyclist to escape the busyness of everyday life) but I had no intentions on hammering it home, so that evening, I was doing something that I unfortunately don’t do enough of: looking up and soaking in my surroundings. I’ve been on this route dozens of times and was familiar with every hill, pothole, a dip in the pavement, and when the tree-lined roads would suddenly curve and open up to sprawling water views…

But that evening, I recall looking up and not recognizing anything. Did I somehow take the wrong exit because I was lethargic and hungry for real food? Not to mention, my phone was dead and I forgot to bring the inflator for my CO2 cartridges if I were to get a flat (I would have been epically screwed). Moments of panic settled in as I searched for recognizable sights. No, I was sure I was going the right direction because there was only one way to get home and it was straight. I think. I kept on riding anyway.

It dawned on me that even though I have ridden this particular road back and forth countless times, I was always on autopilot because the goal was always to get to the destination, maybe grab a coffee, loop around and go home. Typical training route with no traffic lights, minimal cars, great views (when you do glance up) and absolute freedom. I thought I knew the the way well but I guess I barely knew it at all. And although I do usually glance up from time to time, I have never actually immersed myself in its details because I was too busy catching my breath— the houses, the driveways, the intersections, the school… those were usually blurry forms that may swiftly materialize in your peripheral vision as you ride by, lost in your own suffering.

Suddenly, an opening formed between the trees and I caught a glimpse of the Lions Gate Bridge in the far distance. Finally, something I recognized! I was at peace again and on my way home. I love riding my bike.

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    Ride a Mile in Our Shoes….

    Ride a Mile in Our Shoes….

    The other day as I was riding along Northwest Marine Drive, a car suddenly pulled out and made a left from a parking lot along Spanish Banks despite the fact that he saw me approaching quickly and was literally only meters away from his car. I swore at him and experienced a moment of anger due to shock then realized that the driver probably made a stupid last minute decision— I saw him hesitate for a split second on whether he should turn and he did. We all make rash decisions. The driver was most likely not a cyclist and underestimated the speeds at which bikes could travel.

    The new few kilometers, I started reflecting about how cycling has made me a better driver and pedestrian.

    If only everyone would spend a few weeks riding and commuting by bike, I think our roads would be a much safer place.

    I’ve lost count of how many times a car would suddenly turn right or stop without signaling (ahem such as this morning when I almost crashed into one and my rear wheel totally skidded but I somehow managed to stay on my bike…) or pass too close because they were impatient or angry. Pedestrians are sometimes worse as I’ve seen many walk into bike lanes and roads without checking for traffic (while looking down at their phones). That is one of the reasons why I feel safer cycling on the road at Stanley Park instead of the Sea Wall. At least most drivers are aware that they are driving a 4000lb weapon so they practice more caution while pedestrians happily prance around in headphones and not paying attention to their surroundings— maybe because they don’t know better. Those ways have always been ingrained into our society so I guess they are not entirely at fault.

    As a cyclist, those are things I experience very frequently. As a cyclist, pedestrian and driver, I make a stronger effort to make safer decisions, and am absolutely aware of the magnitude of those decisions and it’s effect on those in my vicinity.

    When I’m on my bike, I’m courteous to drivers and signal for them pass if it’s safe to do so when I know I’m holding up traffic (hello, rolling hills and dying legs). I hate it when cyclists take up an entire lane when it’s wide enough for everyone and they are clearly not in any danger. I thank both drivers and pedestrians when they let me have the right of way. I slow down and use my voice to let pedestrians know I’m approaching (and avoid riding the Sea Wall whenever possible), yet I still get yelled a by ladies walking their dogs because I don’t have a “bell” on my bike. It’s not like I was screaming at them— I know my manners and always say please and thanks. I don’t run red lights (my #1 pet peeve that I see other cyclists do). I use bike lanes whenever possible. I never weave in and out of traffic like an asshole. And I fucking wear a helmet because I love being alive too much.

    When I’m driving, I signal even it is it 4am on a small, empty neighborhood road. I never forget to shoulder-check and always slow down for cyclists because they are my people. When I’m a pedestrian, I still shoulder-check and look both ways. I walk on the right so people may pass me on the left. I never cross a street while looking down at my phone (because I get annoyed when I see others doing that). I don’t blast my music so I can still hear the world around me.

    Non-cyclists tell me all the time how they hate the bike lanes downtown or cyclists riding on the roads and I’ll be thinking: why don’t you ride a mile in our shoes? Literally. If you have never been on a bike on the road, you shouldn’t be forming opinions. And honestly, I’ve seen some of these people do stupid things while driving their vehicles. Is there a little double-standard there?

    Some ride bikes for fun, others do it for a healthier and greener lifestyle, while some have no choice at all.

    Next time you rant about having to pass “those annoying cyclists” on the road because you are afraid of hitting them, think about what it would be like to be in their situation and how they must feel on their bike while you are sitting in your car. Bike lanes are common but sometimes we need to hop on a busy road for whatever reason. Next time you get angry at a cyclist for riding too slow or taking up an entire lane on the road and causing your commute to be a couple of minutes longer, ride a bike for a few weeks and see how you feel. Sometimes we have to do this on narrow roads for our own safety

    There are bad apples out there and I get annoyed at some of the actions of the cyclists I encounter but most have good intentions. Don’t get me wrong, I still make stupid decisions here and there while cycling, driving and/or being a pedestrian but the fact that I have experienced and seen so much of it while out and being so vulnerable on my bike, I know it’s my responsibility to respect my surroundings and in turn, hopefully I’ll gain a little respect back as a cyclist. We all know that when one cyclist does something wrong, we all get blamed because we are a minority but hopefully one day, all these small actions will add up and make a make a change… a tiny change but at least a change.

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      That’s Right, Baker!

      That’s Right, Baker!

      Remember last year when I climbed Mount Baker and even though I made it up to Artist Point, it was an epic failure of a ride because I bonked and had a gazillion negative thoughts going through my head?

      Well, I just climbed that beast again last week and I beat my time last year by over an hour!

      The climb felt SO much easier because I was not over-trained (only rode 169 easy kilometers that week with only one lifting session at the gym on Monday), had a new and light bike and most importantly, did not let negative thoughts affect me. What a difference having a positive mindset makes. No doubt, the climb was still hard but the suffer-fest compared to last year was like night and day.

      I did hold back a little and didn’t push as hard as I could have because I still remembered the feelings from last year but I have no regrets. I’m quite happy with my time also considering that there were only two of us so I pulled most of the way and did the entire climb myself. I’ve been really focusing on nutrition the last few weeks and I had it on point for the ride and it was also fun telling my legs to shut the fuck and push away any negative thoughts that slipped through.

      That 16km flew by quickly and I had plenty of energy left as the switchbacks up to Artist Point loomed over me. It was blazing hot up at the top but the descent was a cold since it was so late in the season. For once, I was prepared and had leg and warm warmers, a windbreaker and my super warm gloves so I did not suffer— one of the reasons why we were going to cancel the ride the week prior! I’m so grateful the skies opened up for us that weekend because it rained the entire week before and it is forecasted to rain all of next week as well. Moments like those makes me feel so blessed to be alive!

      Next year, my goal is to do a round-trip to Baker from my apartment in Coal Harbour. I know I have the endurance to do it right now because we went on a lot of long and epic rides this summer but due to many circumstances, we weren’t able to do it this year. Today is the last day of summer already and the descents are getting too cold for my liking, but at least I can add this to one of the many adventures I can look forward to for 2015!

      See you again next year, Baker!

      Mount Baker 2014

      Before, during and after Baker: Smiling, happy and lots of POSITIVE energy throughout the entire ride!!

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