May 4, 2008

Bicycling vs Spinning

May is Bike Month here in NYC, and I think I know why...because it's finally consistently warm enough to encourage the public to ride outside. Likewise, I've been biking a lot more these days. Although my bike is an old piece of junk that clanks obnoxiously, it still plugs along reliably, and I've gained enough confidence that I can now ride solo in Manhattan. Just this week, I commuted to work by bike for the first time, and I can't wait to do it again next week. Although, as I crawled across the steady upward incline of the Queensborough bridge, I thought to myself, it must be like childbirth, whereby you only get yourself to do it again by blatantly ignoring the pain it takes...BUT the "biker's high" I get afterward helps too.

Last weekend, I rode about 25 miles in one day, beginning with a refreshing but leisurely paced morning 10 mile ride: we got up early for the Brooklyn Greenway Waterfront Tour. Although we were running late (thanks to Jesse aka Mr. Morning Dawdler), we were lucky enough to catch up with the mass of bikers at the East River Park in Williamsburg and continue southward on Kent Ave in Williamsburg, where they have just approved construction of a protected bike lane. The tour continued into the gated-off industrial innards of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They're in negotations with the development corporation to push back their fences for a Greenway alongside the water.

Next we had a pit stop at Empire Fulton-Ferry State Park, where they were nice enough to set up port-a-potties and offer water and donuts (which I happily used my willpower to reject). We headed past the future site of the Brooklyn Bridge park, where they have already started to demolish pier structures, and then down the first actual completed segment of the Greenway on the Columbia Street waterfront. It looks like an elevated paved sidewalk/bike path, and they had just planted little trees earlier that morning! Our tour finished at Valentino Park in Red Hook where there's a nice view of the Statue of Liberty. It was an interesting ride, although disappointing to learn how long they expect the completed waterfront to take (approximately another 5-10 years), but I really respect the vision and dedication of the Brooklyn Greenway organization.

Last week I also went to a spinning class at the gym with coworkers. I was curious to try it out and see if it would be a good way to train for biking outdoors on bad weather days. In truth, I found it to be godawful boring and torturous. I often have that experience with gym classes, since I'd much rather be working at my own pace or stop when I want to stop. In this case, it felt pathetic to be biking and sweating away in a black box or a room, spinning our wheels, and going nowhere.

Like A New Old-Fashioned Gal has said, in olden days, life incorporated a lot more manual labor, including the exercise involved in transporting oneself around. It seems silly the way people stop and take the time to run in place on treadmills at the gym. To that end, I really like the idea of getting my exercise by commuting by bike or walking partway to work on perfect-weather days.

Pros for Biking:
- Great exercise
- Contributes to my health
- Get home earlier than I would if I went to the gym after work
- Fun
- Biker's high afterward
- Makes me feel badass
- Helps me indulge my inner map geek when I figure out routes
- Could save money on metrocard if I bike enough
- Could save money by cancelling my gym membership, but see below
- Electricity-free workout (unlike the gym)
- Gas-free transportation (unlike the subway or Jesse's car)

Cons against Biking:
- I sweat. A lot. As a result I get weird helmet hair.
- I have to get up earlier in the morning to have time to stop at the gym near my office to shower off my sweat before work.
- Bridges or anything resembling a hill is hard (New York City may look flat, but as soon as you're on a bike you learn it's not)
- Higher risk of intaking the pollutants from New York City air

And the pros outweight the cons! The bike wins! Now let's see if I can keep it up. And if I ever find a nicer bike. If you want to join the fun, check out all Transportation Alternatives for rides, resources, and volunteer opportunities, and Bike Month for bike events this National Bike to Work Day next Friday May 16, complete with snacks provided by eco-friendly City Bakery at all East River bridges. Guess who's looking forward to that?!

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