The appeal of cycling, I mean.
There's the obvious stuff that doesn't take being on a bike for long to work out: great exercise, not spending money on gas, reduced carbon footprint. Blah, blah, yes. That's not what I mean.
I mean the real appeal. What makes people go kind of crazy for it, and spend lots of money for it. Granted, I know there are a lot of different reasons people are drawn to the sport and my experience is not a universal one—but I've been discovering my reasons. And that the real magic of it is far more subtle.
Since it's subtle, I'll try to illustrate what I mean, rather than tell you outright.
I tried riding to the climbing gym/yoga studio instead of driving for the first time about a week ago [I've now ridden there several times since].
In that one ride, I passed homeless shanty towns in jungles of concrete underbrush and chain link overgrowth, nestled just out of view of roads and train tracks.
I saw some true feats of resourcefulness. There were sophisticated little villas made of tarps and reclaimed mattresses, with a makeshift shower system, common hangout areas, little sculpture gardens made of found junk. One residence had a decadent entrance constructed of felled trees and planks of wood that made an imposing stair set and tunnel. I saw structures that the average white collar employee, if he hit hard enough luck, would never dream up, let alone realize. As I zipped under a bridge, a group of traveling dirtbags with bikes [what I'll be soon, in other words] whooped supportively and yelled, "Get it, girl!"
I rode along a river [rampant with signs of a recent flood], through a park, passing one guy who was swaying to the sheet music he was reading, another guy baffled by his mountain of camping and cycling gear strewn over a picnic table, and an obese squirrel wrestling with an entire loaf of bread. I rode through an international airport, and behind a decadent hotel.
Then I turned on a random road because a sign was posted in front of it with my first name and an arrow, and I'm a pretty avid follower of arbitrary circumstances and coincidences [i.e., when in doubt, flip a coin]. That road led me to a bike shop, where I had some very helpful conversations, and to a good cheap dinner spot.
I got to the gym, having logged about seventeen relatively flat miles, warmed up and ready to keep moving.
The alternative, in a car, is about twenty-minutes on congested suburban main roads.
[PS: I've logged 135 cycling miles, six hours of yoga, seven hours of climbing, and a wee bit of jogging in the last four days! And somehow managed to keep mostly on top of my emails, promotion, and errands. Mostly. I'm doing stuff, I swear!]