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Gear Prudence: This year, after a lot of cajoling from bicyclist friends, I decided that I would finally sign up for Bike to Work Day and that would kick off my brand new biking lifestyle. Goodbye Red Line forever! So, I signed up and I did it… except I sort of hated it, and I haven’t ridden my bike since then. The roads were scary, everyone was faster than me, and I just felt like an imposter the whole time. If Bike to Work Day is supposed to be the safest and most fun biking experience, and I didn’t like it then, shouldn’t I just accept that it’s not for me?—Underwhelmed New Cyclist Obviously Now Viewing Introduction Negatively, Commuting’s Exceptionally Disappointing
Dear UNCONVINCED: Maybe! Sometimes doing something once based on a combination of peer pressure and inflated expectations of life-changing outcomes then not enjoying it to the extent that you had hoped is a perfectly justifiable reason to draw conclusions that you would never enjoy it in the future. After all, Bike to Work Day is the only day of the year when you’ll be given a free banana for your efforts. If that didn’t compensate for your feeling underwhelmed by the experience, what hope will you have on days when you’d have to buy your own banana? That truly does sound hopeless.
Think of bike commuting like Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett didn’t fall in love with Mr. Darcy right away—in fact, she thought he was the worst. But for reasons I have forgotten since high school English class, after a series of biting quips on contemporary social mores and turns about the room, she eventually decided that her first impression was wrong and they fell in love. In case it’s not clear, in this scenario you are Elizabeth Bennett, bike commuting is Mr. Darcy, and the free banana is Charlotte Lucas, for some reason. First impressions are not always the most accurate, so give yourself a few chances before reaching any sweeping conclusions.
GP says to give it six days total. Bike to Work Day was one, so in addition, either do full work week or five more Fridays. Why six? It’s the number of novels Jane Austen completed, and it’s enough times to get a more representative sample. Try a few different routes. Try by yourself, or if you can, with a friend. Keep an open mind, but be fair in your assessment.
However, it’s also perfectly conceivable that you might not actually like bicycling. And this is totally fine! Every means of commuting has advantages and disadvantages, and if you’ve weighed the things you like about bicycling against the things you dislike and the latter comes out ahead, then by no means should you force yourself to keep up with it. That seems self-defeating. —GP