By Pedal

May 27, 2020
Reading Time: about 4 minutes

My quarantine started with the abrupt end to my beloved ski season. One day I’m barreling down the mountains with snow spraying around me and the next I’m leaving the Airbnb early to stock up on frozen dumplings for the imminent hunkering.

Quarantine devolved almost instantly into a monotonous rotation of dumplings, Netflix, Zoom. Pan-fry potstickers, watch some tigers, hop on another call. Restock the ling-lings, wonder if love is blind, read about AES-128.

Thrown back into the college lifestyle with nothing to look forward to, my mind wandered aimlessly.

One week in, I hit rock bottom. I’d open Youtube just to close it because videos took too long to watch. Perhaps Reddit? Nah, there’s too much reading. What if I listen to music? Sure, until I realize the blaring EDM I usually love sounds more annoying than the birds crying outside my room at ungodly hours (6AM-9AM, in case you were wondering).

Desperate for a change of pace yet utterly incapable of relinquishing my security-oriented mindset, I identified 3 potential root causes:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Lack of new experiences

Unfortunately, this knowledge is completely powerless under the Santa Clara Health Order (3/31/2020) mandating continued shelter in place. …unless?

To engage in outdoor recreation activity, including, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, bicycling, and running, in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements

As if on cue, my phone chimes, “anyone want to go on a bike ride in SF?”

I soon find myself huffing and puffing my way up Hawk Hill with two new friends Angela and Amy. A few minutes prior, Amy asked, “What bike is that?… I’m concerned Angela hasn’t adequately prepared you for today’s ride.”

Emboldened by this challenge, I’m determined to keep up — a goal soon replaced by another equally worthy goal: simply to make it up without falling off my bike or stopping from exhaustion. It’s important to teach your kids that yes, some dreams are meant to stay dreams. Sorry Shia.

I’m happy to announce I did indeed make it up that day, as well as many days following. It turns out biking provides 3 essentials: exercise, social interaction, and new experiences.

Today, my quarantine lifestyle is remarkably sustainable. Biking provides a way to spend time with friends, discover new terrain, and stay (or even get) in shape. My legs feel restless if I haven’t ridden for a day. I’ve bought a new road bike so I can stop holding others back and I’ve met several incredibly fascinating people over a running total of 570+ miles. You know who you are.

I never expected to be the type of masochist who’d wake up at 6:30 AM for an hour drive just to grind my way up several thousand feet, but life’s full of surprises. There’s something immensely gratifying about working hard towards a goal with your friends while exploring our world.

You will never regret a day spent in nature - Amin Karamlou.

As I was dripping sweat and creaking my bike the first time up the mountain, Angela was thinking about how a flat ride is a boring one — “it has no personality”. Over many rides, I got faster and steadier, exploring the personality of the land. We rode through forests of towering redwoods, along marshes hosting little ducks, and around neighborhoods filled with vested stock options. We lounged at the beach, watched surfers, and searched for pupusas through a myriad of SF neighborhoods. We sought mobility, even as the rest of the world froze to a standstill.

My favorite segment is right at the beginning. You ride out from the Golden Gate Bridge amongst a sea of joggers and their pets. Shrubbery and signage give way to the bay, dotted with kites and sailboats. The wind whips incessantly… just in case dodging cyclists 200 feet over the oil tanker slogging beneath isn’t sufficiently invigorating. Cruising down a winding path to Sausalito, you glimpse the concrete jungle in the distance, the old man fishing on the pier, the couple sharing a cone from Lappert’s. Perhaps the world isn’t quite as frozen as it seems.

Cycling is a remarkable investment. According to my recent late-night internet escapades, every euro invested into cycling infrastructure has returned benefits 8 times over. It improves public health, public transport, and the planet’s health. Today, bicycle manufacturing is a 6 billion national industry, but studies estimate spillover benefits (spending on meals, job creation, health improvements, etc) to be as large as 133 billion.

This month has been the best month in the history of bike shops for several Bay Area bike stores, with sales up 300%-400% nationwide. People, myself included, are starting to take notice. I hope this trend continues. Cycling, as a sport, deserves it.