The Great Bikening

I’ve mentioned it on Twitter a few times, but I purchased a used bicycle about two weeks ago. My reasoning for this decision was because I’d cancelled my boxing gym membership and I needed something to provide a measure of physical activity. I’d loved boxing, but after moving five miles in the wrong direction, suddenly a 30 minute drive just to get to the gym didn’t seem so appealing. Not to mention, I’m trying to get financially squared away and a $45 monthly gym membership just didn’t fit with that goal, especially after I’d picked up a poor attendance habit and was only going about once a week (I’d been hitting the gym three times a week when I first started).

I’d been reading on a few blogs (Mr. Money Mustache and the Art of Manliness) about how rewarding it is to commute to work via bicycle. I checked the distance between home and work on Google maps and discovered it’s just a hair under 10 miles one-way. Shit, I thought to myself. That’s doable. Yeah, I could do that.

The math worked out. Google estimated the time at 50 minutes. My normal commute right now via motorcycle is about 25 minutes. But since I was already spending two hours on fitness when I went to the gym (and only getting one hour of actual exercise out of it), this scheme would allow me to spend my time more effectively since I was turning commute time into exercise time!

So I went out and purchased a used bike. It took a few tries; I looked into BICAS first but they didn’t have anything comfortable for my height. Bookman’s Sport Exchange had a very reasonably priced, very stylish looking green bike that I fell in love with after one test ride.

I rode it home. It was about five miles. I nearly died of exhaustion.

I recall lying on the carpet, gasping like a fish and wondering two things: first, how the hell was I going to do twenty miles a day and second, how had I let myself get this out of shape?

Because I used to bike a lot as a kid. And as a kid, I was able to go on my bike forever. It isn’t until you revisit things in adulthood that you loved in childhood that you realize how much slower and heavier adult bodies are if you don’t keep them in working order.

After that humbling experience, I spent a week building up my stamina. I took a long ride to get some miles under my belt. I tested the commute itself on a day off, reasoning that if I collapsed in a heap on the road somewhere, at least I wouldn’t have to call in.

The commute itself is lovely. I’m really lucky. Around 7 miles of it are on a dedicated, bike-only path that runs the length of a dry river, because in Tucson, rivers don’t need to have water in them to be considered rivers. Even the few miles I do spend on the streets are mostly well designed with generous bike lanes. I only hit three stop lights in ten miles. It’s amazing.

Today is my second day biking to work. I make sure to give myself an hour and a half, even though the commute itself is just about an hour. I have accepted the fact that I’m basically the slowest person on the entire bike trail. Senior citizens zip by me at roughly 1 million miles per hour and politely do choose not to mock me.

But I’m getting better. I’ve improved my commute time by almost ten minutes from the first time I rode it until today. I didn’t need to stop and catch my breath at any point.

I still feel bad when I see how much faster everyone else is. But it makes me really happy to feel the improvements already. I’m getting better. I don’t think I’ll ever be as fast as the senior citizens on their carbon-fiber super bikes, but you know what? That’s okay. Because I’m doing this for me. I’m getting healthier again. I like that.

Safety Razor!

I hate shaving. I hate everything about it. I hate how it feels, I hate how much time it takes, I hate the inevitable razor burn that follows. Most of all, I hate buying razor blades; I hate how much they cost and how it just feels like you’re getting ripped off when you buy replacements. More than once, I’ve wondered if it just wouldn’t be cheaper to keep buying a whole new Razor each time.

The only thing I hate more than shaving is the prickly, stubbly, neck-itch inducing presence of not shaving.

Today was my first shave with an old school, double-edged safety razor. And it was glorious.

The idea came about when we were at the store a few days ago picking up some supplies and I was lamenting, once again, the fact that I needed new razor blades. But tucked into a lonely corner of the lowest shelf, I noticed an inexpensive little box containing a double-bladed safety razor and a set of replacement blades. There were also replacement blades that were a fraction of the Gillete shit I’ve been buying.

Holding the box in my hand, I recalled a blog post I’d read a very long time ago, about how to shave like your grandpa. It had made shaving with a true safety razor seem old school and stylish and slick. I never followed up on the advice from that blog post, however, because it seemed like a true safety razor was beyond my reach. My grandfathers are deceased, so I can’t exactly ask them.

That blog post was written in 2008; what a difference seven years has made! Double-edged safety razors are coming back into vogue; the Wikipedia page indicates that since 2009, sales of traditional safety razors have increased by 1,000%.

Gentlemen readers of this blog, if you haven’t yet tried this, I urge you to do so. It’s less expensive and yet it also feels so much better. I had the best shave of my life today. I feel clean, whole, and thoroughly unburnt by razors. I’m actually looking forward to the next time I can shave, simply because of how good I felt immediately afterwards.

That’s the life lesson from this experience, at least for me. I approach too many things as necessary tasks that must be endured rather than savored. It’s something that I’m trying to change.