Hitting the Wall

In an effort to get in better shape and create a more pleasurable commute, my husband bought a bike. Since he is one of those lucky people who has a knack for picking up new skills with ease, he assumed that riding a bike would be as easy as swinging one leg over his bicycle, pushing the pedals, and riding away.

During his first week riding with the new bike, my husband arrived home each day in good spirits. Partly because he was proud of himself for getting active, but he also enjoyed the post-exercise adrenaline rush. Biking was simple, accessible, and practical. Driving, on the other hand, was boring, frustrating, and involved traffic. Why hadn’t he stopped driving to work sooner, he wondered.

Then one day he returned home with some bad news. After showing off his new wheels to a few co-workers who are cycling champions, my husband was informed that he was too tall for his bike. “No wonder my back’s hurting,” he said. The next day he returned his new bike for another bike that fit his tall stature. For a few days, riding with the replacement bike was a breeze. “Wow, my back feels great,” he told me. “With this bike I ride faster and arrive at work more quickly than I would in my car.” Part of the reason for the enhanced speed was due to thin road tires on the new bike.

Fast forward one week. My cell phone rings. It’s my husband. “Can you come and get me? I have a flat tire and am about 2 miles from home.” That night he learned to patch the hole in his tire and felt a bit more optimistic about bike riding, flat tires and all. Unfortunately, the next morning on his way out the door, he noticed that the patch hadn’t worked and his tire had deflated, yet again. I was really starting to feel bad for him.

Over the course of the next month, his new bike’s tires flattened some 3 or 4 times. At least 2 times he walked home from work, pushing his bike. Let’s just say that his zest for exercise and saving the environment (one ride at a time) was as deflated as his tires.

I share the above story of my husband’s struggles with bike riding because it is my feeling that most of us can relate to the kind of frustration and perhaps even doubt that my husband experienced as he attempted to learn something new (like how to make biking to work part of his everyday life). Learning to live in an environmentally friendly way is challenging, sometimes. Of course, when we come up against resistance in our lives and we are aware of it, we can learn to roll and learn. I remember when we first tried using a certain eco-friendly diaper (cloth diapers with flushable inserts), I continuously clogged toilets when I would flush the insert. One time I even clogged and overflowed our pediatrician’s toilet (boy was I embarrassed!). Eventually I got the hang of how to dispose of my daughter’s environmentally friendly diapers, but initially I had felt so frustrated I considered giving up and using disposable diapers.

Making changes to improve our lives and the condition of our Earth is not always as easy we’d like it to be. Over time though, with a little bit of determination, thought, preparation and passion, we can do things we think are impossible and even frustrating. Tomorrow my husband is riding his bike to work. Over the weekend, we’re going to search for tubeless tires. And I hope that in the coming months, my husband will devote more time to learning about bike maintenance and good cycling habits.

If you are a beginner cyclist interested in pedaling around, you may want to visit Zenhabit’s “Beginner’s Guide to Cycling” and Associated Content’s “10 Tips for Beginner Cyclists.” Cycling is just one more way to reduce carbon emissions and protect our environment. And once a new rider gets the hang of being on wheels, biking is great fun too.

Jessica Monte also blogs about natural parenting and the environment at Green Mamma and API Speaks.

Original 5 Minutes for Going Green post.

4 Responses to Hitting the Wall
  1. Lance
    September 1, 2008 | 6:30 am

    I love this story, Jessica! I love it because I can completely relate to your husband. I, too, bike to work. I started last year, and during the few nice months we have here in the midwest, I am able to do it about 2-3 times each week. And I can relate to the issue with the flat tires. Last year, I had a flat on my way to work. I fixed it, only to have it go flat again about five times before I figured out what the problem was. Frustrating, it was! I began to hate those wheels! And I was about to take it into a bike shop to replace the flat. And then, I stumbled upon what the problem was. It was related to a small tape inside the tire that protected the tube from the spokes. And that tape had shift, causing the spoke holes to continually rip the tubes. Maybe that’s it. But, even if it’s not, I encourage your husband to keep at it. I find that when I bike to work, this really starts the day off right. Plus the ride in is just a great time for me to do some mental preparation in my life.

    So, hang in there. And keep at it, you’re doing a great thing for your body and for the environment!

  2. Dan Ellsworth
    September 1, 2008 | 9:14 am

    I’m a bike commuter, and after a few flats, I took my bike in and got armadillo tires and plastic flat-prevention tire inserts. They add weight to the bike, but I have not had a flat since.
    Tell your husband he has made an awesome choice in switching to the bike commute- it’s a huge plus for quality of life.

  3. Jessica
    September 1, 2008 | 9:29 am

    I’m definitely going to share your thoughts with my husband. He was having a rough run with biking, but hopefully, as he learns more, things will turn around and he’ll start having fun with it again. Thanks for the tire tips Lance and Dan!

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