Happiness Is Riding Your Bicycle When It Is -20C

Baby it’s cold outside. At least that is what the radio news says. “Bundle up and give yourself more time.” It is -25C with windchill. “Toronto has announced a cold alert.

Maybe I should take a bus to work, I muse, not for the first time? In spite what people who know me think, I can be swayed by peer pressure, instinctive laziness, inertia and potential danger – in this case snow and ice. But when I think what awaits me if I take the bus (delays, crowding, waiting outside) I convince myself that it will be fine.

I take the best gloves I possess, a warm hat and the socks I use for skiing and off I go. My reaction is immediate. Having put on all the warm clothes has made me hot and the cold that hits me is actually welcome. It is cooling my body which is now required. I get on the bike and as I begin to cycle, the wind hits my face. To my surprise it actually feels refreshing. Due to the coldness more blood is flowing into my checks and it feels nice. As I pedal up the little hill, with all of the clothes I am wearing, I feel my blood circulating and it is very stimulating.

Just up my quiet street a car passes me, probably thinking I am completely nuts, and actually gives me more room than he/she would otherwise. I, on the other hand, am feeling better every minute. I am pleased with my decision. Rather than suffering from cold, the ride is actually making me feel better, more alive. As I wind my way on the six km route to work I once again ponder why so few people choose to do what I do. I figure that most of them already know that driving to work creates stress, while cycling or walking actually will not only make them feel better, assuming that they actually dress properly, but will also make them healthy. So, as my neighbours at work and at home arrive at their destinations with sour faces, I walk in red-faced, smiling and fresh.

Drivers may look at me, shake their heads and think that I am simply “loco”- how could I be possibly be enjoying this. In a wonderful article ‘Cycle of Fear’, published in the New York Times on May 7th 2002, cartoonist and writer Tim Krieder writes that the reason he enjoys cycling to work is that: “I’m convinced these are the conditions in which we evolved to thrive: under moderate threat of death at all times, brain and body fully integrated, senses on high alert, completely engaged with our environment. It is, if not how we’re happiest — we’re probably happiest in a hot tub with a martini and a very good naked friend — how we are most fully and electrically alive.

Several years ago I wrote a blog  ‘Do Epic Tours and Hunters gatherers have anything in common?’ in which I discussed that on our long distance tours, in spite of all the fatigue, the dirt, the lack of food and water, somehow each and very participant at the end of the day seemed to be satisfied, feeling as he/she were doing what they should be. And no wonder. After all, our bodies and minds were designed to move and to deal with the world out there so it should not be a surprise that we feel better when we do. So, do you want to feel good each and every day, even going to work? If so then, rain or shine, cold or hot, dry or humid – just get on your bike. The rest will take care of itself.


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