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Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding Variety

Ever since getting into cycling, I’ve been looking for some variety in the available trails to ride. It was simply good luck that I was able to find a comfortable driving route to the loop that I do on most Saturdays by the Schuylkill River. While I drive, I just haven’t felt comfortable over the last 10 years driving on major highways or in tight city traffic due to my disability.

In fact, the lack of freedom I now feel in the car is part of why I love cycling so much. I feel like I can go anywhere on my three-wheel bike. But I do need to be safe; the width of the bike makes cycling with traffic something that just doesn’t work right now.

Yet, a simple change on Memorial Day weekend offered a surprising sense of variety. For the first time, I did the usual loop that I ride in “reverse.” It was amazing how my eyes landed on different things and some of the same things I’ve seen many times from new angles – the river, Art Museum, behind the boathouses, even the route itself, etc. The same loop I’ve been doing for about a year-and-a-half now offers about twice as much riding before I feel like I’m seeing the exact same thing for a second time. I can do the loop in my usual way, and simply flip it for the second loop. There may even be a couple minor variations within that formula.

The change in direction offered some physical variation as well. Inclines hit at different point, and there’s more of a natural flow to the ride. Certain parts of the path made me hesitant to do the route the “other” way, despite the fact that I’ve become a stronger rider in the last couple years. There is a particular spot behind the Art Museum that dips down and shoots right back up in almost a “V” shape. I was also slightly concerned about the one spot near the Art Museum where I have to cross a street where traffic is not closed off. Removing those doubts gave me a little more confidence on my bike and a feeling of accomplishment. I hadn’t scaled Everest or anything, but it was a reminder that I am improving as a cyclist.

I certainly haven’t ended my search for more variety in cycling. I still couldn’t get in a good ride this past weekend with the area closed off for the bike race. But this simple change, one that I have control over, makes the loop that I do feel almost twice as long. It also gives me the confidence to at least consider venturing to the left on Kelly Drive from the Falls Bridge for a solo ride once that part of path re-opens – another twist on the path I haven’t tried on my own. (It was closed last time I was cycling.)

In the past, I may have viewed these changes as “not good enough” or “superficial” alternatives. Considering them to offer even a sense of variety might have made me feel like I was giving in to my own limitations. Instead, even just this exercise of trying to find something positive to write on a semi-regular basis has me looking at the simple change of cycling the same path in the opposite direction as a step toward expanding what I can do.

It’s just a step, maybe even a baby step. But it is a step in a positive direction.