Why Do I Ride?

Paul Reale - Chester, NJ

Why Do I Ride?

Like most people, I started riding bicycles at a very young age.  At first, it was for the fun of the ride. Not very long distances, just short trips to see my neighborhood friends.  As we grew older, we rode our bikes as a way of extending our "territory" and taking advantage of all the new activities available by riding into town or into a neighboring town...bowling, soda fountains, ball games, etc. Once my business career started and I was married, cycling took a back seat to other commitments. However, there was a time when I was transferred to The Netherlands, a very flat country where cycling is a part of everyday life.

In the Netherlands, cycling became an important part of my life.  I biked to work everyday on the paved paths as a bicycle commuter. At that time, rush hour was a 30 min. ride with of a group of 10 or more commuter cyclists in front and behind me on a paved path. The paths were very well managed. Always in good condition, good directional signs and even traffic lights in some places.  In fact, they were managed so well that it wasn't unheard of to receive a traffic ticket for not adhering to bicycle traffic regulations. There were also cross-country paths that I used for exploring and recreation throughout the area. It was a great way to travel and the lack of hills made it an easy ride to almost anywhere.

After returning to the US, we settled in Chester, NJ., a very hilly location. Our house is at 925 ft. above sea level and any road out of town drops several hundred feet before reaching the next town, and then it's at least a 300 ft. rise to reach the center of the town.  Commuting to work several towns away from home would not be practical. So, biking took a back seat to everyday life again. However, I always missed the ride, so when possible I would bike to the local shops just for the fun of it. For recreation, I also made an occassional ride on some of our local cross-country paths called Patriots Path.

My youngest child is now in college, so I have time to ride again, just for fun. Unfortunately, I've found that I don't have the same physique as my younger self. Many hills are too steep and I have to make frequent stops to rest my legs. This was a very disappointing experience, but it made me realize that I've been sitting behind a desk for too many years.  It was obvious that I needed to make a change and to start exericising regularly. Naturally, I gravitated to biking.

I am now biking to improve my health and it seems to be working. I embrace the hill climbs that I couldn't complete and push myself further each time. I have noticed that I can get a little further up the hills before having to rest. Some hills I can climb entirely and sometimes even do it standing up. It's very motivating to see the progress and I'm now planning to register for an 18 mi. organized ride in Sept.

Despite all the effort required to climb the hills in my area, I still get the same enjoyment that I had riding as a child. I don't know what it is, there just seems to be a connection with the bike. Maybe it's because at the end of every ride you and the bike have been through it together. There is also a certain sense of accomplishment.

I don't know if I will ever retire, but I frequently see those cycle taxis in New York City and think, I'd love to do that if I ever did retire. My family laugh at the thought, but I'm actually somewhat serious about it.

So, why do I ride? Well, I have always ridden. Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes to explore, sometimes for exercise, but always for fun. I don't think this will ever change, I'm hooked.

As for a better future for cycling, I would like to see more paths, even if they are just on the side of the road. However, they need to be real paths, i.e. clean of debris, not  just the shoulder of a road that is usually covered with sand, gravel or trash.

Sorry to be so wordy, but the question made me realize that bicycling has always been a part of my life.

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