(Natalie Ramsland is the founder and framebuilder behind Sweetpea Bicycles in Portland, Oregon.)
My bike is a time machine.
It isn’t the sexy DeLorean sort of time machine that takes me back to some other time or place. Such as a time when I had no adorable baby, no beloved business to run, and could spend weekends riding without a care in the world… Nope. It’s better. My bike time machine is more like a bread machine of sci-fi mechanics, making a particular quality of time. Warm fluffy loaves of time to slice into.
Barely a year into parenthood, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time driving a car. In the early months, the car was the only option available to us. But as my daughter Inga grew and we started using the bike trailer, I was choosing the bike sometimes and the car at other times. Often, it was the feeling of having too much to do in too little time that buckled us in. Driving had, for the first time in my life, become something of a habit.
One night, over dinner, my husband and I chatted about an interesting, timely tidbit of information: marketers know that the disruption of having a child is so great that it is the one of the best opportunities to change consumer habits, forge new brand loyalties, transform the way we spend our money. And so much of what is sold to new parents is the promise of more time. We’ve all seen it: kid-specific food that spares us time in the kitchen or Baby Einstein videos to buy us a moment of guilt-free relaxation. I’m not buying any of that, and yet I had to admit that I had been unwittingly buying fuel for the idea that I could save time behind the wheel of the car.
Reflecting on this conversation, I realized two things. First, that I missed my bike. Second, that I care less about saving time than I care about spending time well.
When I ride my bike, I can’t go everywhere and do everything that occurs to me. I have to choose what is the most important, and by choosing, I don’t end up doing a bunch of less-than-critical errands. I have to limit even “fun” obligations. But I have also noticed that the boundaries between work and leisure blur more on a bike. Recently I’ve begun inviting a friend of mine, with whom I typically ride the West Hills on the weekend, to join me on bike errands. While we pedaled more slowly and stopped more frequently, the joys are the same: great conversations and the suspension of time in play.
When I choose to go by bike, I leave myself open to an adventure that is different than what I had planned. I am more likely to make an impromptu stop, more likely to pause and say hello to somebody I know. More likely to see somebody I know. That might seem like it takes more time, and it does, but it also makes the time feel less task-driven.
I am not car-free. But I am choosing the bike as my default transportation on weekdays, when I most need the structural reminder that my time can be full – not of doing the endless tasks of work and family – but full of movement and breathing and physicality. In doing so, I choose to be immersed in the slower rhythm of the life that cycling creates.
My bike may not break any land speed records, but it makes (a) good time.
May is National Bike Month and this year’s theme is One Ride, Many Reasons. To highlight and celebrate the many benefits of bicycling, throughout May we’ll bring you the personal reflections and inspirations of a diverse collection of bicyclists from coast to coast with our daily 31 Days, 31 Reasons blog feature.