When I hopped on my bike in Lakeview and pedaled downtown to the Dearborn Street Protected Bike Lane Dedication Ceremony last Friday afternoon, I realized that I hadn't been on my bike in nearly a month.
Out in the 'burbs where I reside, you just don't see that many cyclists on the road when the temperature drops below 50. Since I don't have a bright orange jumpsuit to pull on over my wool jersey and tights, I tend to avoid riding where I'll blend in with the leaf-bare trees and faded pavement, especially on days when the sky is gray.
I've always said that suburban drivers don't expect to see bicyclists out on the road. They react as if we're the neighbor's dog that just got loose, darted into the street, and will probably dart somewhere else without notice. If they happen to be dog lovers, they slow down and pull around. If they're cat people...
As I pedaled down Lincoln Avenue, I felt my mood begin to elevate. The air against my cheeks. A tingling in my fingertips. Inhaling the cool air and pedaling quickly to make the next light (which I never did), I began to feel alive. Maybe it was the constant stimulation - eyes scanning the pavement ahead for potholes, checking my periphery to remain out of the door zone, glancing out front and over my shoulder to calculate a maneuver around a double-parked UPS truck or Postal Service minivan - that piqued my senses.
Maybe it was just the normal sensation that comes from riding a bike.
As it turns out, it was probably both. In an article shared yesterday by Momentum Magazine that was posted on the British site The Independent entitled The cycle path to happiness, the author endeavors to reveal the physiology behind our euphoria.
"In the nature of the motion is another unique combination. With the great speed there are the subtle glide and sway of skating, something of the yacht's rocking, a touch of the equestrian bounce, and a suggestion of flying. The effect of all this upon the mind is as wholesomely stimulating as is the exercise to the body." The Independent, December 18, 2012
You might be surprised that the above quote was actually taken from an article published back in 1896. This feeling has been experienced by cyclists since the advent of the bicycle in the 19th Century, yet it hasn't been clinically studied until very recently.
It's a great article, so I won't spoil it for you by giving you a summary. Suffice it to say that there is a synergistic component to cycling that can benefit the body and mind of anyone who chooses to ride.
Maintaining sanity - yet another good reason to encourage more people to bike...
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Keep riding and be safe!