Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Biking Simplicity


[Yes, my dear reader, this is, in fact, the very first image of Jack posted on this blog]

I took advantage of a couple of cool, clear mornings to do some serious bike training this past weekend. By Sunday night I had ravaged the Mount Vernon trail, the Capital Crescent, and a good chunk of the Rock Creek trail. No way am I approaching the likes of Jill (Up in Alaska) or Nancy (Family on Bikes), but 83 miles isn’t too shabby.

There is something so elemental about bicycling. It is the most selfless way to see the world around you. There is no gasoline, no power steering, and no seat belts. You move forward as one should move through life: by sheer will and determination. Those who bicycle regularly always find a sweet, contagious rhythm that mere novices can scarcely understand. It’s a rhythm full of wind and sweat and rushing empty spaces. It is a rhythm I hope to never forget.
At one point on Saturday I ended up in Bethesda, which is apparently the third wealthiest neighborhood in the nation, behind Newport Beach and Greenwich, Connecticut. Seeing all the beautifully manicured families, trust-fund babies, and annoying yuppies made me think about my future.

Sure, I was (1) dripping with sweat; (2) wearing my 40-year-old-virgin nerd biking helmet; and (3) wearing biking shorts that screamed “seriously, I want you; no I NEED you to stare at my junk!!”


But as I walked through the streets of Bethesda no one batted one eyelid. I was, presumably, one of them. I wonder how I would be treated walking down this same street a year from now. Would I seem different? Would I act differently? Would it really matter?

As I made my way back home on my bike it all became very clear. Life was just too simple and beautiful for me to give a shit.


Anonymous said...

We've thought about that one a lot!! We don't wear all the fancy bike clothes but we've long since realized it simply doesn't matter. We wear comfortable clothing rather than all the fancy technical gear and it works for us. And you are absolutely right - you simply won't care. You'll be comfortable in who you are, and that'll be enough.


Anonymous said...

oh, i'm envious. i had a scary bicycle accident when i was in 5th or 6th grade, and since then i've been fairly bike-phobic. I'm fine as long as there's absolutely no one around me and i don't have to turn. otherwise i'm a wobbly, white-knuckled mess. i tried once again over the summer, and had such a bad headache by the time i was done, i've decided make do with walking. it's too bad, too, because our area is pretty bike friendly, with lots of biking paths. but this was a nice post, in spite of the envy.

Jill Homer said...

Awesome! Sounds like a great ride!

I enjoyed this post. You captured in a few short words the elegance and simplicity of biking. A bike really is a great equalizer. It doesn't matter where you are or how much you're worth. We all look equally ridiculous in bike shorts and helmets :-)

PleaseRecycle said...

I love your blog and I LOVE the fenders! I went to UC Davis (in CA) and rode my bike everywhere! No I live in a not-bike-friendly town and have to drive or risk being run over (and I have two little kids which makes biking a bit more complicated). Biking is so pure- I love it!!

Daizy said...

Interesting...you post a picture of your 'junk' and then make a comment about it which, of course, makes us all look. What would Freud say, hmmm?

Sharon J said...

ROFLMA at Daizy's comment! (I looked too - well you have to, don't you?)

Me said...

duh... daizy's comment was hella funny... I love John in his biking shorts :-) but damn... that shit has to hurt! (and from what i've heard it hurts in a different way...)

Any who's... I enjoyed the quote in ur "junk" picture by Milton Berle... there's always a door...

who took the pics BTW? not the girl from the other night?........... ;-)


Anonymous said...

I so want to say something..I really shouldn't...but I'm loving the shorts Jack!! and your bike obviously :)

My Eco Self said...

Oh, you are funny. I've decided to go back to work for a while, so I envy your plans...but then, I'm only going to get a temporary job, so I'm sure I'll have some more time off next year again!

emmani said...

I've never owned a bike, apart from the one I learned to ride on, a second hand 'Grifter' my Dad painted orange for me. A bike was always too expensive, a danger and just not a necessity.

We don't have those big open roads and no one for miles around, places here.

My husbands got a bike now, he used to ride to work, we're taking it with us because it's free to take on the flight... maybe I'll get a chance to fly through the breeze, with out a care in the world, a big grin on my face... and no Jack I won't be wearing the shorts!!!

Jade of the Jungle said...

My other half is an obsessed biking lunatic. He did the coast to coast cycle path a few weeks ago (though as it's the UK it only took him about 5 days). I thoroughly disapprove of his nappy pants.

He even tried to get me into biking by buying me the world's loveliest bike for Christmas last year but "Alice" gets very little road time because cycling in London scares the crap out of me. AND I only learnt to ride a bike two years ago (I know, I know - how remedial am I?). I think I'll stick to legs, not wheels :)

Carolyn said...

Nice to see you!

-jd said...

A little off topic, but does your bike lock have a round key?

If it does, replace it immediately.


Try shaving your legs...and then see how people look at you!...in biking shorts...at the bar. It's great to be a biker

Anonymous said...

Fuck bike shorts. Way to not give a shit. Gotta love those bicycles!

Jack said...


Thanks! Nothing wrong with not caring what the world thinks.

A Square Peg,

oh, that sucks! On the other hand, I am sure there are a bunch of other activities that you absolutely love that I have to discover.


Thanks, means a lot coming from a big-time, small town journalist! :)

Jack said...


Sounds like you kicked some bicycle butt out in Cali. Are there good trails where you live now, besides the open road? There has to be something...


Somtimes a cigar is just a cigar. Or better yet, sometimes junk is just junk!


Exactly! How can I now make a comment about something sooo obvious. Within the biking community the whole biking shorts thing is such an ongoing joke...

heather in europe said...

i was too busy noticing the quote to be distracted by the, ahem, junk. i'm a sucker for words though.

did you have a choice of quotes at this location, and this one was purposely chosen? or was this the only one so you just nabbed a photo with it.

Jack said...


Yeah, let's just say its a little uncomfortable. I definitely want to have kids some day, but I may love my bike to much...:) And no, not the girl from the other night. Someone I am actually interested in for real.


In won't fault you if you do!:)

My eco self,

Well, I sure hope you have the time to really go out there and enjoy life next year.

Jack said...


Sounds like a plan. And for the record, I think biking shorts wearing is a hell of a lot more socially acceptable for women than for us dudes.


I am sooo disappointed! You got to get on that thing and get some miles on it. I'm actually now a big fan of your Boy now. Sounds like we are alot alike



Jack said...


Dude, that video is pretty scary. It actually does...which is even scarier.


Totally with you man.


Purposely chosen. It was taken right outside the barnes and noble right on the bethesda strip. There are a bunch of those along the edge of the store. Thought it was appropriate given the blog.

Nina said...

I developed a serious love of bicycling on our trip. It truly is a wonderful way to travel. And we saw A LOT of people traveling that way. Bikes with tents rolled up and secured on the back, riding along the coast camping along the way. Most of the state parks on the coast have a separate camping area for bikers and hikers.

I imagine if you roll through that neighborhood a year from now, they may notice you a little more- and probably not in a warm way, lol. I am use to blending into crowds like that but on our trip, in a junky ol' RV, the 'elite' definitely treated us differently.

Elizabeth Halt said...

I, on the other hand, clicked on the square box on your head because I thought it was the play button for a video. LOL

I've never liked biking, probably because I lacked the discipline to bike enough so that it wasn't always such a pain[ful] experience. I finally donated my bike to charity many years ago because it sat unused and rusty. I have a ton of REI gift cards though so I may get one and try it again. I mean, I like spinning class, and I love the outdoors, so seriously, why don't I like biking? Seems odd ..

Dreamer said...

Jack - is that you? I have to tell you that I'm quite taken with you! (im trying to put it mildly!)

Anonymous said...

*First time female commenter who just can't get the image of that well muscled chest and broad shoulders out of her head*

And he is intelligent, mindful and into all those concepts of sustainability, simplicity that we need to pursue so much...
Seriously (or not), how does one find guys like you locally??..


Jack said...

Three Moons,

You know, I will probably be joining those bikers before too long. Plans are afoot. And yeah, i think the elite may not be much into me when I out and free. But who cares! :)


I think you should try it again. It's not for everyone, but once you get a taste its hard to stop. Maybe you can get one of those trailers so that you can put Atlas in and you guys can bike all over the place!


Yeah. I'm just going to take that as a compliment :)...btw, do focus on putting a routine together. I think that's the answer now that you are out.

rachaelgking said...

You move forward as one should move through life: by sheer will and determination.

I absolutely love this, and I haven't been on a bike in 5 years.

Heather's Moving Castle said...

All these comments are insane! How do you keep up? Don't even reply to that!

I have been bike phobic lately. I need a new bike and a better helmet. But I love it!

Nice pics!!


donna said...

oh my god jack - those shorts- they don't leave much to the imagination do they?! love the way you showed what you've got to offer but blanked out your face! what's that all about?!?!?!

great quote on the sign behind you :)

Jack said...

Anonymous #1

Ok, all I can say is that I am blushing...


Thanks. BTW, super cool blog.


Get one quick! Always good to start riding again.

Nicola said...

i love the quote behind you on the wall. was that on purpose?

Jack said...


blushing all over the place...


Yeah, it was. I was standing in front of a barnes and noble and they had a bunch of literary quotes. I just thought it was the most appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you are in good shape and not overweight from sitting in front of a computer all day.. LOL....... :)

I don't think you can simply walk away from your mortgage; you'll be haunted with a bad credit score; ... you have to do simplicity right; not with the weight of irresponsibility.

Good luck young man.

I wrote to you awhile back.. my life got easier.. I did get a tenant downstairs; a VP on Wall Street... new to America.......and then I rented out my garage since I don't drive..

Both terrific tenants.. The VP actually was supposed to just stay one month but staying until end of Spring.... and he raised his own rent by 50% since then I'll be putting the heat on. I had charged him less for just one for September.

The garage renter painted it for me.. and put in a 1970 Dodge Super B..

Both nice.. and my downstairs tenant is eating dinner up here on friday and meeting my next door neighbors (a lovely family ) coming over too.

All good people and WOW less stress since I'm renting.

simplicity is good .. less work for me

Betty Ann of NYC.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit late in coming, but I just thought of it the other day. You may have already read it, but if not, I think you may enjoy the book "Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman's Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China & Vietnam," by Erika Warmbrunn. I read it several years ago and enjoyed it very much. And I don't even ride;-).

Jillian said...

I guess I missed the delicious photos, ha! I suppose you got a bit embarrassed by all the attention...

Just following your blog from the beginning, finding it very interesting. I want to minimalize my life myself, though luckily I don't have as far to fall as you (no car, rent my place, etc).

Looking forward to catching up on the rest of your blog...


carissashanti said...

Like Jill said, you captured the essence of biking, in it's elegance and simplicity. I always loved it's juxtaposition - still movement or moving stillness. Not to get all Zen on you but it is very meditative. That moment, as you said, of propelling yourself forward through sheer will and determination, when your blood and breath are working in unison, is nothing short of pure bliss.