30 Days of Biking, Day Two: Flexibility

Day Two in the 30 Days of Biking, 30 Words, 30 Pictures series

I didn’t choose “flexibility” as my word for today just because I didn’t make it to the noon yoga class at Salt Room Yoga a block away from our Seattle office, although it’s a factor.* Today made me think about the flexibility bicycling provides in my transportation needs. But let me start with yoga.

Peaceful sunset and bike with person sitting in lotus pose

This picture does not illustrate incredible yogic flexibility, but I don’t have that. As my dear friend and yoga teacher Betsy says, “You don’t get flexible to do yoga. You do yoga to get flexible.”

Yoga provides a great balance (yoga pun!) to bicycling since it provides weight-bearing exercise and helps build upper-body strength along with flexibility work that helps offset the repetitive motions of cycling.

The book Pedal, Stretch, Breathe by Seattle yoga teacher, author, and bicyclist Kelli Refer (@yogaforbikers on Twitter) nicely highlights the benefits of yoga and the postures that address the effects of bicycling on the body. You can pick up an autographed copy of her book in our Pioneer Square store or order from Kelli on her blog.

The mindset yoga helps you cultivate applies to bicycling too. You can stress out or you can rest in the moment and accept it for what it is, cultivating mental flexibility.

And now for the transportation flexibility bicycling provides that I appreciated yet again today–

If you drive in a city with one-way streets you know this moment. You’re at an intersection and the address you want is only about a block away. Except it’s at least three blocks away because you’re on a one-way street and you’ll have to execute two right turns or two left turns to get anywhere near your destination.

This morning at that kind of intersection my bike gave me all the flexibility I needed. I walked my bike up one block, crossed the street, and there I was–parked and inside in half the time it would have taken me to drive (not counting the hunt for parking that I get to skip.)

Now sure, I can park a car, get out and walk, and get where I’m going. But I will no longer have with me the vehicle that helps me get places faster and carries my stuff far more easily than I can with just my body to bear the weight. I’ll have to backtrack to where I parked, which introduces a hassle factor that constrains my choices about the next stop, and the next.

I’m also pretty well assured that my car parking spot will not be directly in front of the building I’m going to, whereas I can park my bike at a rack if one’s available, hitch it to a tall sign post, railing, or other fixed item, or in some instances bring it inside with me. Voila–parking flexibility! The combination of bike/walk and route flexibility with parking flexibility enables me to string together a series of brief stops very efficiently.

Bicycling has increased the flexibility of my thinking and assumptions about how I get from Point A to Point B in other ways. Because the pace of bicycling enables me to experience my surroundings much more deeply I’m more apt to explore. I try different routes, take a jaunt down a side street because I see an interesting sign, and experiment with options that I hope (usually in vain) will allow me to sneak around some of the hill climbs I face commuting in Seattle.

This afternoon in an attempt to inject flexibility into my homeward commute route since I’d already landed on my word of the day, I tried going an extra block up Pike before turning to get to Pine, where I climb in the bike lane to Melrose. Lo and behold, when I got to that next block (9th, for you Seattle dwellers) I realized I couldn’t turn left because–yep–it was another one-way street.

If I’d been in my car I would have gnashed my teeth. I also would have had to do quite a bit of fiddling around, going blocks out of my way in heavy downtown traffic, because this is at a spot with major buildings and a freeway that introduce black holes into the street grid. (Side note: I would have been adding all the while to downtown traffic congestion and air pollution while going exactly nowhere.)

Since I was on my bike I again exercised the flexibility of the pedestrian option that someone on a bike always has. My bike and I were only one block away from Pine, after all, and roughly 2 minutes later I was back in the bike lane and climbing.

It’s good to be flexible.

Related Reading

 Your Turn

  • How often do you find yourself taking advantage of the bike/walk option?
  • Do you experiment with different routes on your bike or have you fallen into a routine?

*Possible additional factor: Our whole family loves the movie The Incredibles, which we’ve watched countless times. Elastigirl’s powers are pretty cool.

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