City Bike, Country Bike

I want to like bike riding. Everyone around me seems to love it. Mr. WholeHog bikes instead of taking MUNI and now my sister does, too. A close friend biked a 100-mile “century” last year on a whim and then did the AIDS LifeCycle ride from SF to LA. My dad, who was always a runner when I was growing up, now bikes more often than he runs. He’s gone on biking trips down the California coast and up through parts of Oregon.


What appeals to me about biking is the chance to spend some fun and ideally relaxing time outside, but I haven’t found biking in the city to be fun or relaxing. Biking in the city is a challenge. Beyond just the incredibly hilly landscape, there are so many things to watch out for: pedestrians, dogs, cars, buses, other people on bikes. And there are so many potential hazards, too. I could get hit by a car. I could get “doored” by a parked car or my bike tire could get caught in the streetcar tracks. So many of the things that I find exhilarating about city living – the density, the hills, public transit, the mix of people out on the streets – are things that make it stressful to bike.

My bike also isn’t very relaxing to ride. It has what I believe are far too many gears (bike people strongly disagree with me on this). I’m stressed enough just trying to stay on my bike in the city; clicking through 20 possible gears just puts me over the edge. I’d gladly trade half the gears on my bike for a nice kickstand (bike people also seem to hate kickstands) or a softer bike seat. My ass hurt for days after Mr. WholeHog and I took a leisurely bike ride through Golden Gate Park and down the Great Highway. My dad advocates for padded bike shorts, but he’s the kind of person who has no qualms about wearing a purple woman’s REI shirt around town. If I have to wear a special outfit to bike, I’m probably going to give up the bike.

And I’d considered giving up on biking after the white-knuckle ride Mr. WholeHog and I took over the Golden Gate Bridge in March. I’d expected a car-free ride with great views, but instead of checking out the Bay or the SF skyline, I spent most of the ride trying not to mow down the many tourist families taking photos and trying to ignore the competitive, jersey-wearing cyclists on my back. But a bike ride I took last month in Healdsburg may have changed my mind about biking.

barnOn our overnight trip to Healdsburg last month, my sister and I took a beautiful, scenic bike ride through the Dry Creek valley. Out on these rural roads, there were no buses or train tracks or people to watch out for. Since we were out before any of the wineries opened, there were practically no cars to worry about either.  The only real obstacles on our ride were a long yellow snake lying in the road and one (mostly decomposed and unidentifiable) roadkill carcass.

It was a mostly flat ride, too, which was good since the PUBLIC bikes we were riding had no gears (!). We could have used maybe one or two gears on the ride (I stood up once while pedaling uphill), but ultimately I found it so freeing to only have to pedal and take in the scenery.

We rode next to vineyards, across one-lane country bridges, and up gentle hills that offered long views down the vineyard-covered valley. We biked down roads lined with fragrant roses, past ivy-covered barns and by big wooden winery gates. We saw hawks flying overhead, sheep grazing in a pasture and people working in the grapes. Coasting down a brief downhill stretch, we threw our legs out to the side with total delight.

vineyardsBiking in Healdsburg made me realize that I do like biking after all — but outside the City, on quiet sunny weekdays, and in a flat and beautiful part of the state.


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