Second Thoughts

Obviously I’m a fan of Citi Bike. It makes getting around fast and fun, and I feel safer on a bike than in the back of a taxi. I save money, get exercise and see the city from an exciting perspective.

Not only is biking a physical challenge, but also it’s a mental exercise, presenting me with a logistical puzzle to get from point A to point B. On each ride I make dozens of split-second decisions to avoid this and that, and build discipline for following road rules even when flouted by drivers and bikers alike.

What I didn’t expect was for that satisfaction to wear off so quickly once I left the city. After the ferry to Atlantic Highlands, I got my first taste of pedaling a 40-some pound bike pulling a 40-some pound trailer. That’s a whole lotta of pounds says my hamstrings.

In city traffic, the bike’s added weight is reassuring. The over-padded seat and grippy handlebars are like defensive shock absorbers for broken roads. If the bike is in bad shape, it’s not my problem for long. I simply get another one next trip. Looking for a shared bike when you need it most can be frustrating, but I think the hunt is part of bike sharing’s logistical thrill.

Postpartum depression
However, outside the city where life is calmer and less congested, the big bike felt burdensome and out of place. In NYC, the 45-minute time limit is a welcome stopping point. Now that I’m on the lam with my own blue bike, I don't want it anymore. I want to put it back, but there is no stopping point. I have to keep riding. If you think it’s a slog to ride one for 45 minutes, try 5.5 hours.

A flooded roadway and sidewalk makes for a tough crossing in West Atlantic City, NJ

A flooded roadway and sidewalk makes for a tough crossing in West Atlantic City, NJ

I have strong doubts that I can sustain this stamina. The physical exertion is exhausting. After Day 1, the handle bars and seat numbed my hands and butt. I only went 38 miles, but felt like I had just completed the NYC Century (100 miles) on my own bike, which I’ve done twice.

On a shared bike pulling a trailer, I averaged 7.2 miles an hour on the first day, which includes stops to take selfies and yell back to the voice of Google Maps for telling me turn onto roads that don’t exist (stay tuned for Day 2). Still, that pace is really slow and this country is really big. Right now I’m just going to focus on reaching DC where I have friends waiting. After that I’ll listen to my mind and body, and re-evaluate if this whole thing is even worth it.