Every year, my pal Nick and I inevitably have a chat about our goals for the year, at some coffee shop in Denver. In 2009, it was already late February or March by the time it came up in conversation. I probably told Nick about my goals, which usually include sleeping outside at least 30 nights, climbing this route or that peak, learning to lead on ice, eating the Piggy Split at Liks all by myself, and a handful of other things. Nick, always laid-back, said something like,
“I should probably come up with some goals, huh?”
Then we started talking about how much he was on his bicycle — every day for work, everywhere else within 5 miles of his Capitol Hill apartment, rain, snow, hail, 105 degrees, 15 degrees, whatever. A few of us had this kind-of unwritten, unspoken agreement that no weather was too bad to ride. In January, we’d ride in ski goggles, ski helmets and Gore-Tex hiking shoes.
Say 50 weeks of work every year, 5 days of work per week, 250 days on a bike in 2009 was pretty possible for Nick, we said. Maybe 300 was realistic. Huh. Well, Nick said, I’d have to go back and see how many days I’ve ridden so far.
Well, I said, how many days have you not ridden to work this year? None.
Over the next few months, I forgot about it. Near the end of 2009, I got busy planning my big goal for 2010, riding a bike across the country. A lot got pushed to the side as I panicked about new bike parts, which tools to take, if I was in shape for it, was my bike going to make it, all that.
Then a few days before Christmas 2009, Nick and I were sitting at St. Mark’s Coffeehouse in Denver again, and one of us brought it up.
As long as I ride to work the next couple days before my vacation starts, Nick said, I’ll have ridden my bike 325 days this year.
Three hundred and twenty-five days? Get the fuck out of here, I said.
That’s 325 days of picking up his bike by the top tube, carrying it down the stairs of his second-floor apartment, clipping his helmet strap, and riding. Just because he likes to. He doesn’t look out the window to see if it’s raining or snowing, and then decide to leave his bike at home and drive. He looks out the window to see if it’s raining or snowing, so he knows whether to wear a rain jacket and/or pants he’d be comfortable ripping if he hit some ice and fell down. He hadn’t said anything about it. I imagine he probably just had a wall calendar at home, maybe hanging in his kitchen, and he marked off the days he rode maybe while he was cooking dinner at night. At that rate, he might as well have kept track of the days he drank water, or ate breakfast.
If you rode your bike every single day of the year, no days off, no weekend days off, starting January 1 and stopped riding the week of Thanksgiving, you’d have ridden almost exactly 325 days. And Nick basically shrugged like he had just told me what he ate for lunch that day and you know, what else are we going to talk about, anyway, can you believe this weather? Huh.
“Oh, you know what else?” he said. “I went to get my oil changed in my truck just before we went to Canyonlands for Thanksgiving, and it had been exactly a year since I got it changed in 2008. To the day.”
No shit, I said. How many miles did you drive last year, then?
3,300. Minus our annual trip to Canyonlands, which is about 900 miles round-trip, he had only driven 2,400 miles the entire year. The average American drives 13,500 miles per year.
It was a huge year, 325 days of committing to riding a bicycle, committing to doing something healthy for himself and the planet, minimizing impact, maximizing joy, almost 11 complete months of days of riding, making it part of his routine as much as brushing his teeth. If half of America did half, or one-fourth of what Nick did, just imagine.
Or, like Nick would probably say, it was just a guy riding his bike to work. No big deal. You know, he likes his bicycle, so, whatever.