Riding in isolation is amazing. 12-year-old me rode a bike everywhere. 27-year-old me forgot how freeing it is. I recently moved to Vancouver and then BOOM, all the borders closed. I don’t know many people here so I’ve been finding ways to fill my time.
Coming from a small town, Vancouver feels huge and everything seems far away. I’m obviously not keen on taking public transport right now due to the health risks. But yesterday, I took a bike ride. I borrowed my landlord’s e-bike and went out for a couple of hours.
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I haven’t ridden a bike in a couple of years, so thought I’d be a little wobbly, but the old cliché is true… I was also lucky that the restrictions in place means fewer cars on the road.
As a lot of us have been forced to learn, spending every day alone steadily infects your motivation and your mental health. I had been a little down. Moving to a new place, I wanted to explore the people, scenery, nightlife. Since restrictions have been in place, all of that’s on the back burner for who knows how long. I had gone five blocks in every direction and seen the same things over and over. Out in the suburbs there isn’t all that much to see.
I got on the e-bike and suddenly everywhere is accessible. I went 12km with ease, and probably would have gone further if my legs weren’t worn out. I immediately felt better. Flying through the cherry blossoms, stumbling across mountain views and green spaces instantly cleared my head. Even at speed, I saw so much more of the city than I had in weeks sitting on buses or walking.
It’s tough to feel at home in a place when you haven’t spent any time among the people or exploring the culture. Here in Vancouver, everyone seems to ride a bike. In a city like this, getting on the e-bike made me feel connected to the place. It felt sociable too, despite not going within 10 feet of another person. Just seeing them around was a reminder that life goes on, even when it seems to have stood still for the past couple of months.
Seeing how the city is coping with the crisis was strangely fascinating. I saw coffee shops open, but only doing takeaway for two customers at a time. I saw murals and chalk drawings with messages of hope and appreciation for local healthcare staff and other key workers. Everything seemed greener and cleaner after a couple of months without human interference.
I’m not saying take any unnecessary risks. Staying home is still the best chance we have of beating this thing until a vaccine is produced. But getting out, safely, and getting some exercise is so important on a personal level. We’re living through a global event and that short ride let me see the reality of it.
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The last time I rode was on a regular pedal bike, so at first it seemed like speed was the only advantage on the e-bike. After exploring for a while, I was heading home and felt pretty burned out. As I don’t know the city, I ended facing a monster of a hill. This thing was so steep I was going to get off and walk. But no, that little motor handled the slope like it was nothing.
It was such an easy exercise as well — running’s tough, walking is boring — riding the bike hit that spot right in the middle. I could cover a lot of ground, get a decent workout in and get across the city within thirty minutes.
While some places are closed off, I can’t wait to try out some established routes around Vancouver. Depending where you are, it might not be so easy to get out. If you have access, I’d advise getting on a bike and exploring in whatever outdoor time you’re allowed. For me, it made all the difference.