I could see from the look on my teachers face, she was worried about me riding my bike home in the dark. I've seen this look on many people before. The making of the worry face is usually followed by questions like "How far are you riding again?" "Are you SURE you don't need a ride?" "Are you going to be warm enough?" I've been asked all of these questions many times over the last 10 years, and I always respond the same, "I'll be warm enough, it's not that far, and I'm positive I don't need a ride."
There is a sharp disconnect between people who ride bikes medium to long distances, regularly, and people who might jump on their cruiser bike once a year for a bar crawl or trip to the ice cream shop with the kids. The disconnect makes the annual bike riders (who are mostly car drivers) think that those who ride regularly, and in all weather must be out of their damn minds. We aren't out of our minds, we just know something you don't; a knowledge of how the city is laid out for the perfect ride home and intimate details of every neighborhood we ride through.
Tonight was the first time in a while I've done a ride longer than tooling around downtown Salt Lake to get errands done. Six miles to class, seven miles home, for a grand total of a 13 mile day. It felt great. No... it felt absolutely fantastic. Zipping along 300 East on my way to my Thursday night class allowed my mind to wander, my legs to get into a rhythm and for my heart rate to elevate a bit. The sun was just starting to set over the Oquirrh Mountains, casting shades of pink and orange across the sky. I don't ride south much on 300 East, so the architecture and styles of homes along the way caught my eye. They reminded me of the Harvard/Yale neighborhood, but without Mercedes in the drive ways.
When I got back on the road after class, the roads were quiet. The sounds of car stereos played late night jazz on KUER and the beats of ethnic music. As I passed over State St Davey Davis passed by on the opposite side of the street, and we hollered out to each other. The familiar smell of laundry in the dryer and someones late night dinner filled my nose. I'm experiencing snippets of other peoples lives in the few seconds it takes for me to ride by their house.
These experiences are what keep me riding a bike. I miss them when I'm in a car. Never are we so intimately acquainted with a city as when we are on foot or by bike.