Lessons learned on two wheels: Triumphs and trials of a car-free cycling fanatic

in #cycling3 years ago (edited)

Lessons learned on two wheels


Triumphs and challenges of a cycling fanatic's car-free lifestyle.

Flat tires, forgotten wallets, blizzards, thunderstorms, road ragers, dead cell phones... How do these problems affect cyclists differently than car drivers? I've learned first-hand the determination it takes to triumph, or at least survive, on two wheels. Some call it grit. Since selling my car and living a more sustainable lifestyle, I've felt it.


I've experienced two tire blowouts driving cars. [I'm using the word "car" to refer to any four-wheeled motor vehicle]. Thankfully I veered into shallow ditches, not oncoming traffic, or a tree. No one was seriously injured although my heart nearly stopped. I waited comfortably in the car until help arrived in one case. The next time, I locked the car and left it to be towed later. No grit required. When a bicycle tire goes flat, you can't sit comfortably or lock the doors and walk away. You have to carry your vehicle along, at least far enough to safely lock it up. If you remembered your bike lock. I've learned to bring a spare tire tube and tools. I'm learning to change a flat myself.



When I owned vehicles, I kept "emergency cash" and a spare credit card locked in the glove compartment. I knew I'd drive somewhere without my wallet and need food or gas. Or to pay for parking. There is no lockable secret compartment on my bicycle to stash cash or hide credit cards. I could zip them in a bag attached to the bike frame. Risk theft if I locked my bike in a public space and walked away, forgetting about the back-up money? No thanks. Remember, this situation assumes I forgot my main wallet at home. I clearly can't be trusted to remember everything, everytime. This lesson is a hard one and I'm still learning. Earlier this week I was out riding later than planned and my stomach started growling. When I finally pedaled to a favorite source of cycling fuel (Taco Cat, for the locals) I noticed a feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with hunger. That sinking feeling when you realize you forgot your wallet and you really want to eat NOW. By the time I grudgingly pedaled home, I had gone from hungry to hangry. Be thankful you weren't there!


Thunder Snowing.

This is an actual weather term here in Minnesota. Most commonly during Spring, we experience storms with a mixture of rain, sleet, snow, hail, lightening and thunder. When "thunder snow" is forecast, any type of precipitation could accompany the BOOMING! As a car driver, you can pull over and wait out the storm, maybe play some games on your smartphone. If it's not too severe, you can slowly drive home, no raincoat or goggles required. When your vehicle is a bicycle, you are in it. I've ventured out in exciting weather, experimenting with goggles and other gear. Finding my personal edge is exhilarating. There's grit, and then there's reckless abandon. For cyclists in Minneapolis, it's a fine line. I am regularly humbled by riders I see killing it in weather conditions that sent me pedaling for home as fast as my legs could move. Or trudging along pushing my bike because the snow was too deep to ride. (I don't have a fat tire bike - yet!) When the limits of my being and my bike have been reached, there is always someone out there grinding along. At least until a 50 mph gust of wind knocks them to the ground.



Angry drivers are dangerous regardless of how many wheels your vehicle has. For me, road rage feels more threatening on two wheels because many car drivers target cyclists. Like toddlers, they don't want to share. But, I have to share roads to get from A to B. Sure, when I'm out for a joyride, Minneapolis has an excellent trail system. Can the bike fly from my garage to the bicycle trail? What about pit stops? When a bicycle is your vehicle, you ride to work, grocery stores, friend's houses… not just on bike trails. Some roads have "bike lanes." To many drivers, they are little more than painted art on pavement, ignored or unnoticed. Well intentioned bike lanes are frequently blocked by illegally parked cars, delivery vehicles, or waiting taxis. During winter, the bike lanes are often covered with the snow plowed out of vehicle lanes. It has to go somewhere. This is Minnesota. When angry drivers swerve to within inches of cyclists, or intentionally hit us, we have very little protection. A high quality helmet offers some. Our vehicles have not received five star safety ratings and are not equipped with air bags.



The dreaded dead cell phone battery. In a car, you can likely plug your phone into a power source while continuing to drive toward your destination. Or, in many cases, stop to buy a charging cord at a gas station without major inconvenience. Traveling by bicycle, it takes a bit more preparation to charge a portable power source and pack it along. Most likely, if the battery dies you'll have to survive without a phone until your own pedal power takes you to another charging option. A place with an electrical outlet can be few and far between on long bicycle tour routes. I've persuaded staff at coffee shops and restaurants to give my phone a little juice when I forgot my own cord. It's a great conversation starter… The most vulnerable experience I've had with a low phone battery was while riding the last ten miles of a century (100 miles in a day). I was alone, long after sunset, on an unfamiliar route from Brainerd to Bemidji. Living in a huge city, I often forget how dark it is in rural areas without light pollution. During those (literally) dark miles, I fought feelings of dread by repeating positive affirmations and forcing myself to keep pedaling. In the end, I felt independent, brave, and gritty. Next time, I think I'll bring a back-up charger though ;)


A bit of advice before wrapping this article up: If you enjoy cycling, I recommend you go without your phone at least once. It's an incredibly liberating feeling to move through the world by the power of your own two legs - without worrying about your battery level, stopping for selfies, or measuring your mileage with an app. The same advice applies to runners, hikers, and really everyone. It feels like FREEDOM!

Bonus photo: How to get your slice of pizza home when cycling without a bag!


*All photos are my own, featuring me and my bikes, on cycling adventures.

Share your car-free experiences in the comments! I'm intending to begin blogging regularly again and would love to connect.


I have a bike at home but rarely use it as it's a hilly area where I live so anytime I take it I come completely sweaty to my destination and feel uncomfortable afterwards. But anytime it's possible I walk. I even walk to a city nearby (around 3 km). People here prefer to take car anywhere, they even wonder why I walk those 3 km if I can take a car. They just don't get the point :)

It looks like there are many issues if you like to bike. I would probably get very angry if I would be hungry and realized that I forgot my wallet at home - and then you need to bike back! What a disaster...

I like that solution for pizza, lol :) Very creative!

Thank you for sharing and congratulations on your curie vote!

It's an incredibly liberating feeling to move through the world by the power of your own two legs...

The sense of accomplishment when you arrive at your destination powered by your too legs is just priceless.

I always love to cycling around my city as it gives me ample time to explore my world easier compared to other means of transport.
Thanks for sharing your lovely cycling adventures!

Thank you, @straighttalk! I agree cycling is a wonderful way to discover things that you wouldn't notice if you were in a car. And you can cover much longer distances than you could if you were walking. It really is priceless to feel empowered on a vehicle you move with your own legs 😊 I started following your blog, too. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

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Hi mininthecity,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit curiesteem.com or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.

Wow, thank you! The recognition is very much appreciated. I feel humbled and motivated to continue writing and sharing. Thanks to all of the dedicated human curators!

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Thank you for welcoming me back, again! 😉 Your support and encouragement on my social media accounts keeps me going. I even finished mininthecity.com version 1.0 this morning 😊

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You are right about conducting outside physical exercise without all this technology embark on us. I love cycling and discovery amazing place nearby the town. I have never ride on snow. I will plan trip to achieve this goal. Thank you for sharing your cycling adventures. Pizza transportation strategy is genius.

Hi, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am happy to connect with another cyclist and hope you will share some of your riding experiences on your blog here. It was cool that the restaurant had a box for the slice of pizza that could fit inside my coat 😁

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hi @mininthecity
beautiful images of life as a cyclist! We have been traveling for a while (we move by local means) but we would like to try a bicycle challenge before becoming too old! How much training do you think it takes to travel by bicycle? consider that we are completely inexperienced !!
Congratulations for your brave eco-sustainable choice and thank you for sharing with us

Hi @road2horizon! Thank you! It is difficult for me to advise about training. I suggest finding bikes that are a good fit and experimenting with how many miles you can ride in a day. You could start with where you are at and grow into it. If you have flexibility you could travel the number of miles per day that works for you and camp along the way or try to plan a route with shelter available frequently enough. There are more experienced touring cyclists on steemit that may be able to offer perspectives. Good luck and I look forward to reading about your adventures here if you share 😊

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I understand, but for example in Cornwall we had bicycles available and the paths were very hilly ... I couldn't do it, I had to go on foot !! what a shame!!

Yeay, so glad to see you back, @mininthecity! Last year around this time you gave me tons of inspiration, and now, reading your post about cycling, reminded me of my trip down the west coast last Fall.
While I was apprehensive of hills at first, I fell in love with them. Elevations, bring it on! As for the weather, that's a different issue. Fortunately we had gorgeous weather for most of the trip, except for the obligatory rain on the Olympic Peninsula, and some high winds in Southern Cali , which I had to ride into for days. So picturing your Minnesotan thunder-snow gives me the shivers, and raises the respect for hard-core riders from the Mid West, like yourself.
Charging my phone was of course a major issue, so I got myself a solar charger / power pack. After three months on the road with it I can say, it would have been much better to get a separate battery and a decent solar array, as simply being in motion would diminish the charging capacity of the small solar panel.
Looking forward to many more awesome bike-posts! Btw, I LOVE your wearable pizza bag! ;-)

Thanks for the warm welcome @stortebeker! I was blogging about 30 days of Biking in April last year. 😁 I'm participating again this year and sharing little blurbs on other social media platforms. Encouragement like yours is motivating me to put together some stories and post on steemit more regularly as well. Your bike tour on the west coast must have been epic. Fall is my favorite time of year in many ways. Thanks for the feedback about phone chargers, too. I'll be traveling in Switzerland this summer and want to do some cycling although it will not be a cycling centric trip. My partner and I are going for our friend's wedding and spending some time before and after the event to explore. Looking forward to connecting more again. I really appreciate your enthusiasm for cycling and dedication to sustainability!

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Oh wow... Switzerland has some NICE hills! :-) Have fun at the wedding and on the bit of biking you're thinking about doing.
So have you seen my posts about my cycling trip down the coast? I'm not hunting upvotes, as the time for that has passed anyway, but if you're interested, you can check them out at the end of this post: https://steempeak.com/travel/@stortebeker/cascadia-to-aztlan-origin-and-destination It is mostly bike-related, though with lots of nature adventure, and ... well, many other things we ran into on this unforgettable trip. Hope you like it!

My memory isn't great so I honestly don't recall if I read some of your adventures on that particular trip. I am happy to upvote when applicable although my vote is not very powerful yet. I understand in this case it's too old to earn steem but I am interested in reading and seeing your photos. Thanks for the link!

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you know those little caps that go on the ends of your handlebars? you could pop one off and stuff a piece of cork in there as a stopper then roll up a 20 and put it in there for emergency taco money and put the cap back on, highly unlikely someone will pop that off when you're bike is locked up.

Clever idea! I'll have to look at my handlebars. Now if you see my bike around town, don't tell the secret😉

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