Life in the Bike Lane
Since moving to the Netherlands around three years ago the majority of my days are spent outside, cycling in the bike lane. To most people out there, this might sound rather mad or perhaps even peculiar, but it is all in fact entirely true. After 'Brexiting' the Motherland and I guess becoming part of Dutch culture I decided to make some changes in my life. Changes that were perhaps easy to consider, but in reality, much harder to actually implement.
It wasn't that I needed to make a change for a specific reason. Despite getting older, with each year that passes. I'm generally happy with life, fit, healthy and active. So, this all came down to an idea I'd had been thinking for some time and now wanted the opportunity to put it all into practice.
So what was the change?
The change I tried to implement turned out to be a pretty simple one. It focused on my passion for all things outdoors and of course my love of cycling. As a result, I decided to lead by example and finally ditch the car, together with public transport, in order to maximise my health and well-being and cycle to work on a daily basis
The change I tried implement turned out to be a pretty simple one. It focused on my passion for all things outdoors and of course my love of cycling. As a result, I decided to lead by example and finally ditch the car, together with public transport, in order to maximise my health and well-being and cycle to work on a daily basis.
In order to achieve this and I guess start living the life, I so wanted to live. I carefully looked at my commute of over 16 miles or 25.7 km each way and thought that there was a real possibility of me being able to ride each day using only my own steam, simply using the pedals, as my only means of powering me from home to work.
At this point in proceedings little did I know, but my journey and the biggest challenge was about to begin and I was now at the starting point of yet another one of life's great adventures.
An adventure that was inevitably going to have a huge impact on my life.
They always say that preparation is key and after cycling for a considerable amount of time, I agree that this is the single most important aspect of my day to day routine. Over the years, of cycling EVERYDAY, it is definitely something I have become progressively become accustomed too. Something that is now just ingrained in my mind, simply becoming part of my life and I guess just routine.
After a good night sleep, of around 8 hours, the alarm goes off at 5:15 am. I quickly wake from my slumber, get out of bed and somehow seem to float effortlessly towards the shower. I shower, then reach for my cycle clothing that is laid out separately on the floor in neat little piles. A bit like football strips laid out in the changing room or products in a clothing store. I dress quickly and then glance fleetingly into the bathroom mirror. With tired eyes, I think for several seconds and carefully consider 'what on earth am I doing here?'
To avoid overthinking these negative thoughts, which only seem to distract me from my overall main objective. I proceed to distract myself a little more by turning away from the situation and simply begin heading off downstairs.
Holding the rail, as to not fall in the darkness and creeping slowly, as to not wake the rest of the household. I eventually reach the bottom step. At the bottom of the staircase and to the side of me are my waterproof pannier bags. Carefully, packed the night before, with various types of essential waterproofs, nutritious food and other important items to help me stay comfortable out in the early morning cold.
My bike lights are still charging and are almost ready to go. They form an essential item for me, especially at this time of year and to not use them would result in darkness, danger and probably a fine from the Police, who are always out checking and enforcing the laws, especially at this time of the year.
I carefully gather my belongings, take the light from out of the wall sockets and then walk slowly into the living room and onward into the kitchen. The kitchen offers a place for me to wake my weary head. My body craves food and hydration. So, I reach for the cereal packet and pour myself a large bowl of porridge oats. I really love porridge oats, as they seem to provide the perfect breakfast for me and have now become my staple source of carbohydrates.
Not only are they quick and easy for me to prepare, but most importantly, they really help to fill me up. After pouring on some Soya milk, I then put the bowl in the microwave and heat them for a minute or two. Straight after, I scatter a few nuts and flax seeds, together with a smattering of dried cranberries on top. Once suitably warm I eat them up fairly rapidly. Finally, I finish my religious breakfast routine and reach for a banana, together with a large glass of cold water, to round it all off and hopefully add a (much needed) kickstart, that will go a long way to helping me through the busy day ahead.
For me, this breakfast routine needs to be all pretty simple and what I choose to eat always seems to work for me. At 5.30 am in the morning I'm not really considering indulging in the perfect 'fine dining' experience. I just want something that will fuel my activity, fill me up and allow me to survive until around 10 am when I will probably graze once again.
Ready to go...
I gather my thoughts, zip up my waterproof/windproof jacket. Gather the rest of my belongings and carry them out of the door. Once outside the door my bike awaits and is all ready to go. We live upstairs, in an apartment, so in order to finally reach solid ground, I first need to lift my bike and carry it carefully downstairs. It is not an ideal situation, as the shed outside is full of my other bikes, but it is what it is and for now, that's just the way it is. Adding the panniers to the back of bike means that it can become rather heavy at times, but it is all part of the routine and I guess results in an opportunity to engage in some free strength training exercises, which are all thrown in for good measure.
I guess one positive advantage of doing all this, helps keep my arms nice and trim and also means that I don't actually need to visit the gym so regularly. Which I actually find a good thing, as I'm not really into gyms. Once down at the bottom of the stairs and out of the main door. I simultaneously turn on the bike lights, start up my navigation system, take a big breath and then begin to set off for yet another morning out on the bike.
As previously highlighted, my ride is around 16 miles one way and then, hopefully getting home, 16 miles back. It occasionally varies in route, but doing the maths correctly, that equates to a 32-mile round trip every single day, in all types of weather.
For most of my journey, it is just me in the bike lane, cycling along, gathering my thoughts and generally just minding my own business. On this particular November morning, it is cold and very dark outside, with a brisk wind force 5 blowing from the North West. Inevitably, negative thoughts begin to pass through my mind and questions of doubt start to run around in my head.
This obviously does happen from time to time, but I have definitely learnt to focus on the much bigger picture and indeed all of the positives. As a result, my mind tends not to respond to these imposing thoughts and questions. Instead, my response is to simply put my head down and pedal on. This is my way of coping with it all and a strategy that seems to work for me. Allowing time to pass by quickly. Resulting in me spending less time analysing all the negative aspects of undertaking such crazy actions and endeavours.
As the vast network of cycle paths weave on. I soon pass through the outskirts of the City of Rotterdam and then into the wilds of the flat and exposed landscape of the Dutch Polders. On some days, this particular part of my journey can seem like nothing more than torture.
It's true... there is definitely no fun to be had when the strong, cold North Westerly wind is battering your body and face. Making a simple flat ride feel more like you are cycling through treacle or the persistent heavy rain continuously running off your face like you're cycling through a car wash.
Indulging in such crazy activities does indeed test your overall character and the more you begin to think what you are doing, the more you feel like you are ready to give up and quit. Of course, these natural elements are not very pleasant and often unforgiving, but I do have a good set of waterproofs and I'm made of tough stuff. Far tougher than even I would indeed give myself credit for. As a result, I continually see this as one of life's great challenges. A challenge to undertake and one to overcome, with the basic intention of making sure I get to work on time.
On late autumnal days like this, it is dark and fairly uninspiring outside and although using the light source from my bike or the street lights above, there isn't a lot else to brighten your way or indeed your morning. At this point of the journey, I do really feel I'm encountering the toughest and most exhausting part of the whole journey. With clear visions and thoughts about being wrapped up in your warm bed racing through your mind. It really makes me feel like what I'm doing is not entirely normal and obviously makes you feel you are different. Again, I have always been different, throughout my life and somehow take peace in the thought that I just like it that way. So much so, I have always been one to follow my own instinct, ideas and opinions, as opposed to following others like sheep. I'm a leader, not a follower!!
Soon enough I reach the shelter of the nearest town (Delft) and cycle along and then through the deserted streets of this beautiful historical city. In my opinion, Delft is such a great city with so many lovely streets to walk down, interesting places to see and a huge amount of things to do. At this time of the morning though it offers very little, just some wandering cats in the street, a student or two staggering home from a 'great night out' and some welcome peace and quiet for the sleeping residents and of course, some shelter from the wind for me.
Although the city is still sleeping, I cannot help but feel like I'm the catalyst for the world to now awake. My presence and quick departure is rather like a strong gust of wind, passing down the street or like a mysterious figure that is so often talked about, yet never seen.
A few shots of beautiful Delft, not taken at 6 am in the morning, but during the day. It is such an interesting little city, with a wealth of great things to see and do.
You can read more about exploring Delft in an afternoon right here.
Anyhow, I'd prefer to remain somewhat elusive. I like it that way. After all, I'm nothing special and don't really think that the limelight suits me that much. I'm happy, content and surprisingly warm. At this moment in time I'm simply enjoying the moment and not being battered by the cold winds, feels like a huge positive. It does feel though, once I pass through, people will awake from their slumber and again start a brand new day.
The final stretch
Soon enough I pass through the outskirts of Delft and into the city of The Hague, which will be my final destination stop. The Hague is another big city and like my home in Rotterdam, it seems like it is growing bigger each and every day, with very little natural space now being found between them.
As the clock ticks on and it starts to get busier, so I must start to be more aware and of course vigilant of the traffic lights in the cycle lane, that often require me to stop. Failure to do so might see me being hit by a tram or passing car. Generally, though the cycle lanes are safe and rules nearly always adhered to. With increased traffic, you do need to be more careful, as, like motorists, cyclists can also be morons too. With some haphazard cyclists occasionally cycling the wrong way down the cycle path or trying to barge you out of the way with a great sense of arrogance.
Then again, I see this as a challenge and I always stand my ground and would prefer to barge into them, as they barge into me.
The end is in sight
I reach the end of the line and almost cycle into the North Sea. You see, it might sound rather strange, but I do work right by the coast and with that, it truly is the end of the line for me. I apply the brakes, stop and indeed gather my thoughts once more. I take a deep breath, sigh and wipe the sweat from my brow.
Thankfully, I have a few hours to eat, work and recharge my batteries before doing it all again once more, only this time the journey in reverse. With a smile on my face, I'm delighted with my overall achievements and I'm happy that I'm actually doing something constructive and worthwhile, by helping to save this great planet of ours.
As they say... the most effective way to have an impact on this planet is to 'ride a bike'.
To me, it is all very simple and you often just have to change something about yourself in order to have an impact on the bigger picture. The simple things in life always keep me happy and in my world, it doesn't get much better than this.
With fresh air, freedom and exercise... What more could I ask for?
The start of something BIG...
I have been cycling this daily route for 3 years now and although difficult and challenging at times. I do find it has definietly changed many aspects of my life...for the better. With that in mind, I made my decisions and simply wouldn't want it to be any other way. I generally feel, so much better for not travelling to work by car or by public transport and feel it was the right choice to make. For my own personal well being... I'm fitter than I have ever been and with all the fresh air and Serotonin (from daily light) my current mental health is probably better than it has ever been.
What started out as a challenge, has now most certainly evolved into something much bigger.
By putting thoughts into action I have set myself new goals and big plans are afoot. I have great intentions and slowly but surely, they are now becoming a reality. Positivity breeds success and I'm sure my overall approach together with my ambition will inevitably help to make a change and hopefully along this journey it will also help inspire many others to make positive changes as well.
At this moment in time I'm readily working in the background and developing something big and in the weeks and months ahead I hope to develop these ideas into reality.
If my words resonate and perhaps act as inspiration or even wisdom, then please stay tuned. If you would like to work with me and indeed be part of my newest adventure, then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Big thanks for reading my latest Blog Post.