Last spring, in lockdown and with the walls of my condo closing in on me day by day, I became determined to reaquaint myself with riding on two wheels.
It had been years (er, decades?) since I’d last been on a bike. Balance has never been my strong suit, and riding in the city always terrified me. But I was desperate for a pandemic-friendly way to stay active with my kid, who’s too young to navigate crowded streets, streetcar tracks and oblivious car door-openers on her own. I’ll do it this for her, I thought.
Pretty soon, however, it was all about me. A dizzying sense of freedom came over me during that first wobbly ride. The combination of being out in the spring air and alone in my head was exhilarating. I was hooked. Long rides using Toronto’s Bike Share program are now a rare fond memory of 2020.
Statistics show I wasn’t the only one getting back in the saddle. As temperatures rose across the country, so did people’s appetites for their own two-wheeled adventures. Bike shops all but sold out of inventory and cities turned over major roads to cyclists looking for a safer way to commute and stay fit. As we roll through another pandemic spring, it’s safe to say this freewheeling trend is here to stay.
Whether you’re just getting in on it, or looking to level up, this issue has you covered. In our field guide (page 44), Dominique Lamberton digs into the serious health benefits, both mental and physical, of cruising around on any type of bike, and rounds up all the latest gear (including a disco-inspired bell for extra bling). Rebecca Gao explains why not all helmets are created equal and makes an impassioned argument for padded shorts (hear her out). And if you want to make the most out of your ride, take a friend—as anyone from Vancouver’s Liv cycling group will tell you, biking with buddies amps up the feel-good factor even more.
That’s not exactly surprising, since we’re all a bit starved for companionship these days. And flexing your friendship muscles is more important than ever. As Sarmishta Subramanian writes on page 68, all this social distancing has remapped friendship, fundamentally changing the way we connect with others. As I read her exploration of what we’ve lost to the six-foot gulf that’s separated us all for more than a year, I started to recognize the toll this pandemic has taken on my own friendships; the subtle ways I’ve become more withdrawn, and how being alone can be both a coveted and devastating state.
Will it prove difficult to remember what it takes to have meaningful relationships? Or will it be like riding a bike? It may be the longer days, the warmer sun and the smell of fresh grass talking, but my money is on the latter.