I am out of biking shape. I know I am out of biking shape. The pandemic has not been good to my physical fitness. (For the record, this isn’t a proper edited and outlined and triaged essay, just some notes on my past weekend.)

But as out of shape as I am, I also know it’s only 25 miles from here to Philly on the Schuylkill River Trail, and so I figured maybe I could do it without any additional prep. When I found out that it was less hilly than the longer bike rides I used to do, I was sold, and I did it.

And I got there, with many breaks, in much more time than it should have taken. Now I know how out of biking shape I am, and I can work on it. And I was fortunately able to cancel the trip back and take my bike on the train back with me (which a woman asked me if she could take a picture of to prove to her husband it was possible).

First off, this trail is perhaps some of the safest cycling – especially on a per mile basis – that I’ve ever done. It’s fully protected, almost entirely paved (and the unpaved bits are fine), and only interacts with cars for a very safe 3 miles in Manayunk.

In fact, the safety and the lack of interaction with traffic presented an unexpected problem to me: parts of the ride let me zone out enough that I would get a little… bored. This meant that I would focus less, which meant I would slow down, which meant I would get even more bored. I should have a podcast with me, which means I’ll need to take a battery pack with me so my phone doesn’t die as I listen to it. Lesson learned.

But with all this safety, I was so confused to see so many people biking in full gear, with reflector shirts and their lights on during the daytime. Like, are you worried about getting hit by a deer?

I’m used to biking in NYC, interacting with the traffic all the time, and this helps my anxiety, as you’re forced to pay very close attention to actual potential dangers. This was more just… exercise.

There were some fun surprises! Somewhere around the halfway point, I saw a sign for “The Tricycle,” and much to my pleasant surprise, there it was! A bicycle shop and cafe! I had a coffee and a delightful conversation with some of the other patrons. It was super refreshing.

When I got to my destination, I sounded like I was dying. I was coughing like an elderly smoker with the flu, and I don’t even smoke anymore. What is even the point of not smoking if you’re still going to cough like that? (I’m kidding! Kidding!)

Biking in Philly itself was a different story. Cars drive faster in Philly than in NYC, there’s fewer traffic lights and more all-way stops, which is terrifying, and I had a minor crash, a “trolly track spill,” because it was raining and my wheel got caught in the trolly tracks.

I was fine, and it was only a $11 repair (with tax) to re-true the wheel and readjust the breaks, but oy gevalt! (und “Gewalt” meine ich Buchst√§blich…)

So in conclusion: I should do this way more, because this is a great way to get some exercise and some sociality in on a weekend! Hopefully next time I can bike back too.