The Subtle Joy Of Biking For Groceries

The grocery list items tumbles in my mind, jumbling with anxious thoughts of upcoming deadlines. I’d already accepted that there would be no mountain bike ride today. No time for a run, either. This was not what I’d envisioned when I started freelancing and working from home. Where were the midday climbing breaks? The perfect work-life balance?

I stare into the open kitchen cupboard, half looking for a reason to walk away from the paragraph I was trying to smooth into submission, and half truly concerned about what would be for lunch—and dinner. Partly annoyed at having to step away from work, but also thankful for the excuse, I pull the black bike from its rack on the wall, strap on my roll-top backpack and snap on my helmet. Well, if I’m going to have to run to the grocery store, I might as well do it on my bike.

A fog of phrases and headlines drifts around my mind as I shoulder the bike down the stairs and out the front door onto Colfax, pausing to wait for traffic to part. Denver’s Colfax Avenue is the single grimy vein that runs the entire length of the city, its vintage neon signs glowing vestiges of the glamorous days when it was the sole highway to Colorado’s mountains, before I-70 took over the job. Now some blocks house dilapidated by-the-week hotels, and others have been gentrified into cupcake shops and hair salons. Our block is somewhere in between. A couple of tattoo parlors, a donut shop, a medical marijuana dispensary and a thrift shop.

Biking is a special way to feel Colfax. Close enough to pedestrians to chat with the guy asking for change on the corner. Exposed enough to wince from a cat call. Free enough to fly alongside cars and flee onto a side street on a whim.

A couple blocks to the west, I wait for the left turn light and pedal toward the park, brown and orange leaves whisking out from between parked cars. It registers that this will be one of the last days of the year I’ll be able to hop on my bike in flip flops. It’s right between chilly and warm enough to sweat just running errands. My fog starts to clear.

I wish I could say I’m one of those people who rides their bikes for every single errand, only using my car to escape to the mountains. But I find myself hopping behind the wheel more often than I’d like, often stationary in the city’s clogged arteries on the way to someplace I probably could get to almost as quickly on a bike. So today, it feels nice. Pleasantly uncomplicated.

Pushing harder up the last hill to the store and balancing on my pedals to wait for the light to change green, it feels great to simply be moving. We spend so much time sitting, at our desks, or behind the wheel. It’s a heady joy just to feel the acceleration that comes from my own pedal strokes, and the effortless downhill glide, keeping pace with traffic.

Locking up the bike outside and taking a quick lap through the store for dinner ingredients, I’m soon placing each item carefully in my pack and rolling the top closed. The satisfaction of carrying my belongings on my own back is an extra dose of happiness on the short ride home. It settles into a feeling of gratefulness for my able body and the freedom to ride where I please.

I know my cursor will still blink in the middle of that troublesome paragraph after I’ve unloaded my groceries and hung the bike back on the wall. But instead of a stressful hassle, my errand had become a small but satisfying journey, and subtle shift of mindset. Sometimes the perspective from a bike seat is all you need.