Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dollars, Sense, & Feeling Good!

While it's no secret that riding your bike more helps you to feel good, it's still nice to reflect on it sometimes.  As I was riding home from the grocery store today, I was thinking about how good it felt.  Here I was, both front and rear panniers fully loaded with stuff for the weekend ... which included heavier items like Guinness, Silk Milk, apples, etc. ... the equivalent of about 7 plastic grocery bags ... and the bike handled so well that I was smiling.  It was, as I often like to say when describing the music of the artist formerly-known-as-then-called-something-you-can't-pronounce-but-now-once-again-known-as Prince, "smoov".  There was no weird steering or anything, as one might expect with such a heavy load ... just a very stable ride with some extra push on the pedals.  It's nothing new, really, just something I noticed while riding that brought a smile to my face.

As I continued the short ride home, I remembered how I used to always drive to buy groceries, thinking that it would be far too much effort to do it by bike, and that I would be too limited in what I could carry.  I've now found that isn't true at all.  Granted, I do consider available pannier room for bulky items, and I do now tend to not buy as many impulse things, but in the long run, that's good ... because it saves money and forces me to think more about what's really important when I shop.  Even so, I've never had a time when I bought too much and had no place to pack it for the ride home. 

Each time I shop by bike, it becomes easier and more relaxed.  I remember the first time I tried it.  I expected it to take a lot longer than if I had driven to the store.  I felt awkward as I locked up my bike, worrying that I might leave the store to find my beloved LHT gone.  I felt self-conscious in the store with my strange bags in the cart as I carefully placed items in them to make sure I didn't overshop.  I felt funny at the checkout when asking the bagger to NOT use plastic bags and try to distribute heavy items evenly in my panniers.  I felt as though everyone thought I must be crazy as I left the store and loaded so much stuff on my bike, possibly resembling a homeless person who could not afford a car.  Now ... I feel confident about my locking strategy.  I know that if someone really wants to steal my bike, they could, but it would sure be a lot of work, and they'd have to work pretty fast to get it done before I finish shopping ... and since any other bikes at the store would be much easier to steal, I'm guessing they'd go there first.  I feel much more at home when putting things into my cart, and I now know that it's doubtful I'll overshop.  I feel good about my funny shopping bags, especially when I hear the grocery store loudspeakers blasting a message about going green by using reusable shopping bags ... hey, I do that!  I no longer worry about the baggers ... although they continue to give me the blank stare when I explain the concept of "balance" when loading my bags.  When I leave the store now, it seems inevitable that someone will either give me a nod of "way to go" as I load up, or make some kind of comment about how they like the bike or admire the "no car" effort ... and I have no more feelings of self-consciousness.  I actually enjoy the time in the sunny parking lot while transferring the bags from the cart to my bike, making sure it's all tight and secure.  Oh, and to my happy amazement, riding to the store only takes a couple of minutes longer than if I drive.  It's all good stuff!!

One especially nice result of shopping by bike is that I very rarely drive anywhere now.  It's late May, and I've only filled up my tank once this entire year ... that's right, ONCE!!  Granted, I didn't exactly drive a lot before, but even if I only filled up every two weeks, that's a lot of gas money saved, not to mention the carbon footprint reduction.  I estimate that if I had filled my tank every two weeks, I would have filled up 8 more times this year than I have.  At approximately $45 per tank, that's $360 I've saved through shopping by bike.  That's a pretty big chunk off my grocery bill ... plus, by minimizing the impulse buying, I'm guessing I've saved a fair bit more.

I'm sure my experience is not unique, but I felt that I should share it with all of you just the same.  It is my hope that perhaps it will inspire some of you to try doing more of your shopping or other errands by bike.  It's not as difficult or time consuming as it may first appear ... trust me, I'm the world's foremost expert on considering all of the possible negatives before trying something new, and I had quite a list of reasons to NOT try this ... but to my great joy, they have all been proven wrong.

Yes, it helps to have all of the right gear ... but that doesn't necessarily mean "expensive", just "practical.  Considering I've saved over $350 in gas money, the investment in racks and bags was more than covered.

Get out there and do some bike shopping ... you'll save money, have fun, and feel good!!

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