In the comments section under the previous post, I have been asked whether I ride for fitness or to experience nature. My first impulse would have been to say "both", but it's interesting that I should see this just before setting off on a ride home from work which, by virtue of being short, flat and urban probably fits into the "none of the above" category. Then I began asking myself, do I have to limit my answer to two reasons?
The benefits I derive from cycling are manifold, as shown today. All I did today was commute. I didn't go for an evening ride (although I'll make up for that tomorrow morning and probably over the weekend) and I covered just 17km in the process, yet perhaps it was this ride which emphasised another of the major benefits that I derive from cycling. My transportational cycling effectively pays for all the other riding I do -- one hand washes the other.
Cycling to me is transport, travel, recreation, exercise, convenience and a heap of other things all rolled into one. Today, for example, I had a cheap, reliable and convenient (i.e. I'm immune to gridlock, thereby reducing travelling times) means of getting to work. Over time this means that I don't have to worry about paying for fuel, vehicle registration or parking costs, and in turn this has allowed me to finance trips to parts of the country I would never have thought possible. I remember a co-worker once telling me he'd "probably never make it" to some of the place I've been, yet just five years ago I was living technically "below the poverty line" (whatever that means in this country).
And what better way to see these places than -- by bicycle! Sure I could get on a tour bus or hire a car, but they tend to be expensive, and then I'm likely to miss things. A bicycle means that I don't miss anything. It also allows far greater opportunities for interaction with people, and it's surprising just how many stereotypes I've debunked on the basis of such interaction. Even when time is short, it's amazing just how many places I've been able to find through the simple act of getting on my bicycle and exploring. Even with just a few hours to spare, I can ride to mountains, glow worms, rainforests, waterfalls and any number of other things.
It's also worth noting that my bicycle is now providing an outlet for my newly discovered mechanical interests. I derived a lot of satisfaction from putting together an "emergency" repair on a pannier rack that successfully carried camping gear for 600km in New Zealand earlier this year. And designing a new mount for a tail light from spare parts (after smashing the old one) was as gratifying as it was cheap.
Somewhere in all this are the health benefits that come from riding so much. I visited my mother last weekend as she was getting over a nasty virus that's apparently been going around in Brisbane. Yet somehow I managed to avoid it, as I've done with other things that have made co-workers sick. I also managed to ride 198km on Sunday and thought nothing of it. Even on occasions when I have picked up illnesses on long bike tours, I've still managed to keep riding at a sufficient level to not only complete, but also enjoy the ride.
So in answer to the question, I ride for fitness, nature, travel, transport, money, convenience and a whole multitude of other reasons. I'm sure Allez was looking for a simple answer, but hey, life's complicated sometimes.