Elements of Bike Riding 12 - Getting Personal

By Peter Burns

Number 1

Finding a place to urinate can be a challenge.  I don't like to stop within sight of a house, and it is nice to have a place to lean my bike.  On most rural Vermont roads it is possible to get out of sight fairly quickly, behind trees and bushes.  It is easier when there are leaves on the trees and bushes.  

My rides tend to be in the same areas, so I have favorite places to stop to answer the call of nature, which, by the way, is a  peculiar phrase.  Electrical transfer stations are a good spot to pee. They provide cover from the road and are not usually infested with poison ivy.  Last year the town of Westford put a port-a-potty on their village green. I was happy to see it.  I love stopping at the little gazebo in the center of the green.  It is a good place to drink some water, eat a snack and do a little stretching.  Now it is also possible to pee. With all the new houses going up in Chittenden County there are often temporary port-a-potties near construction sites.  I use them if nobody is around, which is often the case on Sundays. If there is no car or truck near the site, there is unlikely to be anyone around.  Construction workers usually drive to the worksite. On a cold day, when the sun is shining, port-a-potties get warm, so In addition to their main function, they can be good places to warm up.

Number 2

Pooping is, as you might imagine, more challenging.  Port-a-potties are great but not always available. In an emergency, I have taken to the woods. I always bring along wet wipes.


The essence of bike riding is a balance.  Like breathing, balance it is usually below the level of consciousness.  The only time's balance becomes noticeable is when I am about to lose it or have already lost it.  A number of times I have lost my balance and fallen off my bicycle. I have never been seriously hurt, but I have been banged up.  When I fall I am always reminded of how fast the ground comes up to meet me and how hard the ground is.  It is easier to balance when you are moving foreword.  For the last six month, I have been working on my right ankle.  It has been giving me trouble for many years because I sprained it badly when I was 18.  In addition to strengthening and stretching, I also do balance exercises. This strengthens the ankle as well as improves my balance.  My yoga teacher says that balance is one of the things that we lose as we get older unless we work on it.  I slip from time to time, especially on the ice in the winter, but I have not gone down hard for a while. The biggest challenge on a bike is relaxing instead of tensing up when the bike starts to wobble.  I bought a fat bike this past winter, with four-inch studded tires. On loose snow I still found myself getting tense, even though I did not slide around, because, on my other winter bike, I would have been sliding all over the place. I had to get used to not losing my balance.

Dirt Roads

In the last five years, my riding for fun has included more and more dirt road riding.  Heading out of Winooski, in any direction, sooner or later I hit the dirt. The closest dirt road network is in Colchester, off of route 2A.  There is a dirt road between South Burlington and Essex, but the road surface is often wash boarded and pebbly.   I am looking forward to trying it on my new fat bike. On dirt roads enjoy the fields and forests, but I also really like the radical reduction in traffic.  I can ride during evening rush hour and see very few cars.  

My Mechanics 

I can change a tire and put the chain back if it falls off.  I keep my chain well lubricated and the correct pressure in my tires.  I can also adjust my pedals and my seat.  Beyond that, I have very limited mechanical skills.  I volunteered at Bike Recycle, which repairs and provides bikes for those who would not otherwise be able to afford them.  I found I had little aptitude for bike repair.  I realized that to gain the knowledge I would need to repair a bike, I would have to spend hundreds of hours in the shop. That is not something I want to do.  I bring my bike to Old Spokes Home.  I know many of the mechanics and they are a welcoming bunch.  They get my bikes fixed and back on the road.  There is another Peter Burns in their computer, so to keep things simple I requested that they change my listing to 'The Peter Burns.'  They were happy to do so.  Every once in a while I bring them treats.  They are always grateful.

About the author:

Peter Burns is a long-time bike enthusiast, and one of the original year-round bike riders in Burlington.  He writes amazing monthly blogs and teaches a variety of Everyday Biking workshops.  In addition to his work at Local Motion, he also works at a group home for people with Psychiatric disabilities, teaches classes for the Vermont Humanities Council, teaches swimming at the Burlington YMCA, and is a regular host of Storytelling VT.