1- Anything I thought I knew about cycling from three years of collegiate road racing is practically negligible in the context of navigating the streets of a foreign city by bike. Ie, I'm learning how to ride a bike all over again.
2- Anything I thought I knew about a bike is practically negligible in the context of navigating Tokyo on a second hand, single speed, basket-and-rack-laden cruiser that likely weighs more than a tugboat. Ie, I'm learning how to ride a bike all over again.
3- The point of cycling so far, for me at least, had been primarily athletic: getting into something slightly closer to race shape than the your-endurance-pace-is-me-wheezing shape I'd been in most winters.
I've realized how drastically the reason I ride a bike has changed once I became a commuter, that getting from point A to point B has become my main goal now (okay, and maybe passing a few people with lighter bikes on the climbs). My bike, previously a tool for self-inflicted torture interspersed with scenic escapes from New Haven and the campus bubble, has suddenly become the most essential functional component of my daily routine, my means of getting to work every morning and back home at the end of every day.
Granted, the mechanics of biking are the same in either case; the number of hours I spend on the saddle are likely the same and I spend no less time thinking about the next season of ECCC races and missing the last, but my relationship with my bike and identity as a cyclist has shifted (pun maybe intended) entirely. It's a weird feeling and I like it.
4- Riding in left-hand traffic (and especially making right turns) takes a few close calls to get used to, but has ultimately tuned up my awareness of surrounding vehicles to a level of CONSTANT VIGILANCE!
5- The fact that it's legal to ride on the sidewalk in any direction, combined with the fact that most roads have no bike lanes and there is only so much space before you're riding in the gutter, results in a hectic crisscrossing of cyclists, walkers, schoolchildren and grandmas that turn Tokyo sidewalks on rush hour into a bike handling skills clinic that would make any race promoter jealous.
6- Since my bike is now my only means of getting home at the end of the day, I've realized that any excuses I previously had for ditching bike rides ("it's raining," "it's dark out," "there's a biblical thunderstorm," "my brakes are making a weird sound," "I'm still drunk," "I haven't done laundry yet," "my handlebars aren't pointing the same direction my front wheel is," "my shoes are still wet," "I have too much homework," "I didn't eat enough," "I ate too much and now can't move," "it's 3.00 am," "when's the last time I pumped my tires?" "I can't find my gloves," "I haven't charged my garmin," etc.) are entirely invalid. If it has wheels and they spin, it's good to go.
7- The bike I'm riding right now is worth 1/80 of the bike I currently have locked up in New Haven, is probably 80 times heavier and makes the slightest incline feel like a cat 1 climb, fits me more awkwardly than the red corduroy pants my mom got me in second grade, and yet I love it just as much, simply because it's my dependable friend and irreplaceable travel companion.
8- I'm glad I had to give up being a road cyclist for the three months I'm spending in Tokyo and became a bike commuter instead, because I'm falling in love with cycling all over again. Riding bikes is amazing, in any form or size or shape, for any reason, anywhere on the planet.