Bike Commuting: Path to Contentedness in Mountain Town Life

Hi! I am Emily – a bike commuter in Keystone, Colorado. In April 2022 I purchased an electric commuter bike. I am deep diving into the world of self-reliance, sustainability, the challenges, and the beautiful parts of bike commuting. I am documenting my experience here on my blog and my instagram @whenlifegivesyoubike.

This post is going to be less instructional about biking, and instead more of a sincere reflection on my why I am pursuing bike commuting as a lifestyle. This is the origin story of how I started “When Life Gives You Bike”, the journal.

About a year ago, like many others in the midst of covid, tumultuous environmental conditions (very scary wildfires in Colorado), infuriating job environment (literally raises that do not even match inflation) I often found myself in a state of discontentedness.

This is not my normal status quo; most of the time I am a yogi – granola – universe “vibing” – glass is half full type of gal (if you can imagine the type). I tend to tip to the positive end of the scale. I like to find solutions. When I assessed the source of the discontentedness it stemmed from the lack of margin (money) and this constant frenzy to hustle for survival (we live in Summit County, CO a high cost of living resort community).

I had to sit with this for a long while, because that thought made me uncomfortable, and self-conscious. Why do I care about this? I am not the “kind of person” who obsesses about money…and “money does not buy happiness”. I tout myself as a minimalist, an environmentalist, and those people do not want for more…

Thoughts around money, margin, the frustrating job pay scale where/are often a topic of conversation in the ski industry (not without total cause by the way – the company I work for in winter of 2022 has since issued national apologies and adjusted pay scales). The discontentedness had multi-facets beyond money, however. I began to recognize where I had failed in my authentic self, much more beyond money; I was not incorporating my own environmental ethic day to day.

This ethic I felt loyal too, started in 2013 where I graduated from Northland College (one of the first environmental schools in North America). I realized I had become so disconnected from the lifestyle and identity I gained there moving here to Summit County, CO.

Where we live is land of the most beautiful ski resorts, and mountain biking in the world. It is also land of the fanciest new outdoor gear, new gear gadgets, new bikes, new skis, and oh yeah did I mention everyone here is obsessed with gear?! Beyond gear, people are constantly battling for housing (like other parts of the country), struggling for decent paying jobs, and there is an energy of constant hype and frenzy to survive. The social scene often feels overwhelmingly consumptive. This place is also home to some of the most passionate outdoors people I have ever met – so the juxtaposition is not lost on me. I know this consumptive culture is not a new story in our environmental history, but it feels especially fierce here in Colorado. I will acknowledge I am part of it too.

In the fall of 2021, I strategically started brainstorming something I could do that would feel drastic and positive to me after realizing what felt “wrong”. Like I said, I like solutions. I did not, and do not want to have a total career change – I love what I do, even if the money does not follow. I started to consume a ton of personal finance podcasts, environmental living content, and forming my own solution to the discontentedness.

As my financial literacy grew I understood I had to create more margin, either by cutting expenses or growing income. I modestly did both; we rented out a room in our condo (grow income) and then….got stumped. There were ways I could cut back, but I already (sincerely) am very minimalistic so nothing drastic could be done. I should acknowledge too, I have a very comfortable life with very little debt but still felt like everything was slow and heavy and not forward moving…then I got on the kick of “I WANT TO SELL MY CAR”.

“When Life Gives You Bike” was born: a personal project to discover contentedness when you bike more and car less. I see it as an actionable way to improve finances (albeit small), reduce fossil fuel use, and radically shake up the time habits in my day. I was hiking with my friend Katie (from @skibunnyfinance) who was often a sounding board on these issues, and I finally convinced her and my partner I was to attempt going car free.

In short, my why is the following “I want to feel contentedness and peace in how I spend my time, money, and energy”.

There is more to the story, of course. I am about two months in to documenting my bike commuting journey. So far, so good. I will leave you with this: since bike commuting I have found a new curiosity in each day and energy for learning and problem solving. I am having fun. I am much more intentional with my time. I am not buying gas while the rest of the nation is b*tching about price hikes. I am excited every morning to find something else I value when I bike more, and car less.

Happy Biking – Emily.

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