So today I drove to work for the first time in several days. I’ve been commuting by bike, and I was surprised at how used to it I have become already.
The first odd sensation was feeling vaguely out-of-place driving the regular route, same as always up until recently. It is the same out-of-place feeling I had when I started the bicycle commute. Guess it passed.
The next sensation came to me as I waited for my coffee at Starbucks. I don’t stop at Starbucks when I ride my bike. The sensation was: “Boy, I sure haven’t missed this,” by which I mean waiting for six designer concoctions to be prepared while I wait for someone (in this case, the store manager, who thinks he is the best barrista in town but is in fact the slowest) to pour coffee from a pitcher over ice and hand it to me.
The next sensation was the huge eye-roll as I tried to find something on the radio that was neither advertising, inane, nor stale. Haven’t missed that either.
The work day was fine but I really felt slighted at the end of the day that I didn’t get to ride home on my bike.
The ride itself (below) a little over 5 miles depending on the route. It entails descending into a valley associated with a big creek/small river, crossing same, and then climbing back out again, about 200ft vertically each way. I used to bike the same route that I drive, but it was just a little too busy and I felt a little too “in the way”, although no one was ever impatient. At length I thought that there was a certain inevitability of a mishap on that route.
The power of a bike is that you don’t have to ride where the cars are, and piecing together back ways, trails, and parking lot cut-throughs is what really makes it fun. I’ve got every terrain, a footbridge, a few hundred yards on the Greenway, and at least one 11% climb on my route. It’s great! Also, there’s a chance I’ll see deer on this route, which is oddly satisfying for me.
Logistics, part I
Riding your bike won’t work for a lot of folks, but if it’s feasible at all, it still takes a little working through in the early stages. I take my clothes to work in a car over the weekend, and bike to and from in regular cycling clothes. There isn’t any commerce around my office, so I have loaded up my office with snacks and things that you might otherwise run out for.
Our part of the world is hilly, so getting sweaty is definitely in the equation, and there is no shower at my workplace. But I get out of the cycling clothes and get dried off and cooled off, then cleaned up (I like alcohol wipes, but there are many options) and into clean clothes, and it works.
Logistics, part II
A portion of my commuting experience is that I don’t take anything home anymore.
A long time ago in my career, I had a colleague that walked from his car to his desk in the mornings, and back again in the evenings, completely empty handed. At the time I was toting two meals, workout gear, a computer, and a drawer full of files. It looked to me like my colleague had found a better way to go. Now 20-years later, I have actually achieved it. I come in early and work all day, almost always eating lunch at my desk while working. When the end of the day comes, I go home and don’t make any pretense of working until the next 9.5-or-so hour day. It works. If you can’t get whatever you need from work while you’re at home, you need to kick your IT shop in the pants. To be clear, I do still take my lunch and what amounts to a purse back and forth each day, but that’s it. And it’s good.
Logistics, part III
You will need to be able to carry enough gear to resume operations if you get a flat or other minor mechanical issue, as well as whatever rain gear you elect to tote. If you are moving clothes, you will need to consider that, and your man purse, and your lunch. I use a rack with panniers, and it is plenty.
I would recommend powerful, durable lights, front and rear. Don’t waste your time with the mini lights; you are trying to be seen. I always use a rear view mirror (except racing), and can’t imagine doing without. Helmet and gloves are a given.
As for the bike itself, you want something with wider than racing tires, however, typical Mountain Bike tires are overkill– the tread has too much rolling resistance for roads. Durable rims would be good. As for the rest of it, many folks press older hardware into service for commuting. Many folks like fenders.
At 10 miles a day, and gas prices low, it’s going to take mighty long time to recover the cost of you equipment with the money you save not driving, but that’s not really the way you will save money. You will save money by not stopping at Starbucks as I mentioned, and by bringing wholesome leftovers from your home-cooked meal each day instead of plunking down $10 for fast food or $15 at Whole Paycheck. I take my wallet dutifully to and from work everyday when bike commuting, but I never use it.
Practically, though, the benefit is in the exercise that you get during your commute time, which brings a whole world of good things.
And it’s really worth something to look forward to the ride home each day.