Right up until today I was classified solely in the “recreational road cyclist” category of riders. With the exception of a short trip here or there, I wasn’t in the habit of using my bike to get from one place to another, not since elementary school anyway. My bike was almost exculsively used to start at one point a ride around in a circle, or even out to one point and straight back on the exact same route. “Training rides” people call them, which is ok except, as a cyclist with no interest in being in a race, all I was training for was more “training rides.” This morning I took the first step in changing my rider classification to “commuter.”
Let’s start with the details:
Miles: 8.2 each way(an indirect route to avoid the most bike hostile streets)
AM Temperature: 36 degrees
PM Temperature: 66 degrees
This first commute took more than a little planning. We moved while I was on paternity leave and the move took away my ability to walk to work in a reasonable amount of time (our old place was about a half mile from the office). The ability to commute by bike was one of my requirements when we started to look for houses. There are basically two reasonable routes I could choose to ride: a shorter ride on high traffic, bike hostile streets; or a longer ride that utilizes fewer roads and a bike path closed to motorized vehicles. While I’m not terrified of traffic, tacking on a couple of extra miles to avoid major roads without bike lanes was a no-brainer.
I’d already arranged to have one of the bike lockers at work assigned to me so the parking/storage problem was solved. Apart from a little anxiety about how cold it was going to be and the likelihood my co-workers would find my Lycra clad chicken legs hilarious, I was ready to ride.
I decided to do the ride with what I had – things that most cyclists would also have – so I could figure out what it was I was really going to need. This meant packing my laptop, shoes, work appropriate clothing and lunch into an average sized laptop backpack from REI – the same bag I used when I walked to work. Then I kitted up in my usual cycling garb tossing a wind/water resistant outer shell over the top and headed out the door. I had considered riding to work in my work clothes and saving myself the trouble of lugging as much stuff back and forth, but in the end I decided that I’d be more comfortable in kit and I’d have to worry a little less about sweating if I changed my clothes before I started my day. In the end, this was the right choice; the padded shorts were a must have with the additional weight, 15 pounds (mostly from my, must be made of lead, employer issued laptop), on my back.
It was darkish when I set out just after 6:00 this morning but with a light on the bars and one on the seat post, I felt plenty safe in the light traffic on the first few streets I travelled. I made it a point to move with a sense of urgency but not put in an effort that would leave me exhausted when I walked in the front doors of my office – it’s one thing to walk in the front door of your office in Lycra shorts, it’s another to stumble in, out of breath and looking pale while wearing Lycra shorts. The ride is flat and I was surprised how little the additional weight affected my riding.
It took me almost exactly 30 minutes to get to work and just a few minutes to stop off in the locker room and change. My clothes survived the ride virtually unwrinkled – I rolled the pants and folded the shirt in my best imitation of one of those happy Gap employees.
Commuting by bike really paid off at the end of the day – that time when I could have been sitting and dreading the drive home. Instead, I was looking forward to the short ride home.