The bike commute

There’s something wrong with my car, so I’m glad that today was a great day to make my first bicycle commute. It was relatively cool, less than 80 degrees, and cloudy. It was also a little rainy on the way back, but not too much.

The bike ride was exactly 20 minutes, which works much better logistically. A 40-minute round trip for an hour meeting is about the maximum I’d feel comfortable with. It also took me about ten minutes after the ride to cool down, but that coincides well with the amount of time it takes to get the meeting started.

I have to say that the 32 oz water bottle was the best bicycle-related purchase I’ve made. Even without sweating much in the cooler weather, I went through it all and felt much more human for it. The bike helmet, on the other hand, hasn’t been as nice. I can’t figure out exactly how to set the straps so that it doesn’t slide back and doesn’t cut into my throat. Nathan has had similar problems, so I don’t know if it’s the brand or if we just have oddly shaped heads.

The rail to trail isn’t as nice to bike as I’d expected because the gravel is so big that my bike (with its hybrid tires) bounces around a lot. Luckily, the closer parallel trails is much better suited for bike riding, with smaller rocks in the path. The drawback is that the path is pretty overgrown on our end, meaning that I get hit a lot with plants, which isn’t a big deal except for the briars. I’m less concerned with getting scratched than with puncturing a tire, but neither happened today so I might be okay.

I’m definitely not in great shape, but the ride was reasonable. I did have to walk the last quarter of one hill, but I expect I’ll be able to get up it pretty soon especially as the weather cools. Riding along the shoulder of the busiest street wasn’t as bad as I’d expected either. It was really busy, but I felt like I had plenty of room to keep to one side. Crossing the road to turn was more exciting, but it didn’t feel too dangerous either.

The biggest drawbacka of the bike ride are that I was starving afterward, so I had the unexpected urge for a second lunch, and I was pretty tired when I got back from the meeting. I probably should have taken a 15-minute power nap right then, but I tried to work through it. I crashed at around 5:15 and was worthless, so I just sat around for a couple of hours reading.

Since I didn’t take the late nap, I’m going to crash now. So far, I’d heartily recommend a biking commute. There are still some little kinks to work out (how do I take my laptop?), but I expect that I’ll figure it out before too long.

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3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Andy said,

    September 5, 2008 @ 12:19 am

    Day 1 success! If you didn’t think it was bad today, than you are on the right track to be a bike commuter. I think many people who try easily give up and won’t try again for years. I’ve got a few tips:

    1) Helmet chin straps are not meant to hold the helmet to your head! My helmet is certainly not an expensive one, but has a great one-handed adjustment on the back to hold the helmet on. The chin strap is only there to make sure the helmet doesn’t fall off in those rare instances, so it’s perfectly safe without choking me. Getting a helmet like this helps tremendously.

    2) If you went through 32 oz of water on a 20 minute ride, you were probably quite dehydrated beforehand. I seem to go through 32 oz in about 1-2 hours of hard riding on long trips. For short trips I don’t carry water. I just drink a little before leaving, and more when I get there. Staying hydrated throughout the day is important, and will mean you don’t need to carry that extra 2 pounds on your bike while riding.

    3) My old laptop was 7 pounds, barely fits in small bags, and in general is not suited for being mobile (great, huh?). This spring I bought an Eee PC which is only 2 pounds, can handle everything I need to do, surfs the web better than any other computer I have used, and has a 7″ screen. I can easily put this in my 7oz bag and get around town while still “being connected.” Any way to reduce the weight you carry will help immensely. Having a 17 pound bike with an ultralight bag and not carrying water (but I do carry 16oz juice because I’m diabetic) makes it easy to bike to work.

  2. 2

    Angel said,

    September 6, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

    Congrats on the commute. It sounds like your ride is much more scenic than mine is. I mostly ride on city streets to get to work. The “greenway” doesn’t really go in the correct direction for me to use it on my commute. I go right past campus so I get alot of crazy drivers that either pass me to close, or swerve crazily to go around me. Still, I wouldn’t trade my daily ride for anything at this point. It’s a great way for me to relax after a hard day at work and it makes me feel like a better person to be doing it by choice rather than just out of necessity. I could take the car on the days Rob doesn’t have class, but then I’d miss something that I’ve come to truly enjoy. This isn’t to say that my co-workers don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I still want to ride home in the rain.

    If I had to choose one thing that I could change about my daily bike ride, it would be my backpack. It makes me hot, but I have to carry my lunch and change of clothes, primarily, with me. I’d like to get some expanded trunk space, but I haven’t been able to make the investment yet.

    As for water, I take along my empty water canteen when I leave in the morning and fill it up when I arrive at the credit union while I’m changing into my work clothes. Then, I just make sure I don’t refill before heading off at night, so I leave with it either empty or nearly so. It helps not to have the extra weight in my pack. This is especially true if I decide to detour by the library on the way home and pick up half a dozen books. Since my ride is only 15 minutes, I don’t get too dehydrated.

    I hope you keep up with it. It can be tons of fun once you get into the routine.

  3. 3

    Will said,

    September 17, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

    Andy: My helmet does have an adjustor on the back. I’ll play around with it some more to see if I can get it to grip well enough.

    I wasn’t clear. I went through the 32 oz of water after the 20-minute trip as I was cooling down (and waiting for the meeting to start). I figure that if that much water worked this time, I should be okay with 32 oz of water no matter where I go. I do drink water ALL THE TIME, though, so my requirements probably aren’t typical.

    A smaller laptop would make it easier, but I have a hard time buying something like that without being able to try it out and see how much use it’ll get. I’m worried it’ll end up like my abortive attempts to use a PDA.

    Angel: That’s great! My ride would be a lot better if it were at the beginning and end of the day. It’d be cooler and would take a smaller proportion of time. It’s hard for me to get jazzed up about spending 40 minutes travelling back and forth to a meeting that lasts less than an hour.

    When I got my bike, I invested in a pannier. Maggie and I each have one saddlebag that attaches to that (passed down from her father). When we get back, I’m thinking about getting an old milk crate and attaching it to the pannier as well so that I can carry more groceries (and perhaps my laptop). It was definitely worth the money!

    I hope to get into a better routine about it once my schedule is a little more normal (with less travelling). Of course, by then it’ll be colder too, so we’ll see!

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