Saturday October 6, 2007
I have been riding a bike to work for 2 years now. I started with a junker having just 3 working gears. Julie got me a nice $300 bike for my birthday, and a bike speedometer. I use google maps to find routes. The satellite views show bike trails if you look closely. |
For the first 6 months, I went 8 miles in an hour, but the office had a shower. I carried shampoo, soap, towel, clean underwear, etc, in my backpack. I climbed out of bed, climbed on the bike, and pedalled 8 miles on 3 gears. Then I showered, dressed, made a fresh mug of green tea, and was ready for work.
Then we moved in February. The new office is 6.8 miles, but has no shower. So now I leave early in the morning before it gets hot. In the summer, it is often *very* hot on the way home, and I pop right into a cold shower upon arrival.
Many things have changed since I began this regimen. The changes were slow and subtle. At first, I was more tired than before, but a little more clear headed. After 4 months or so, I start feeling more energy. My blood pressure was borderline high when I started. Now it is well within normal. It has become necessary to use a belt. I used to laugh at the liberal media with their talk of "SUVs" hogging the road and running into things (as if the car, not the driver were responsible). But this viewpoint starts to make sense when you are on a bicycle, and SUV driving yuppies (wearing sunglasses and riding high above you) ignore crosswalks, walk signals, and "NO RIGHT TURN ON RED WITH PEDESTRIAN PRESENT" signs.
I noticed so much more about the city on a bike. Under the bridges on Rt 50 were pairs of used condoms, twisted together like chromosomes. The sidewalks near stores selling alcohol were littered with broken glass. I added spare inner tubes, patch kit, and a pump to the equipment I needed to carry. There was money to be gleaned on the sidewalks and streets. I picked up pennies through bills - an average of 1 cent every 3 miles. At 15 miles a day, that is 5 cents a day, enough for bus fare once a month. This year, I've been riding through Rocky Run Stream Valley Park instead of along Rt 50. As I tear along the dirt and gravel trail at 15 mph, deer are startled from their browsing and bound gracefully and silently away from the path.
Automobiles are anti-social. On foot, you can carry on a deep conversation while you walk. Bikes are in between. On a bike, you can see and smile at other riders and pedestrians as you pass. When something up ahead strikes me funny, I can often get a smile and a laugh with a one-liner as I roll by.
The problems were not what I expected. The first major problem was that the junker bike was too small, and my knees suffered from riding like a spider. The new bike fixed that. Then the big problem was warning symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome from the vibration. I added handlebar extensions, gloves, and handlebar padding. In the summer, sunburn is a threat. I hate lotion, so I make sure I leave at least 4 hours before solar noon (1:10pm here), and leave at least 4 hours after.
Winter is less of a problem than summer. The sun is lower at noon, so I can leave home later and leave work earlier - which is good since the days are shorter. Furthermore, less skin is exposed in cold weather. When you get hot in winter, just peel off a layer. Snow on the ground is a show stopper. You can't ride through snow without chains - and then only slowly.
Rain is undesirable, but not a disaster if you immediately dry off your bike thoroughly. Lightning is a show stopper. If I hear thunder, I go to the nearest shelter (there are plenty of stores along the way) and wait it out, or catch a bus, or call Julie.
Posted 10/6/2007 at 10:57 PM