Drive My Bike

24 Miles and 22 Degrees
December 6, 2008, 10:34 pm
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This morning I was scheduled to have breakfast with some guys from church, and I got this crazy idea that I should ride my bike there. What made this seem a bit crazy was that the pancake place was about 12 miles from home, and it was supposed to be in the upper 20’s this morning.


The farthest I had ever ridden before today was to meet a friend for dinner about 10 miles from home, so a 20 mile round trip. The coldest weather I had ever ridden in before today was a morning commute to work in 28 degrees.

I beat both of those today. It was 22 degrees this morning at 6:30 when I hit the road in the dark. I did the 12 miles to the restaurant in a little less than an hour, which I was happy with since I was trying to take it at a reasonable pace, and there are a few hills on the way.

I found it to be a real psychological challenge, as much as anything. Just past the six mile mark I hit “new territory”, where I had driven many times, but had never been there on a bike. The last mile or so I was counting down the blocks remaining. I was pretty tired when I got to the restaurant.

Breakfast and the time with friends was great, and I had several offers of a ride home, but I thanked them and told them I preferred to ride.

The ride home seemed a lot faster and a lot shorter. I guess that just goes to show how much of a mental game this all is. I was tired when I got home, but not nearly as tired as I was on the way there.

What made me decide to do this? Aside from just wanting to ride my bike somewhere, I think the biggest reason was just to test myself to see if I could really do it. I know that 24 miles is not that far for a lot of the bike commuters I read about, but it was a milestone for me. Combine that with the cold weather, and it was a real mental battle. Last night, and this morning, I kept coming up with all kinds of reasons why it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t try it. I’m glad I did.

So that was my morning… 24 miles and 22 degrees.

3 Challenges With 100% Bike Commuting
August 2, 2008, 10:49 am
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I’ve been reading lots of bicycling blogs lately. Yeah, pretty much every bicycling blog I can find… probably too much. I’ve been inspired as I read about people that have managed to live their lives 100% by bicycle. Some of them don’t even own cars anymore. The thought of no car payment, no car insurance, and no worry about gas prices is certainly a compelling idea. Right now I don’t think it’s realistic for me to not own a car, but I have been trying to move as close to 100% bike commuting as I can. In the last month I have come up against three challenges, so I thought I’d mention them here to see what ideas readers have.j0402711

1) Last Minute Trips (with close deadlines)

Several times last month I had to make short to medium length trips that would be great for a bike ride, but they came up at the last minute and I had to be there as soon as possible. I was going to be late, or almost late, if I drove my car, so I would have been quite a bit later had I ridden my bike. The problem is not just that the actual ride takes longer, but that it takes a bit longer for me to get ready to ride than to just grab my car keys and hit the road. One morning last week I was planning to work from home, but when I sat down at my laptop I realized that my DSL was down and I had no Internet access, which is essential for work. I needed to be online within 45 minutes for a team meeting. I knew I could drive to the office in 15 minutes, or I could try to hurry and get ready and ride my bike to the office.  I decided to ride my bike, and it all worked out ok, so I was glad I made that choice. I left almost an hour later than I normally do, and the heat of the day was already present, so I was quite a bit soggier than normal when I got to the office, which leads into…

2) Showing Up Hot & Sweaty at Social Engagements

Like most people who ride their bikes to work, I have a strategy to deal with my sweaty, stinky self once I get to the office. My commute is just over 5 miles, and takes a little under 20 minutes. If I leave early enough the air is still cool from the morning, and the temperature is reasonably pleasant, so I don’t perspire that badly. When I get to the office I usually take about 15-20 minutes to cool down, during which time I’ll get my work area setup, check my email, catch up with my co-workers, etc. Once I’ve cooled down then I will towel off with a moist towel, spray on some good smelling stuff, change my shirt, and deal with my “helmet hair”. No big deal.

But… what about riding to other social engagements? Last month I decided to get more serious about bike commuting, so twice I rode my bike to have dinner with a friend. The first place we went was just fast food, so I didn’t feel too bad showing up red faced and drenched in perspiration. The second place we met was a decent restaurant. It was in the early evening, and the ride was HOT (upper 90s) so I was thoroughly drenched when I got there. I was about 5 minutes early, and felt a bit self conscious as I walked in the door all hot and sweaty with my helmet, gloves, water bottle, and panniers. (I had to stop at the store on the way home, so I brought along my Novara grocery panniers, but brought them inside with me so they wouldn’t get stolen). I told the host that I was waiting for a friend, and he had a puzzled look on his face as he asked if I wanted to be seated right away. I told him that I’d just wait a few minutes, and I sat down in the waiting area, trying to cool down.  Once my friend arrived and we were seated I went to the restroom and splashed some water on my face and tried to towel off with paper towels as best i could. It worked out fine, and I don’t think I offended any of the other guests, but it was a bit awkward.

Another incident happened just last week when I got a late night phone call to go visit a friend who was in the hospital. The hospital is very close by, but that is not the kind of social call where I wanted to have to worry about my bike, my gear, and my sweaty self, so I drove my car.

3) Hauling Big Stuff Around

I play guitar in a band at my church, and we practice one night a week. I just go straight to practice after work, so on that day I am hauling my music stuff around with me. It can be anything from a backpack of music and an acoustic guitar, to several guitars and a bag of electronic equipment. Needless to say, it is not the kind of thing that is easily carried on a bicycle. Notice I use the words “easily carried”. I have seen some amazing pictures of the way some bicyclists use an XtraCycle or a trailer to haul things around. Someday that might be an option for me, but for now I don’t own that kind of hauling equipment, so I’m limited to what I can fit on my back and in my panniers. I have tried to be creative, and just leave my music stuff at church. That almost works, but it means I can’t practice at home, which isn’t an option. I have had my wife drop off my music stuff at the church if she is out running errands in the neighborhood, and that works out very well, but she can’t do that every week. So, for now, this is probably my biggest challenge to always riding my bike for my daily commutes. I am riding my bike for most things, but getting to 100% is still something I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

One of the things I have admired about passionate bike commuters is the creativity they have shown to solve these kinds of challenges. Where there is a bike commuting will there certainly seems to be a bike commuting way.  So what about you? Do you have any creative solutions for me? Do you have any challenges that you would add to my list?

Month 2 = 110 Miles
August 1, 2008, 11:15 am
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Yesterday I finished up my second month as an “official” bike commuter, and my mileage total for the month was 110 miles, all of which was commuting to work, or the store, or normal trips that I would’ve previously driven my car. Honestly, I was hoping that my mileage would be higher for the month, but when I look back I had a few situations come up that hindered my riding. I got rained out for the first time, and that actually happened a couple of times. I also had some scheduling challenges where I needed to be in certain places at certain times and I wouldn’t have been able to make it in time on my bike. On the other hand, there were several times where I decided that I needed to go to the store just so that I could get a ride in. (You can almost always use a gallon of milk, right?) I have come to really enjoy time on my bike. It is “my time” and it fits in nicely with my busy life, without taking time away from other things.

Even though I didn’t have a higher mileage total, I’m still going to appreciate the fact that I actually rode 110 miles on my bike. That is 5 miles more than I did the previous month, and it is 110 miles more than I ever would have done just a few months ago. Last month was also a month of personal discovery, as I explored things like learning to slow down and enjoy the ride, and that has been a very good thing! I had a 12 mile round trip ride last night to meet a friend for dinner, and I really relaxed and took my time on the way home, and it was quite enjoyable.

Month 2 was a good month… of course any month with some time spent riding a bike has to be a pretty good month.

Keep riding, and stay safe 🙂