Drive My Bike


I Forgot My Anniversary

(No, not that anniversary. If that was the case I wouldn’t be celebrating.)

Yesterday, June 1, 2009, was my one year anniversary as a bike commuter.

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I had been looking forward to my one year bike commuting anniversary, but the day came and went, and I completely forgot. I had a good commute and didn’t think twice about it until this morning.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I started on this adventure. In some ways it seems like just yesterday, and in other ways it seems like I’ve been doing it all of my life.

A lot of things have changed in a year:

  • I hadn’t ridden a bike in at least 20 years, but now it drives me crazy if I don’t ride a bike every day or two.
  • I went from zero bikes to three bikes. I didn’t know much about modern bikes, so I started with a simple comfort bike from Costco, a Schwinn Midtown. I don’t ride that bike much anymore. Instead I also have a mountain bike that is my main ride, which I rebuilt by myself. I have tried to learn as much as I can about modern bike technology, and I have continued to upgrade that bike, my Trek Antelope 830. Currently I am also babysitting a really nice high-tech road bike for a friend, and I ride it on a regular basis. (Hey, Jake told me I needed to ride it, so I just have to.)
  • I was so out of shape that I thought my first few rides were going to kill me, but now the 5 mile ride to the office is barely a warm up. I have lost about 15 pounds, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in years. I also usually take an intense spinning class at our gym once a week, and I’ve even been pondering riding a century (100 mile) charity ride this summer.
  • I used to think those bicycle riders on the side of the road were a bit weird. Maybe we are, but now I’m one of those guys on the side of the road. I even own a couple of pairs of spandex shorts. Yikes! (My kids still aren’t comfortable with the concept of dad in spandex shorts.)
  • When I first told people of my plans to ride my bicycle to work, they usually told me I was crazy. Now most of those same people tell me how much they respect that I bike commute everywhere. Most of them say they wish there was a way they could do it, but then they offer up the standard list of excuses. A few seem like they might be thinking about it though, so we’ll see what this next year brings.
  • And on, and on, and on… the changes are too numerous to note them all.

What a difference a year with a bike can make. This has been a wonderful, life-changing experience. One of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

If you are thinking about starting to ride a bike again… go for it!

Maybe next year we can celebrate our anniversaries together.

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Some Days Are Fast, Some Days Are Slow
February 23, 2009, 3:13 pm
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This morning I believe I had the fastest ride to the office that I’ve ever done, and it wasn’t like I set out to break any speed records…

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I had a very active weekend. I did a full day of snowboarding on Saturday, and played an hour of racquetball yesterday. I was really tired yesterday, and I was still feeling a bit tired and stiff this morning.

But someone forgot to tell my legs they were tired when I started my ride this morning.

Lately, after a half mile or so of warming up at a medium pace, I settle into a “slightly above medium” pace, and that is where I stay. There are only a few spots where I can get to my highest gear without overly straining, and even then I can only keep that up for a block or so before I have to downshift a couple of gears to find the normal pace.

But today the bike just wanted to go fast.

Same rider, same payload, same bike. The only difference was that it was about ten degrees warmer this morning… in the upper forties (F) when I left. I got to the place where I usually have to downshift, and decided that I didn’t need to yet, so I kept going. I kept telling myself “hold this pace until you get to the next corner”. I kept doing that, until the next corner, and the next corner, and the next. Then came the biggest hill that I face, where I always have to drop a gear or two to maintain my cadence. Today I got a little crazy and decided to try to do the whole hill in my top gear, and it worked. I maintained my highest gear, and dropped my cadence a good bit by the time I reached to top, but picked up the pace again right away on the downhill side. I don’t have a cycle computer on my “winter” bike (the Trek Antelope 830 that I rebuilt in the fall), so I have no idea how fast this ride really was. I had to stop for a couple of red lights, so I’m not even sure about my overall time. However, I’m sure that I’ve never been able to maintain that pace for the majority of the distance.

The funny thing is that I have no idea why it was like this today. It was great to feel strong for a change, because ever since my Christmas break I have felt like I was crawling back to the fitness level I had in early December. My strength and stamina seem to ebb and flow very unpredictably, and I’m not interested in charting things out… so I’ll just enjoy days like this and celebrate the small victories.

As to what I’ve been up to while I’ve been so quiet the last few weeks…

  • I’ve continued to ride to work on a regular basis. We’ve had quite a few “snow days” lately where my team has decided to work from home, so riding to the office hasn’t been as consistent, but I’ve ridden my bike every time I’ve gone into the office.
  • To make up for the lack of rides to the office I’ve supplemented with riding for other errands when possible. Some of the nicest rides I’ve had recently have been when I’ve taken a break mid-day and met friends for lunch.
  • I’ve had some cold rides, around 9 degrees a couple of times. I’ve got a pretty good cold weather outfit now. From the top down: Helmet, Novara beanie, 360s ear warmers, Fleece facemask, Cheap gloves of a wool/thinsulate blend, Glove liners, Pullover windbreaker, Fleece pullover, Novara water/wind proof pants, Fleece sweats, Wicking base layer top and bottom, Neos Overshoes, Running shoes, Wool blend socks. This mix works pretty well. On the coldest days I start chilled but by mile three I am unzipping a bit to get some ventilation due to overheating.
  • I’ve had some beautiful rides on several days when the temps have climbed into the upper 40’s and lower 50’s. Nice to put away the colder weather gear and relax the dress code a bit.
  • I’ve had up days and down days. On one of the bad days my wife asked me “So are you still enjoying this?” I answered “No, but I’m going to keep going because I kind of made a commitment to myself to do this.” On the good days I remember why I made that commitment.

Keep riding, enjoy the fast days when you can ride like the wind, and stay safe.



Great Weather, Not So Great Shape

The last couple of days brought some nice weather to ride in, at least compared to the very cold weather last week. When I rode to work last Monday it was 9 degrees. Monday and Tuesday of this week the temps were in the mid to upper 30s, which is still a bit cold, but that is almost 30 degrees warmer. For the ride home yesterday I had temps around 47 degrees, and it was beautiful.

The challenging part of the last couple of rides is that I notice that after not riding for almost a month I’m definitely not in the shape I was in before.

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It’s amazing how fast one’s fitness level can decrease. I was only away from riding for a few weeks, but I can definitely notice a difference. I can feel myself getting some strength back over the last couple of rides, but I have been very tired and my joints and muscles have been complaining a bit.

I did see another bike commuter yesterday morning, which is the first one I’ve seen since things started to get really cold. He was friendly, and had a very nice bike. He came up behind me near the start of my route, and then left me in the dust at the first stoplight, but then I was able to catch up with him while he was waiting for the last stoplight on my route. I was proud of this accomplishment, since he had a super light Specialized road bike, and I had my chromoly Trek mountain bike with probably twenty or thirty pounds of stuff in my panniers. We had some friendly conversation when I caught up with him, and then I wished him a good ride as I turned off for my office.

That little bit of friendly competition got my blood pumping, and showed me that I still had a good bit of strength and energy left, it just needed some strong coaxing to show itself.

What’s the best part about realizing that I’m not as fit as I was before vacation?

Knowing that to get back to where I was I really don’t have to do anything different. I got to that fitness level by riding my bike to work, so if I keep riding my bike to work again I should get back there soon.

I think that is one of the best perks of bike commuting on a regular basis… accidental fitness.



Friendly Competition?

On the ride home tonight I was surprised how my competitive spirit got the best of me…

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The temperature for my ride in this morning was around 38 degrees (F), and my outfit was just about right. I was a bit cold for the first mile or so and then I got warmed up and it was a fairly comfortable ride the rest of the way.

This is the time of year in Utah when the temperature can swing 30 degrees or more in a single day, so when it came time to ride home today the temp was around 68. I had to pack all my cold weather gear in my pannier, which made things feel a little bulkier than normal. In spite of this, it was a very pleasant temperature to ride in, and I was feeling great as I took it easy for the first mile. I hit a stop light at the first busy intersection, and enjoyed the rest while I caught my breath a bit, warming up and anticipating a relaxing ride. The light turned green, and I popped back in the saddle and started rolling…. and all of a sudden a guy on a road bike blew by me on the right!

He had a messenger bag on his back, a nice looking light blue road bike, and a bright green jacket. It’s funny the things you notice in a moment like that. I’m not sure what it was that pushed my button, but I got totally irritated with this guy, and was determined to catch him.

I have been riding the rebuilt Trek lately, so keep in mind that I was on a big chromoly steel mountain bike, with a big fat pannier on one side, normal pedals, and running shoes. Not the most competitive package to race with, but all of a sudden I had a whole lot of determination!

About 3 blocks past the stop light there is a small hill, and I usually hate that part of my ride home, because I’m still not quite warmed up by that point, and I often have to drop a couple of gears and pedal fiercely while I slowly roll up the hill. Well not today! I really surprised myself, because I picked up the pace, and set my sights on that guy. I figured that he would be gone in no time, but amazingly I started gaining on him! As we started up the hill I was probably 75 yards behind him, and was gaining steadily. By the time we crested the hill I was  about 10 feet behind him, and I tucked in the pocket, trying to make the most of his draft. I thought about passing him, but all of a sudden I realized that I was REALLY tired! I figured that it would be better to savor the moment, than to pass him and then have him pass me back as I ran out of gas at the bottom.

Sure enough, as we hit the bottom of the other side of the hill he was able to maintain his pace, but I had to back off a bit and catch my breath. I kept my cadence up, but dropped a gear, and he slowly pulled away.

I thought that was the last I would see of him, but a couple of miles later I saw him stopped at a light up ahead, and I almost caught up with him again. The light turned green as I was about 100 yards away, and I gave it all I had, but he still was able to pull away from me.

I was thoroughly exhausted when I got home, but it was a good kind of tired. I have been taking it easier on my rides lately, trying to focus on the things around me and just enjoy the journey. It was fun to push the limits again and fire up the competitive juices. I also surprised myself how strong I was on that hill! I’ve definitely come a long way since I started my bicycle riding back in May. A little friendly competition can be a good thing.



Bike Commuter Camaraderie
September 17, 2008, 2:14 pm
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I had lunch with a good friend yesterday. He took up bike commuting about the same time that I did, but we didn’t find out about this until last month.

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It was great to sit over lunch and talk about bikes, our commuting adventures, and life in general. His bike is a few years old, and he hadn’t really ridden it much before he started commuting. He’s already noticed extra wear and tear on his bike, and has had to do some drivetrain maintenance recently. He’s got a good local bike shop that he goes to, and it sounds like they are taking good care of him as he tries to keep his bike commuter ready.

One of the neatest things was how much healthier he looked since the last time I saw him. It looked like he has lost a whole bunch of weight, and his whole demeanor was so much better. One more benefit of bike commuting… accidental fitness.

I rode my bike the 3 miles from work to the restaurant, and it was a nice way to spend my lunch break! It only took an extra 15 minutes or so, and I really appreciated the mental break of having a ride in the middle of the day.

I had my usual Tuesday night ride home last night, and it was tough! I’m not sure why, but I was really tired, and it was one of those rides where I had to keep pushing myself mentally. In spite of that, it was great to have my NiteRider light, and it certainly did the job. I can’t believe how much nicer it is than my old light. It’s also nice that the mount doesn’t rattle like the old one did… the ride is much more peaceful now.

I made it home, and even though I was really tired when I got there, it was a good day!