I’ve already biked to work twice to my new job, squeezing it in before Bike the Drive. I used to commute 20 miles each way, but now it’s only 12 miles each way, meaning that I no longer have to rely on public transportation. I can bike the entire distance to and from work. It only takes me an hour each way, and it is sometimes faster during the evening commute depending on traffic. Right now I have to strike a balance between my desire to bicycle commute and my responsibilities at work and at home. I do it when I can and don’t stress out about it. An ideal day for me is to bike commute, have a great day at work, and then a relaxing time at home. Unfortunately, I can’t have it all, so if I do have the chance to bike in, then I’ll do it.
What I really hate about driving is being stuck on the Edens and going the same pace as if I were biking. Below is a familiar scene as I cross the highway going home.
For my first bike commute of the year, I was ready as I had planned out my route, packed my backpack and was mentally prepared.
I got a good night’s sleep and had my usual coffee/oatmeal/banana combo for breakfast. I didn’t have to shower before heading out because I would shower at work. I would not have known that my workplace had a shower if I hadn’t talked to one of my coworkers about my plan to commute in.
The weather was cold and windy even though it was the 12th of May. I had to wear long pants, my windbreaker and gloves to keep warm. I chose to use my hybrid bike since it allows me to be more upright and then I can also have my rear rack to strap things to. It was also dark and cloudy so I had to turn on my front and rear lights.
I had planned well and already stashed what I needed in my office so there wasn’t much for me to bring to work. I use an old backpack to carry my stuff and bungee cord it to the rear rack. I don’t have panniers since my backpack does a good job and I have no problems handling my bike even with a large load on the back.
I can already say that my route to my new workplace is easier and more enjoyable. The roads I take are wider, have less traffic and I am in less of a rush because I don’t have to catch the train. The only difficult thing is dealing with the traffic near the two high schools I have to pass. People drive faster than normal and do not give you as much space on the road.
During my first bike commute of the year, here are some things that caught my attention:
I was more cautious around traffic- Even though I’ve biked many miles, I found myself being hyperaware of cars, especially during the evening rush hour. More than usual, I found myself looking over my shoulder to gauge when cars would pass me and really signaled my intent when trying to take the lane.
Potholes – this forces me out into traffic since they seem to form on the right side of the road, directly where I need to be. Even the North Shore suburbs can’t be pothole free.
Feeling lonely – Maybe it was the bad weather, but I only saw one other bike commuter during my whole route. I usually pass a few people going into the city when I am headed out of it. Also, I used to take the Metra and would chat with some people before boarding.
Having to coast more than usual– I didn’t feel bad “cheating” and I coasted as much as I could to conserve energy.
My lack of upper body strength – When I was bring my bike out and up a short flight of stairs, I was amazed at how heavy my bike felt. I previously had found no problem lifting my bike up and down the stairs of the Metra train. My arms did feel more toned after my rides because they basically act as shock absorbers.
A sore butt – I don’t wear padded shorts but I do have a sport saddle and it is good enough for me. This type of discomfort usually subsides within a week or two and I just deal with it.
Feeling weighed down – I didn’t bring my purse but instead stuffed my wallet and keys into one of my backpack’s compartments. My lunch, change of clothes, shoes and towel took up enough space. This is typically a “light” load, but it felt like I was carrying quite a bit behind me, especially going uphill.
A dry mouth: I think I was breathing through my mouth and exerting myself too much, but this was easily solved by drinking some water throughout my commute.
Eventually I made it to work and locked my bike up to a parking sign post, out of the way. There wasn’t anyone in my building yet. I felt a bit sore, but was able to recover in my office, rehydrate and then checked some email. I then managed to make it to the shower, changed and went about the rest of my day. I am glad I have the ability to shower now as it makes things much easier. At my previous job, I relied on baby wipes and washed my hair in the sink.
I had arrived early enough that nobody noticed, but with my helmet at my desk, people were curious about my ride in. I told my coworkers that it only took me an hour, but that it felt much longer due to the wind. Otherwise, it was a lot of fun and it was nice knowing that I didn’t need a car. Biking in helps me to be more alert, and also causes me to be more efficient with my time and helps me deal with stress. The day also seems to go by quicker.
Suddenly it was time for me to pedal back home. I left a little bit earlier to avoid the worst of the evening rush hour. The ride home is always something I look forward to, even if I am tired from the morning ride and a full day of work. When the work day is good, I can ride home without much worry. If there is a problem at work, I can take the time on my bike to think about it, and if the day has been really bad, then I can just ride as fast as I can and deal with my frustration.
Even with some minor discomfort, it is the sense of accomplishment that I arrived at work under my own power, which motivates me to do it again. I like the challenge and learning process of each ride. With the weather becoming warmer, I hope I see more bicycle commuters share the road with me.