Summer of biking – 2016 edition

It’s been a busy summer on and off the bike, but I’ve spent enough time riding around to get a biker’s tan.  I’ve recorded over 1000 miles this year with the miles mainly from commuting.   Here’s some highlights of this past summer.

2016 Active Transporation Alliance’s Bike Commuter Challenge

I was the sole captain this year as the co-captain from last year opted out of organizing.  Overall, it was a very fun and successful event – this time my company had 17 participants (new record), and we finished within the top 25 of companies Chicagoland in terms of mileage.  I think since word got out much earlier this year,  people were interested.  I made some flyers and had emails sent out to the company starting a month before the event.  As captain, the event website made it difficult to find stats or manage the team.  Active Transportation did admit they they were rolling out a new backend system so some user-friendly features from last year were not available – such as sending out daily messages to my entire team through the website. Me and other team members also encountered were some minor technical difficulties with their bike app in terms of uploading miles, but that was resolved by just restarting the program.

I was able to bike every single day of the challenge, and the first day I had an interoffice commute which I’ve never done before.  I even tried a new route from another coworker who lives nearby.  I’ve since used that route on my commutes to mix things up a bit.  Some days were hot, but luckily, kids still run lemonade stands and I was able to take a short break on my rides home.

Lemonade Stand
Hot weather means one of many lemonade stands on my commute home.

I definitely met a lot of new people and have new biking friends.  It’s always nice to have camaraderie around non-work related stuff.  I’ve ridden to work with two ladies in a different department who take one of the early morning Metra trains.  As someone who’s commuted for many years, it’s great to see new commuters giving biking a try, using whatever bikes they have.  A few weeks after the event, we took a group photo and it was included in our company newsletter. People said they had lots of fun and it motivated them to be healthier and consider alternatives to driving.

 

Upgraded some bike items:

I treated myself to some new bike lights, bags and other bike supplies to replace what I’ve been using.  My equipment will be discussed in later posts.

 

Biked to work in a downpour:

One morning the radar showed red and I thought I would get to work before the worst of it hit.  I was wrong and ended up in a really awful downpour about 15 minutes in my commute.  There was no lightning in the sky, but the thunder was really serious.  Thankfully, I always have all of my lights with me and I kept to the quieter streets.  At times, the rain actually hurt as it hit my skin.  When my husband texted me if I was OK, I said that I was putting my phone in a plastic bag and I turned on the Beacon feature so that he could track my route.  I remember pedaling so hard through some standing water and telling myself not to stop since I didn’t want my bike to fall over.  The water came up to my bottom chain but it required a lot of force to pedal through.   It was such a weird sensation to be pedaling through water, but not as crazy as underwater cycling. It was terrifying at times, but luckily I made it to work safe and was actually the first one to arrive.  I was reminded by my boss that one day I will show up looking like an electrified kitty on a bike.

 

 

On Labor Day, rode 75 miles in preparation for the North Shore Century.

I signed up to do my first century ride since I’ve always wanted to do this event and my other coworkers are doing it too.  My only training for a century is biking two times a week commuting to work (50 miles).  On my Monday off, I got up at the usual time for my bike commutes, but I wanted to see how I felt after riding a long distance.  I decided to enjoy the lakefront path which kept my speed slow at about 12 mph.  I tried eating something about every hour- some energy goo or food I had packed.  I think I did not eat enough for breakfast – I only had oatmeal and some fruit and a cup of coffee.  My feet felt fatigued but that was expected since I use platform pedals and have regular gym shoes.  I may consider swapping in harder insoles, or purchasing bike specific insoles to put in my gym shoes.  Otherwise, I feel I am ready to bike 100 + miles.  Even a day after riding, I am not really in pain, but seem a bit dehydrated –  I blame that on the two beers I had the night before and two beers the night after my ride.  More on my first century ride in a future post.

Bike on the Lakefront Trail next to the Shedd Aquarium.
Bike on the Lakefront Trail next to the Shedd Aquarium.

2015 Bike Commuter Challenge Completed

This year’s bike commuter challenge was a great success.  My company had seven members and we all biked in at least once (100% participation), for a total of 24 trips and 287.8 miles (12.1 miles per member).  We had four men and three women, including two new bike commuters.  I had been interviewed by the Active Transportation Alliance, so I knew I had to give my best effort.  As one of the captains, I lead the team with six rides and 78 miles, but due to the weather and other commitments, could not devote more energy towards the challenge.

Forming the team:

About a week before the bike commuter challenge started, another lady bike commuter I had met introduced me to the guy who had been organizing the event for the past few years and we went from there.  He had just welcomed a new baby, so the bulk of the responsibility shifted to me to organize and encourage the team.  I registered the team on the website, designated us as co-captains and then edited an email template he had sent me to include detailed instructions on how to sign up for the team (this year you needed a password). HR forwarded the email to the entire company and also put up announcements on the TV screens.   We also printed out some flyers which were put up by the administrative staff.

HR and I went to a nearby bike store and selected some raffle prizes (bike commuter kit with reflective bands and rear light, active wipes) which the company graciously paid for.   Our HR department was really great in helping us advertise the challenge to hundreds of employees.  I was unable to recruit my immediate coworkers to join (although they really did entertain the idea), and ultimately we ended up with seven team members.

Preparing for the challenge

Before the challenge started, I brought some clothes and snacks to keep in my office so I wouldn’t have to bring them on the bike.

I sent out an email to the team and wished them luck during the next week.  With the weather indicating rain, I reminded people to be more careful (use lights, go slower) and to not ride in the rain if they didn’t want to.  I don’t like riding in the rain myself, but a light drizzle is fine with me.

One of the new bike commuters asked us our opinion on the route he should take to work.  Being in the suburbs, it can be tricky negotiating traffic when the streets are busy and the speed limit is 50 mph.  We found a route which would minimize sidewalk riding and cautioned him to be extra careful and look for turning cars and driveways.

Logging my rides

I tried using their bike commuter app on the first day,  but it didn’t record some of my miles so I relied on Strava.

My commute is usually 12 miles to and from work, or 17 miles if I take the long way on the trail.

What most days of the bike commuter challenge looked like:

BikeHomedreary061215

Friday: 6/12: Little bit of rain in the morning, cloudy in the evening, colder than usual.
Monday 6/15: Did not bike, but did bring a supply of clothes and snacks for the week to store in my office.  Hawks win the Stanley Cup.
Tuesday 6/16: Biked in, little bit warmer, feeling good.
Wednesday 6/17: Could’ve biked in but stayed up late watching the NBA Finals.
Thursday 6/18: No biking, lots of things to do.
Friday 6/19:  Really felt worn down from the week, but I had to bike in since it was the last day.  Luckily the weather was nice. Bought and ate a pan pizza from the cafeteria and it gave me enough energy for the long ride home through the North Branch Trail. I rode as fast as I could  and beat some of my personal records I have on Strava.

Every few days I would log into the bike commuter challenge website and send out emails encouraging the team and updating our progress.  Some team members even emailed me directly to share their progress.  I enjoyed seeing people’s routes and hearing about how they took the opportunity to bike in.  A raffle was also held, and the prizes sent out through the company mail.

Until next year..

Next year we hope to get the word out sooner so that more people can think about commuting to work. The rain also put a damper on our efforts.

Participating in the bike commuter challenge was a great way to meet new people and share information about bike commuting.  Nearly every week is bike to work week for me, but it is always fun to to share the experience with others and to keep each other motivated.