Friday, May 21, 2010

Bicycle Commuting Q&A

Since I became a father, I don't bike to work nearly as much as I used to (or, really, as much as I'd like to do), but I still get a ton of questions about commuting. As today is Bike-to-Work Day, I thought I'd enumerate them. While I'm both the questioner & the answerer here, I can honestly say that I've gotten these questions in some way, shape, or form in the past couple of years.

How far a commute is it for you?
20 miles
20, miles - don't only crazy people bike 20 miles a day?
Actually, it's 20 miles each way (40 miles / day). I may, however, be crazy.
Aren't you absolutely knackered when you get to work?
If I push myself at all during the commute, it's only on the way home. I see the entire trip in as a moderate-workout that just so happens to end immediately when I get to work. So, no - I'm not tired.
Aren't you all smelly & gross for the day?
While I build up a decent sweat on the way into work (I'm not Chris Traeger from Parks & Recreation), I've found that sweat only really stinks if it goes untended for awhile. I don't have shower facilities at work, so I get in, towel off, wash my face, apply deodorant, get dressed. If my odor is offensive, nobody has said anything about it.
I know you work in a business professional establishment, how do you get your clothes in?
My laptop bag doubles as a garment bag, so I pack the day's business clothes before I leave in the morning. I leave shoes at the office, as I rarely have occasion to wear brown dress shoes outside of the office, and saving a few pounds of gear for the commute is a good thing.
Have you ever forgotten to pack your clothes?
I keep an emergency set of clothes at the office, for just such an occasion, but I've only had to resort to that clothing set while driving (I was rear ended, with no damage done to my truck. However, I was taking a sip of coffee at the time). I have, however, forgotten to pack underwear.
Why do you need to remember to pack underwear?
My silly silly bicycle pants are essentially a wrestling singlet with a whole lot of padding in the crotch. If I were to wear underwear with it, friction would be introduced in a very unpleasant manner. So, I need to remember to bring in underwear -- if I forget, commando I go.
Commando, ewwwww!
That's not a question.
What's the terrain like on your commute?
I'd define the twenty miles as flat with rolling hills - you can see a readout of today's commute at my TrailGuru page (though I have no idea why we lost my route randomly near the end).
Don't your naughty bits hurt while you ride?
I'll have another post, for another time, about naughty-bit tingling (and of having to reach in & physically retract "the boys"), but no - I'm quite comfortable when I ride. I have an unpadded, leather saddle that is just absolutely wonderful - once you're biking more than a dozen miles or so, the less padding you have on the saddle, the better.
Should I commute by bicycle to work?
The short answer is yes - though I would make sure that I've traveled a similar, if not identical route on a weekend, just to ensure you're up for it.
If I wanted to buy a bicycle, where should I start?
Your local bike shop. You can find good deals online (especially on Craig's List), but I'd really only recommend buying from such a place if you really know what you're doing. Any decent bike shop will be able to talk you through the different options you'll face with a bicycle & (this is the big thing) professionally fit the bicycle to your body before you leave. If everything is set right for you, riding is pleasant . . . if something is "out of wack", riding will become incredibly uncomfortable, quickly.
Do you commute during bad weather?
I always look at the weather report for the day before I head out. If they're calling for a chance of rain on a day that I was planning to commute by bike, I'll head out. If they're calling for torrential thunderstorms, I'll drive.
What do you do in the winter?
In short, I don't commute, though the cold wouldn't be the reason why. I have cold-weather gear, and I have biked in the cold on several occasions (the trick is to just be warm enough when you start, therefore you won't overheat during the ride). I happen to live in Central PA, which is an area with very little traffic. But I work near several major corporate offices, and the evening rush hour is a bit of a mess. Adding the dark to the mix might not be a fun idea.
Do you have any issues with cars?
For the most part, no. I'm a great big bearded, tattooed guy, wearing a bright orange or yellow t-shirt with reflective strips with lights blaring both in front of and behind me (a Down Low Glow may be installed at some point). People see me coming. Sometimes, somebody will pass the "stop" line at a stop sign by a large amount, and that will force me to slam on my breaks. The only real issue is at a traffic light. If I see that nobody is making a right-hand turn, I'll sometimes ignore more sound advice and sneak up the right hand shoulder. The problem is that, if somebody is making a left-hand turn, sometimes somebody going straight will swerve around that left-hand turner. Haven't come close to getting hit here, but I've made eye contact with drivers in this situation before we figured out what was going on.
Have you ever had a close call?
Only once - I was on my way home, on an open road. As I normally do, I was hugging the white line of the shoulder (I don't actually ride on the shoulder, as that is where you find a lot of road debris & broken glass, and stuff like that tends to be bad for a bicycle) when somebody drove past me and then made a right-hand turn. I slammed on my breaks, my rear tire actually left the ground (though it was far from flipping me over) and I ended up about an inch from the person who turned in front of me. I shouted at her, she shouted at me, I leaned to the side to take a look at her license plate & she sped off. I waited a few minutes for my heart rate to return to a normal range, and then I continued on my way home.
Doesn't commuting by bicycle take a ton of extra time?
Not really, though it typically does take longer than driving. As I stated previously, rush hour where I work is a madhouse -- I'm able to bike by most everything. Each way, I'd say it takes an additional half hour.
Your legs must be like sculpture.
That's not a question, but I will say that I do have nice legs. However, since I've started running, I've been working out muscles that I haven't used all that much previously. So, now, while my legs are probably the strongest they've ever been, they don't look as defined as they do when I'm primarily only cycling.
For as much as you bike, why are you fat?
"Fat", perhaps, is a relative term -- but I certainly have more of me around the midsection than I'd like. The simple answer is that I enjoy eating more than just about anything else. If I woke up tomorrow and found that wine, beer, and cheese were no longer found on Earth, I'd be skinny in no time flat. Unfortunately, I allow myself a few too many rewards for the workouts I do.

1 comment:

Arianne Willow Edeline said...

Love the blog! You have really given me some ideas for longer walks myself. I do not bike at all, that is unless I can find a good recumbent bike. If I had to sit my fat ass on a tiny bike seat, I don't care how much fat I have for cushioning my butt bones I refuse to be the next viral video on You tube!