7 Things I Have Learned From Bicycle Commuting
As always, I would like to point out, that by no means am I the ultimate bike commuter. Others ride further and faster than I do. However, I did not get my driver’s license until I was twenty-five and solely used a bike before then. In recent years I have attempted to commute from Saint Patrick’s Day to Halloween. However, last year I rode throughout the entire winter.
I have commuted through waves of desert heat exceeding 115 degrees and over the last decade and a half I have lived in the mountain town of Flagstaff which can drop into the negatives in the winter and dump three feet of snow onto the streets in a single afternoon.
1. Commuting is very different than weekend rides.
For many people bike riding is something fun you do over the weekend. Commuting on a bike is very different. First off, you have to do it. Most of us have little choice over whether we would like to go into work that day or not. Also the roads are packed with angry people rushing to work. They take risks. They blow off red lights. It is not only the busiest time of day, but also the most dangerous.
I have learned that you have to play their games. Risks you might not take on a Sunday need to be done or the constant stream of traffic will see you being ten minutes late every morning. But conversely, you can not risk going through a light just because it turned green. If I did that, I would have died ten years ago. When it comes to bike commuting, you need to ride the adrenalin rush and frankly it is probably too intense for many. Not all of us want to take our lives into (literally) our own hands just to make it to work.
2. Weather is just something you have to deal with.
Whether it is the oppressive summer heat, the head winds of spring, or the bitter temperatures and snow lined roads of winter, when it comes to getting to work on your bike, you just have to push through all sorts of difficult weather. Summer might be easier than the bitter cold, but it also has the drawback of leaving you sweaty when you arrive. Something to consider in most places of employment.
On an upside, when you ride your bike or walk to work you live the weather. It grounds you and makes your life closer to the earth. You detect subtle changes and live each season instead of watching it pass through a window or only experiencing it on ‘perfect’ weekend trips. Also you can not pick and choose like a weekend rider that blows off his trip because of a little snow. When you need to get to work, you have to hit the road no matter what you see out the window when you wake up. Although I will admit, I have walked to walk on a few snowy mornings.
3. I can get to work on my bike almost as fast as driving.
Obviously a lot of factors play into this. For instance, it is more downhill on the way to work than the route back. Also, if I lived further away, I would have a harder time puling this off. But I currently ride about 3 miles to work. Given all the traffic jams and stop lights I’m able to avoid, my riding to work time is about 20 minutes. The drive is about 12. For the various reasons that will be discussed in this article, the eight minutes is well worth it.
4. You can find a lot more supplies riding a bike.
Although not as good as walking, various forms of gear and supplies are far easier to spot on a bike. Probably half of the non-electronic tools I own have been ground scores and most of these were done while bicycling. I have found camping supplies, food, toys for my kids, and even cash. You can also scope out bigger supplies you might be able to grab later. Just make sure you carry a backpack. You never know what you could find.
5. Look mom, no beer belly.
Although I keep an active life, I am not an exerciser. But hell, I do not have to be. I put in about an hour of bike riding each day. This is more than enough to have me power walking mountain hikes, but I also eat and drink pretty much what I like and I’m able to stay in a reasonable shape. I might not be able to storm the beaches with Vikings, but I can carry a heavy cooler, three camp chairs, and baby crib down a cliff to a swimming hole without letting the beer in my other hand get too foamy.
Some folks drive to work. Then they drive to a gym where they pay to work out. This wastes time and so does the drive home. I have been home two hours by this point feeling richer with an hour of exercise under my belt. Now who is wasting more time, me taking that extra 8 minutes to get to work or someone else paying for the privilege of having a few hours of their evening eaten away? Oh yeah, do not forget the cost of that extra gas they are using to head there and back.
6. Repairs are cheap.
Had some bike issues the other day, it almost cost me ten dollars to get a new inner tube. And that is the second time this year. Damn, it will take a full week of bike riding to cover what this year’s repairs would have cost me in gas.
7. I can save some money.
Now I know not everyone is as broke as me, but I have evened off at saving about a 1000$ a year by riding my bike to work. Maybe this is not a lot for some people, but for me it helps out quite a bit. Figure, that is a nice mini vacation, two lap tops, or about 20$ a week. Think about it this way, I bet you would like to have an extra 40$ in your wallet the day before your next payday. Besides, that’s money I get to keep instead of sending overseas or helping to line the pocket of the mega-rich. Can I get a hail Yig?
May the wind be at your back