Pedal to Work

 

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I’m lucky to have a job where nobody cares if I arrive to work bit sweaty. (And it’s only 5 miles from home).  I teach martial arts, and by the end of class, everybody else is sweaty too, so I fit right in.  The bonuses are more fitness, less wear and tear on my car (we only have old cars at our house) and less money spent on gas.  I often go 3 or 4 weeks without having to put gas in my car.  The downside (and I only see one) is winter.  I’ve told you before that I hate everything about winter, the cold, the dark, the snow. And you really get to experience the cold on a bike.  Still worth it to ride to work, though.

A few years back, I got a nice flat-bar road bike.  I rode all over town, and my daughter and I rode rail trails all over Massachusetts.

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Panniers made it useful for taking stuff to work, and as a bonus, it’s pretty bike.  But (and this is a big but) those narrow tires make it really scary to ride in traffic.  Always worrying about hitting a bump, hole, or patch of sand that will throw  me out into the path of a car.

It seemed that my mountain bike would be better for riding to work.  But a rack on a mountain bike seemed like a bad idea.  It would interfere with the rear suspension and get caught on stuff in the woods.  So, I decided to get a hardtail mountain bike, and set it up with a rack and panniers to use for commuting and running errands.  Besides, there’s this. You know, n+1 and all 😉

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So, a bit over a year ago, I got a new commuter bike.  It’s not as pretty as the first one.  (I think all bikes should be black.  Pops of color are okay, but the main color should be black).  This bike is white.  Not as bad as a pastel color, I guess, and it has neon green trim which is pretty cool.

Some towns are great places to bike.  When my kids went to UMASS, I was jealous of the great rail trail there, and all the bike racks in Northampton.  I have to take my bike in with me everywhere (bank, post office, CVS, grocery store) because there are no bike racks.  (The lady at the center post office does NOT like my bike inside). And lots of cities have bikeshare.  But there is a move across the country to increase safe cycling.  Some of the leaders are at MassBike and Bike League. Check them out.

It’s easy to ride in the summer.  Shorts and a tank top, and I’m ready to go.  (More than ready, I love everything about summer!)  Spring and fall are not too bad, but never as good as summer.  Winter though, is a different story.  I had an adult student tell me one day last winter that I was crazy, and it was too cold to ride.  (On the flip side, the parent of one of the little students told me last summer that it was too hot to ride and I was going to die of heatstroke – not a bad way to go.) But seriously, how cold is too cold?  If you say that below freezing is the cutoff, what do you do when it’s 31 degrees out?  That’s not much different than 32.  From there, it’s easy to stop riding because it’s “too cold”.  And I really do enjoy riding.

Dress for it.  Liner leggings, fleece leggings, underarmour, fleece, parka, liner socks, wool socks, winter bike shoes, liner gloves, heavy gloves, balaclava, helmet.  Takes a long time to get out the door on a cold day.  It probably would be really hard to start the habit of bike commuting on a cold, dark day.  But start now, get used to the ride, and what you need to take.  Then as the weather gets colder (did I say I hate winter?) you just start adding layers and adapting.

I’ve also found that bringing extra uniforms to work on days when I drive, makes the biking days easier.  And I do drive sometimes.  I  go grocery shopping after morning classes on Monday, and I’m still a bit too afraid of traffic to ride at 9pm.

Using a mountain bike to commute, also has a huge side benefit – trails!!!  On the way to work, I ride the last mile on trails.  And coming home, I ride the first mile on trails, and then, about 2 miles from home, I drop into the woods at Greenbrier, and ride as much as I want (or as much as I tolerate without lunch!) At first, the pannier messed with my balance a bit on the trail.  But once I got used to it, it’s gotten easier.  I stay off the more technical trails with the pannier though.

Try it for yourself.  See the benefits of more exercise,  and less gas used.  Plus, being outside everyday is good for you.  We tend not to get enough outside time in the winter, just going from one heated space to the next.  (Although I guess people do the same with air conditioned spaces in the summer).  I realize you don’t all have ideal conditions to ride to work, but please try to get outside every day.  Thanks.