Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I am not my bike commute

Date: June 20
Mileage: 36.3
June mileage: 441.1
Temperature upon departure: 53

It’s time for me to admit my secret shame.

I don’t bike commute to work.

I bike commute to a lot of other things. Barbecues. Errands. To get my sushi fix. Shopping (and I’m still trying to figure out a good way to haul a 36-pack of Diet Pepsi the five miles from Costco.)

But not to work. It’s three miles from my home. I ride right by the building every time I head to the Mendenhall Valley (which is often.) Still, I haven’t been able to cowboy up and straddle all of the obstacles that make riding to work and back on daily basis a mounting inconvenience.

I am so ashamed.

When I started riding again last month, I decided I was going to start working on the logistics that would allow me to phase out my car. Today I made a dry run to see what a typical bike commuting day would be like.

First of all, I planned to do a bit of extra riding beforehand and then meet a friend in the valley. Because I wasn’t going to make it home between these plans, I packed up my camelbak with everything I’d need for the ride and work - water, bike lock, mittens and a coat because it looked like it was going to rain. After that, I was barely able to wedge in my work shoes. So all of my work clothes - business casual, no less - had to be bunched into a plastic grocery sack and stuffed in a messenger bag, which I then tied to the Camelbak. (I can not wear messenger bags the way they’re intended. They always swing in front. I don’t know how commuters do it.)

So with that awkward setup, I set out for a fairly easy spin north, riding with the wind and amping up my usual average mph. It did rain a little but not hard. I had mostly dried out by noon. But in the time crunch, I didn’t have a chance to eat and soon it was time to sprint to work. Had to crank it up a notch to make it by 1 p.m., no time to stop, locked up my bike and skated into the office in my bike shoes. I took a quick paper towel bath in the restroom and loaded up with the deodorant I was carrying, but after 33 miles I really should take a shower. Unfortunately, the closest available one is at my gym, which is two miles from my office and less than a mile from my house anyway. If I was going to go to all that trouble, I’d just go home. And then I’d be back where I started.

So maybe I smell. My coworkers wouldn’t tell me ... I know they’d just lie if I did stink. I did ask. But I also had that no lunch problem. I bought a soda from the vending machine and ate the ancient Clif Bar in my camelbak, along with a baggie of fruit snacks and a granola bar that I had in my desk. Lunch of champions. Now I have to wedge out a long enough break to bike home for dinner. If I can’t, it’ll be a vending machine dinner.

I do have a few kinks to work out in this whole bicycle commuter thing.

But I guess it’s not that bad, in the end. At least, it won’t be bad until the rainy season really kicks road grit into full gear. Those will be some epic paper towel baths.

Addendum: So I did find the time to bike home for dinner. I pedaled up to the first intersection and passed a woman who was sitting on the curb next to an overturned bike, looking dejected. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that her chain had fallen off and she was trying to get ahold of her boyfriend. "Oh I can fix that for you," I said, and did, getting only the smallest amount of grease on my index fingers in the process. I crossed the street feeling like a hero, but when I came to the bike path I mindlessly tried to make the impossible 25-degree-angle turn required to jump on it without stopping. Realizing my misjudgement only when I had essentially stopped moving, I toppled over before I could click out of my pedals. I took an Ergon Grip right to the stomach, instantly making me feel nauseated and out of breath. Those things may be comfy for hands, but they pack a mean punch. Also, I bashed a fist-sized goose egg into my left (good) knee. Now it's all stiff. My good knee. Just in time for a 24-hour bike race this weekend. Misadventures in commuting continue ...


  1. I think you'll find commuting to work is worth the effort. I know when I do it, I'm always in a better mood, even though the logistics are a real pain in the ass.

  2. You should try to take your work clothes ahead of times and keep them at work to change into them. The same with the food. That way, you only have to jump on the bike and get there. Oh and baby-wipes work wonders against stinky body parts. Besides, I doubt, that you start sweating on a short commute like that....
    I am looking for a job right now and they actually have a gym, so I could ride there (11 miles one way) and change) plus it is jeans and and whatever you like to wear. I hope I can get that job:)

  3. Even if I don´t understand you well I enjoy reading your blog.

    Regards from Spain.

  4. I've always found the image of the Italian woman commuting on her Vespa, clad in pointy-toed pumps with a neck scarf trailing in the breeze, quite... well, sexy honestly.

    So rather than stuffing your business caual into a napsack, maybe wear it instead? I don't know, might make you the talk of Juneau.

  5. First of all, that photograph is amazing. I sure I would be run over within the first 5 minutes on the road because I was weaving, looking at all of the wonder.
    Second, commuting. If you are doing all of the things on your bike you mention, you "commute" more than 90 percent of cyclists out there. I ride to work once, maybe two days and that is it. I don't go to the store, to town for a coffee or even to post office on my bike. And I'm sure, most folks have a similar situation. It is difficult to even commute, with traffic and outside the work meetings on a regular basis. So, keep doing what your doing and let everyone else catch up!
    Sorry about your grip to the solar-plexus; sort of ironic after doing your good neighbor deed, isn't it?
    P.S. It sounds like your commute would be easier with a BOB trailer. They roll great, are easy to take on and off and can even go off-road. Take a look!

  6. Wow, what an admission: Hi, I'm Jill and I don't commute...we're all here for you! :-)

  7. Necessity being the mother of invention, just sell your car and do an experiment in adaptability.

  8. I love your confession as a "non commuter". Made me laugh. "Oldman" is right! If you commute just for simple errands, you are doing more than most!

    I am glad someone suggested the baby wipes. Honestly, they are great! I ride 12 miles to work, one way, and I have used them for years when I commute to work. I tell people it is a "clean sweat" becuase of the shower I took before I left. Make sure to buy unscented, unless you want to smell like baby all day. Coworkers will notice. Seriously. I went to CVS the other day on lunch with a female coworker. Standing in line, as if a light bulb went off in her head, said "THAT is what I am smelling all the time. I have been smelling that the last couple months." I wear deordarant and some "aftershave" as well, so the baby wipe stendch just sticks. I switched to unscented that moment. Secretly, I like the smell of baby wipes, but I was embarrased.

    Sorry to hear about the tumble. One step forward, two steps back. Ugh.

  9. 36 diet pepsi + 1 bike trailer = mission accomplished at costco

    I had the same problem with messenger bags until I used the waist belt strap to keep it from sliding around to the front.

    Given the short commute I'd second the notion of riding in work clothes at a leisurely pace to avoid working up a full on sweat.

    Good luck with the race.

  10. You'll sort it out, Jill. I don't commute because my only route is a major four lane with no bike lane and no shoulder. Plus I cart my laptop back and forth.

    However...I do bike before work, and the baby wipes are a total necessity. Also, keep extra food and at least one change of clothes at work!

  11. Yeah, what everybody else said. Your work shoes should live at work, a stablizer strap keeps a messenger bag where it needs to be. Jandd makes an great messenger bag at a good price if your in a shopping mood. And yeah, baby wipes, baby!

    You'll get it worked out.

  12. Oh my. I had no idea... I just assumed you biked to work. It's... like I just got hit in the stomach with an ergon grip... kidding. Sorry about your so-so first experience as a commuter but it will only get better. As far as carrying your stuff; I traded in my messenger for panniers and I've never looked back.

  13. Three miles to work? You can do that.

    1. Get bigger messenger bag. Timbuk2 if you want to be trendy, plus they are just about waterproof. Tighten it more, to keep it from swinging around. It's easier to tighten it, then put it on, THEN put on your helmet.
    2. Don't look at a bike commute as a function of logistics. Think of it as a chance to see your town go by on a daily basis - things that change, things that don't. Sometime a commute can give you a chance to "wind up" for work, and think about your coming day (or afternoon in your case). You don't have to ride fast on your way to work. Keep that for the ride home.
    3. Ok, yes there are logistics. Shoes - keep at the office. Things that go in your messenger bag = lunch you fixed the night before; a snack you fixed the night before; clothes you packed the night before;water; whatever else you need to keep from smelling.
    4. When it rains - you already have fenders, so what's a little rain?
    5. Avoid 25 degree turns.

    Sorry to hear about the bang up.

  14. jill...
    I need to hit the hay
    morning is fast approaching
    hope you had a good race
    as I do not think you are as compulsive about the blog as you are about the riding so you will not see this comment
    so congrats on a wonderful race
    you stayed focused and you had a strong race
    you raced smart and you finished strong
    your body feels sore
    but your listened to your body and kept things as they should

    good work!

    you are an inspiration!

  15. I commute daily year round and have encountered some of the same snags. How do I haul all I need to hit the gym before work and my lunch/dinner and anything else I'll need for the day at the hospital (I'm an RN). For light days I use Timbuk 2 bag with stabilizer strap. But the real savior has been my BOB trailer. A bit pricey but it's been worth the investment. Not only can I carry the aforementioned but it leaves enough room to pick up some things at the grocery on the way home. Good luck!

    down here in virginia,

  16. what is this, commuters anonymous ;)

    I've been commuting 5 miles each way for almost 1 year now and I have an admission to make too, I drive 1 day a week :( there I said it! Not really to carry cloths or food but to carpool at lunch, I gotta to do my share...

    I commute by bike for the challenge and for fitness mostly but people at work can't fathom why someone would actually want to ride a bike to work. apparently they think bikes don't have air conditioning...

    Good luck and be careful!

  17. I heart the idea of bike commuting. I work at home though. And I'm lazy. And my bike has an electric assist.

    The clip-on accident brought back unpleasant memories :( Getting winded with the handlebar to the ribs.

    Love the Alaska scenery!


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