Monday, December 17, 2007

On commuting

Date: Dec. 17
Mileage: 7
Hours: 35 min. (plus two hours gym)
December mileage: 413.9
Temperature upon departure: 30
Snowfall: 2"

I rode my bike to work today.

Contrary to my aspirations, I rarely bike commute to work. I use my bike for nearly everything else. If fact, going to work is one of the few situations in which I use my car these days. There are a few reasons for this. One, it makes it much easier to show up at the office looking “presentable.” Two, driving allows me to go home during my dinner break, which is about the only time I see Geoff during the workweek. Three, my commute is short - 7 miles round trip - which makes it more difficult for me to get motivated about suiting up after I’ve already taken a shower following my regular training ride, packing something clean to wear, packing myself something to eat for dinner and riding to work, just to save two gallons of gas per week (which is how much gas I use if I drive back and forth to my office twice each day.) Four, all of these excuses prove that, at heart, I'm a lazy person.

But I do have aspirations to become a regular commuter, especially during the winter, when my bikes become the better-suited vehicles for most road conditions (I drive a 12-year-old, front-wheel-drive Geo Prism.) So every so often, I give it a go. Today I packed for my dinner a banana, an orange and an apple sliced up into a fruit salad, as well as Wheat Thins, a can of V8 and a roll of Sweet Tarts. After packing a pair of dress shoes (I don’t currently have a pair stored at the office), I didn’t have enough room in my Camelbak for clothing, so I just dressed in a button-down shirt and pair of slacks - all cotton - and threw my rain gear over the top.

All of the preparation had me running later than I intended. Luckily, the road conditions were nearly perfect for commuting - about an inch of new snow, all nicely packed by passing traffic. The bike path was a mess - here in Juneau, bike paths don’t get plowed - but my route on the bike path is mercifully short. If it had been warmer out, I would have been subject to the standard slush shower that coats everything I’m wearing in gray goo (and yes, I do have fenders on my mountain bike.) But today I arrived at work fairly clean.

A few observations about commuting:

• The commute itself only takes about eight more minutes than the drive, but the preparations and cleaning up at the office seem to take about 20 minutes to a half hour extra.
• Is it possible for bus drivers to be more oblivious to me when I’m commuting? How do they know?
• Wearing my waterproof PVC rain gear, I sweat a fair amount even on a short 3.5-mile ride, and I probably should make more of an effort to carry my work clothing separately.
• As much as I abuse my bikes when I’m using them, I don’t like having to store them outside for any length of time.
• My bike lock had rusted shut when I went to use it today. I’m a little worried about wrenching it back open before I head home tonight.
• I’m not thrilled about the food I quickly packed for dinner, but I don’t have a choice in the matter because I work out in an industrial wasteland devoid of restaurants.
• Gas is getting expensive, but last I checked (and I don’t check often, because I only buy gas about once every six weeks), two gallons of gas still cost less than $7. Saving $7 a week is more a matter of principle than a matter of economy. So I need to work on bulking up my principles until they trump the little inconveniences.

People who bicycle commute to work every day of the year have my highest respect. They belong on the upper tier of cyclist groups; they belong at the top ... just above, of course, winter endurance cyclists.