Adventures in Bike Commuting: Week 1

Week 1, Day 1. [For the back story on my idea to give bike commuting a try, read this first.]

I’m not organized—shocker—because on Sunday night I realize that Monday is really the best weather day for riding to work.

As I scramble around trying to think of what I might need, Andrew helps me by getting my old hybrid out and dusting it off, oiling everything, and pumping up the tires, only to discover that it has a flat.

Plan B: I ride Andrew’s mountain bike with road tires. I stuff some clothes, my laptop, wallet and phone into a sling bag, designed to wear over one shoulder. It is uncomfortable and heavy. Whatever. I don’t need another reason to bail. Get out the door.

½ mile: Stop because the seat is too low.

1.2 miles: Pants leg gets stuck in the sprocket, stopping the bike abruptly. I hike it up over my knee.

2.5 miles: I’m whizzing down the hill on Sawmill and can’t believe how quickly the momentum stops once I reach the steep uphill at the bottom.

3 miles: I reach the Mine Creek East Greenway at Longstreet. It’s all greenway from here, which is totally awesome.

4.7 miles: I decide to go clockwise around Shelley Lake on the Shelley Lake Greenway, then hit the Ironwood Greenway down to Crabtree Valley Mall. This section is bumpy but flat and I am flying!

7.9 miles: I cross under Highway 70 near Crabtree Valley Mall and pick up the House Creek Greenway.

8.4 miles: Smugly, I watch traffic at a standstill on Interstate 440 as I cruise by on the quiet, lovely, and unobstructed House Creek Greenway. Suckas!

8.6 miles: I hit the first big hill on House Creek. My smugness evaporates; my sweat unfortunately does not.

10.6 miles: House Creek Greenway blessedly ends at the top of another giant hill. Turn left on Reedy Creek Greenway toward Meredith College (away from the Art Museum). More hills. It sure ain’t Kansas, Toto.

12.3 miles: Panting, I ride past Meredith College to Hillsborough Street. The Reedy Creek section is hilly, too.

13.3 miles: I arrive at Jordan Hall after an hour and 8 minutes, feeling pretty awesome. If I could just bike ONE way, this would be great.

However, it doesn’t work that way, so after I finish up my last bit of work, I pack up and head home, giving myself plenty of time. I thought it would be harder (and more uphill) going back, but it’s pretty balanced.

bike commute elevation

Elevation profile for my commute. The lowest point is in the floodplain for Crabtree Creek, where Crabtree Valley Mall was (stupidly) built.

Here’s the thing: it was awesome. It was fun! It felt like cheating—sneaking in a bike ride while I was on my way to work. Also, doing something fun and getting to call it a workout. It reminded me of the freedom I first felt when I bought that pink Huffy. And, it made me feel closer to Suzie, who never dropped her habit of biking everywhere. I found myself smiling all day. I will definitely look for ways to do this regularly.

Week 1, Day 2. Not a commute to State College–biked to coffee shop to meet a friend; about 5 miles round-trip. I would normally allow 10 minutes to drive there, so I left 5 minutes early. Totally doable and I found myself wondering, how could I ever have thought that this was too much time or trouble?

I was on Leadmine Rd., which has light traffic and is four lanes, when a guy in a pickup truck honked, startling me as he passed. He pulled into the next gas station and I turned in next to him. I was livid. I asked why he honked at me and he said I should have been on the sidewalk. Oh NO, I practically shouted. I gave him a short lecture about NC vehicle law and told him he should show some consideration next time. He doggedly repeated his statement about sidewalks. He wasn’t a cyclist hater—and I know they’re out there—but is rather a cluelessly inconsiderate person who beeps at cyclists habitually without thinking about the consequences. Maybe our encounter will make him think twice before doing it again. Probably not.

Share the roadI was glad I confronted him, but mad at myself because I was shaking. I hate confrontation, and I didn’t want him to see that I was afraid.

Next time I’ll also try waving my arms less.

WEEK 1: 1 commute, 1 errand. Total miles 31.
1. Wear shorts or tights, or carry a rubber band for your pants.
2. Try something different from the sling bag.
3. Stuff to leave at work (for now): washcloth, towel, deodorant, one complete work outfit, shoes, snacks.


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