1,000 decisions, properly made -Specialized Sequoia
The day has come! Today is the first day of the rest of my bike commuting journey. After writing a recent post about finding a new balance, moving into my second year of full time work, I realized that it was going to take even more focused planning to realize some of the goals and balance points I set for myself. An even more deliberate change of lifestyle was necessary if I wanted to reincorporate exercise, healthy movement, and cycling miles into my life. Here are a few factors motivating me to bike commute:
- I haven’t been to the gym even one time since my posting about balance.
- Time is my most precious resource at this point.
- I haven’t changed my position about seeing my boys each morning before work.
- I need a way to incorporate movement and exercise into daily life more closely aligned with my every day activities.
- I happen to be married to a bike guru who I knew could bring it all together (that’s just what he did). He has become my biggest link to bike commuting success!
Bike Commuting Is the Cat’s Pajamas
Bike commuting will be an entirely new world for me, but I’ve seen its benefits firsthand. When we lived in Alexandria, Virginia, right outside of D.C., my husband commuted by metro for the first year of his job. I could write an entire article about the reasons that he started bike commuting, but the number one reason was that his commute to and from the city generally put him in a terrible state of mind.
He’d come home bummed out, tired beyond belief, and full of depressing tales from his mass transit commute. (Let me state here that metro, subway, bus, and train– all of these are superior to one human getting into one vehicle and burning mass amounts of fuel on their hour-long commute each day.)
There came a moment one Wednesday when Perry showed me a Surly Long Haul Trucker on Craigslist. He said, “I’m going to start bike commuting.” I have vivid memories of that gorgeous green Surly still. Sweet moments when our little P would call down to his daddy from our second story condo window, “Love you daddy! Be safe!” are forever logged in my memory. Off my husband would go on his bi-pedal hoss. I remember thinking then what a great example he was for our son, and how I hoped that we would always honor biking as an important transportation reality.
The change in Perry’s demeanor was dramatic and nearly instantaneous. He had more energy, not less. He looked forward to heading in to work. He loved the challenge of pedaling to his place of employment regardless of the weather. He has plenty of stories that involve snow up to his free hub, being cut off by cars, particularly one crazy taxi cab, near the Jefferson Memorial, and spinning through ankle deep water. Even a less-than-happy story about confronting someone at a stop light who had almost ended his life at a traffic circle was part of his daily bike commuting experience.
On the whole, the entire affair was wonderful for Perry. Plus, the other people in our family who have been consistently bike commuting are my two boys. After our move this summer, we switched elementary schools and the boys have been commuting by bike since school began. I have to be honest that those first few afternoons I waited for them at the top of the driveway– excited and a little nervous. But they have cruised up our road safely every day, and it’s given me an even stronger desire to ride out on my own commute.
Of course, I hope that my commute won’t be fraught with danger. Part of my ride will be on bike path, and the other piece on less-traveled town streets. But I will be commuting in the early-morning half light, and I plan on subbing out my current tires for studded snow tires this winter. I hope I’ll have the presence of mind to stay safe and be aware of motorists and fellow cyclists alike. But beyond some of the cautionary tales I’ve heard, I am more than excited to take on this new mode of daily transportation. With my new transportation adventure happening real-time, there is a chance to talk about some bike commuting essentials.
Here’s the gear that will go with me as I set out on my new adventure:
First, The BIKE
This Specialized Sequoia will be my daily commuter. I really enjoyed reading this review of the Sequoia, though these folks took this gal out for a real, true gravel grinding tour. One aspect of the Sequoia I am looking forward to self-testing is what Sarah Swallows describes, “It feels equally capable with or without a load.” I’m not only planning to use this bike on my commute, but as my weekend pleasure cruiser.
Wear a Helmet, for Cranium’s Sake
This may seem to go without saying. But I’ve seen plenty of commuters who roll on sans skull protector. It only takes one story like the following to change your mind about helmets.
One sunny day last summer, I was riding to work without a helmet. I’d been riding this way for a few weeks, after I got a new bike for my birthday. I was turning off my street, where there is a gas station and a car pulled out of that lot , into the street, without looking. The guy didn’t see me, but I saw he wasn’t stopping with enough time so I swerved. He pulled out far enough that his front bumper knocked me further into the street, but I’d swerved enough that it didn’t knock me over. At 5 mph or less, the force of his car, not to mention his sheer stupidity, were enough to scare the ever living sh*t out of me.
I turned around and grabbed my roommate’s helmet and wore one from that day forward. Two weeks later on that same corner, no less, I took a spill and landed square on my face. Broke my right wrist, dislocated my left shoulder and lost my two front teeth, among others. It was awful, but that helmet saved my life. To anyone getting on a bike, no matter how experienced, please pick up a helmet first. I’d be eating through a tube or worse were it not for that helmet. -wordwithsam from “Gear You Need to Commute By Bike,” Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
Here’s to not breaking a wrist or especially losing any teeth on my commute (this is actually one of my most longstanding fears– toothless glory). But it should go without saying that a helmet is non-negotiable gear.
Light Your Bike, Like a Diamond
My sweet hubby tricked out my bike with two lights– a headlight in the front, and a Specialized Stix taillight in the back. Technology has advanced in every realm, and bike lights are no exception. Once I’ve reached my destination, I simply plug my lights into my USB to charge them for the next day. Genius!!
Under-seat Pack, a Must
No one wants a flat tire, but it’s bound to happen. This reality is one I must face, and I must sheepishly admit that I’ve been taught to change a flat time more times than I have fingers. I haven’t mastered this skill in all my years as a roadie. Now’s the time to figure it out!! (I also secretly hope my hubby will be within phone’s reach.) This under-seat pack holds everything you need to change a tire successfully.
Multi-tool, Oh My!
Along with changing a flat, a multi-tool will always come in handy. Seat adjustments, chain/cable problems, I got this! Below, the Specialized EMT multi-tool, is a good option for most commuting scenarios.
Fenders, Why Yes
When it comes to all-weather commuting (yes, this is my intention and I’ll keep you posted!) fenders are a must. Rain, snow, mud, you’re going to see it all. If you want to make it to work without having to hose off before beginning your day, you should invest in fenders. Leave it to my partner to source the best-of-the-best. Woody’s Fenders are custom, handmade in Bend, Oregon. You check them out HERE, and HERE.
Panniers, for All Weather
I tend to have a lot of STUFF when I head to work. Depending on the day I may have my laptop, two class texts, a set of student papers I’ve graded, my daily planner, a change of clothes, shoes for work, and breakfast and lunch for the day. I knew that I’d need some roomy panniers and these Ortleib Commuter QL 2.1 bags are a good match for my commuting needs. Water-proof, professional, without screaming bike nerd, I’m excited to pack the crap out of these and roll.
Leave it to me to look into stylish clothes for my bike commute. At this point I plan on alternating between these carpi length Ibex bike shorts, and my Specialized long leggings. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my eye on some new bike bottoms. I’ll keep you posted as update my clothing. For now I really do plan to stick to the standards I listed above. I am also wearing the brightest jacket/topper I could find for greater visibility, the Specialized Women’s Deflect Jacket. It’s light, bright, and sure to catch the eye of motorist and fellow trail blazer alike.
I hope you all have an wonderful Monday. I’d love to hear any of your ideas or experiences bike commuting. I’m completely new to this realm, but really looking forward to the ride!