Twenty-five days. This is the number of days I’ve commuted by bike. Far fewer than some, and perhaps more than most. This journey has been a cleansing one for me. Each morning I get the chance to send my gratitude out into the world as I roll along. Each afternoon, I have a moment to reflect on my work day and prepare for a good evening at home.
Even these small moments of meditation have added to the power of my zen. I thank bike commuting for this. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my husband for enabling this great adventure. He chose the perfect bike, got me set with panniers and lights, and has generally championed this enterprise from the very beginning.
After an exciting, and rather frozen, entrance into bike-commuting (my second ride began at 16 degrees), I thought a post about some of the myths and truths of using two wheels as a viable form of transportation was in order. If my skeleton doesn’t end up looking like the Victorian cyclist specimen below, I’m going to be glad I began this journey.
True: Bike Commuting Takes Planning
One of the very first and most obvious facts about bike commuting is that it does take additional planning. My planning usually begins every evening when I set out my gear, prep my panniers, and make sure that I have all the things I need for the following work day in their proper place. The reason that planning is the key to success is that once you get where you’re going, you probably won’t have time to return to where you’ve been (ostensibly to pick up something you’ve forgotten).
However, I want to emphasize that planning, in and of itself, isn’t a negative! In fact, I’ve eaten more healthy meals, been more on-time to my job, been more happy to return home to see my kiddos, more active physically, and more balanced emotionally since beginning to bike commute.
There have also been a couple of uncomfortable moments due to my poor planning. Like the day when I forgot my pants at home. Yes, I said pants. Add to this the fact that I was being evaluated by my administrator later that afternoon! (Insert laugh-crying emoji here). The crisp white tuxedo shirt, black thermal biking spandex, and mid-ankle duck boots was a fun look, for sure. But my husband saved me from evaluation embarrassment by bringing my pants to me after first hour class.
Bekka Wright, a long time bike commuter in Boston, MA, sums up what bike planning sometimes looks like at my house below– DO I HAVE IT ALLLLLLL? Her bike comics can be found on her website, bikeyface.com , and she’s become a real inspiration as my commuting continues. The important part of planning is that you will get into a groove. You will get better and better at prepping for your day. You WILL remember your pants (most of the time), and you entire day will be better because you rode your bike!
False: Bike Commuting is Impossibly Difficult
I realize that bike commuting seems fraught with difficulty to the outside observer. There are a lot of working parts to get this baby rolling. First there’s the mechanical aspect of the bike– tires, chain, pedals, seat, derailer, etc. Then there is a fair amount of gear– helmet, shoes, Lycra, gloves, work clothes, panniers, toiletries, etc. But the goal is not to over complicate something that can become a habit, and really just a way of life.
I shrugged bike commuting of as inconvenient, difficult, and even untenable after we moved farther from my work. I let fear of mechanical difficulties keep me from bike commuting for a long, long time. I’m the first to admit that I really don’t do a good job changing a bike tire. Heck, I’ll be honest that I also didn’t want to show up at work a hot sweaty mess, and never be able to recover my composure.
I also have to come clean that in the mechanical realm, I have a fall back– my husband. Any of you who know Perry, know that he is a bicycle guru. If I’m in a bind, I know that I can call on him at any moment. Additionally, I have a co-worker who has agreed to be my emergency contact at work. She has said that she’ll pick me up and get me to my classroom on time.
True: Bike Commuting Brings You Health
Cruising on the interwebs a few days ago, I saw an article in the New York Times that listed a nine ways to make 2018 your most healthy year-to-date. One of the items listed there was “Bike to Work.” There are scads of articles that support this finding– bike commuting will make you a happier (we’ll talk about that below) and healthier person.
Honestly, how could it not?!? I went from working out sum 0, to instantly incorporating 50 minutes of ride time: read work out time into my day. If you read my article “New Balance” you know that I was really struggling to find the time to work out. Now I am feeling fit and sassy once again. I cannot praise and preach enough about how this one simple change in my life had brought me a new level of health and wellness.
False: Bike Commuting Takes Too Much Time
For me, this was one of the greatest factors that kept me from bike commuting in the first place. I told myself over and over that I was a busy human. I had commitments to fulfill and schedules to keep and things to do, and biking to work was not one of them.
I really felt as though I would be taking way too much time out of my day. But here is the math. It takes me 25 minutes to bike to work. It takes me 10 minutes to drive. BUT it also takes me two minutes to park, plus a couple minutes to warm up the car in the morning. I have to haul all of my stuff out of my car and into my classroom if I drive, and I often don’t take the time to pack a lunch so I am leaving campus to grab food in the middle of the day.
The truth is, it really does take almost as long for me to get to work in my car as it does on my bike. Yes, I have to build in a little extra time to get to work. Yes, I do have to make sure I have time to get dressed when I arrive at work. Yes, there are times when the unforeseen has made being on a bicycle a little bit inconvenient. But I find that driving my car can actually be pretty inconvenient, too!
True: Cars Do Not See You
When I began bike commuting, my sons also began riding their bikes to school more frequently. Partially this grew out of moving a little bit closer to their school, but it also did feel as though our commitment to bike was a family affair!
I’ll never forget the first time I felt like a car was actually going to hit me. I was turning left out of the school parking lot. A driver was turning left into that lot. They didn’t have their blinker on, didn’t move into the turn lane, didn’t see me until my front tire had nearly met theirs. Scared me half to death.
Cars simply don’t see bicycles. Most drivers didn’t grow up accustomed to watching for cyclists, and I would say that only in the last ten years has bike commuting taken off (but I haven’t done a lot of research to this effect, so that may turn into a future post). Every morning that our boys take off for school my husband reminds them, “Be careful. Cars don’t see you.”
The reality is that as a cyclist you need to ride defensively at all times. I’ve caught myself daydreaming more than once on my bike, and then I am pushed back into reality by a car that comes far too close behind me after I’ve crossed an intersection, etc. The point here is that as a cyclist, I try to be hyper-aware of the vehicles around me. I have lights, and bright clothing, and a really loud orange bike. But sometimes that doesn’t seem to be enough. I hope I never have to face a bike accident caused by a car. In fact, one of my constant prayers is that cyclist won’t get hit by cars. Period.
False: Bike Commuting Is Dangerous
Now beyond the fact that bicyclists are hard to see from larger vehicles, I also have come to the conclusion that bicycling to work is NOT the most dangerous choice you could make. I am pretty sure that you are more likely to be in a car accident than you are a bicycling accident.
Heavens, you’re probably more likely to step off of a curb and spiral fracture your ankle than you are to be in a bicycling accident. Dave Walker’s cartoon really made me smile as he supports this claim. Almost everything we do has an inherent risk. So I’ll take the risks associated with biking if it means I might poke my ear (or even my eye) when putting on my sun glasses (see below).
Practically all of us crazy homo sapiens live, and love, and have joy despite the fact that we will drop dead at some point along our journey. So instead of hiding from death, which not a lot of us are afraid of, let’s live and celebrate life with each breath.
True: Bike Commuting Makes You Happier
I can speak to the happiness that bike commuting brings like a trumpet! I have absolutely, positively LOVED commuting on bike to work for this past few months. I know that I still have a long way to go to make those 1,000 decisions, properly made, that Specialized Sequoia’s encourage. But I have been uplifted, lightened, zenned by bike commuting.
Image via Bike Radar and Bikeyface
So I don’t have much more to say than, keep bringing on the zen! A huge shout out to my hubby who really gave me the push that got me out on the road, and to our lovely local bike shop– Slim and Knobby’s— who has taken such good care of me every pedal stroke along the way!! I hope you have a fabulous Friday, and a gorgeous weekend. What are your thoughts on bike commuting? I’d love to know! You can comment below, or give me a shout out on Facebook, or head over to Instagram to see more of my pictures and posts.