Home Riding Commuting by bike

Commuting by bike

Commuting.

I guess I have done it enough to speak with some authority and preferences as well as relate my personal experiences to any who should wonder in here and have a read at this.

With my current job I have done the most commuting by bike. Two jobs back I did a little, the one in-between not so much as I worked from home, and when not at home I was in Colorado (a little big for my abilities).

Two jobs ago, the first time I commuted by bike was right after I began my bicycle renasence. I commuted on my new Merckx 1Xm 17 miles each way. Not much for shoulders but ninety percent back roads and good traffic.  My commutes were high season and I ran no lights – wore a standard road kit with a backpack. Not the best setup as it turned out. I alway wear a mirror that clips to my sunglasses  – with the backpack on, it would obscure my view rearward. Also, the nature of the pack was that as one rolls around to look for traffic, it impedes you motion.

With my new job (into year three at the time of this writing! HOORAY) I started with panniers on my Tri-Cross in summer. I think I waited till day three to start riding in. Panniers are great to get the weight off you back, but that weight has to go somewhere.. get handled somehow… and if you have ridden with panniers you know what I am talking about. I had them front and rear.

What the heck are you carrying that makes weight such an issue? you  are perhaps asking by now…

The Carry

This is where I start to sound crazy. I have little fear of appearing so, so here goes.

Most days –

17″ Mac Book Pro, with two external 500GB drives, mouse, associated cables, thermos with a quart or so of coffee, a few power bars, a change of shirt, a pair of shorts and briefs, associated cables, an iPhone, a moleskine notebook,  misc bits and bobs.. That enough? Oh, and then I am something of a nut with my seat bag – I have a CO2 inflator, with two cartridges, three tubes and a patch kit, some tire levers and a Crank Brothers multi-tool a manual mini-pump, a spare universal cable and a 22Oz water bottle.  What I need to do for a photo shoot project is spill it all out and shoot a picture of it. I would weigh it , but somethings are better left shall we say…. Fuzzy…

So that was what I had last time I commuted (and it has been a while – for a variety of reasons).

I rode the Tri-Cross for a while. Love that bike. And once you get used to the mass in motion effects of panniers it is not that bad. Of course, when not on the Tri-Cross, after work and weekends and such, I was out on my 1XM carbon uber bike for a net change in weight of massive proportions. Getting on the ‘truck’ was a dramatic shift. I started to long for a sleek skinny tire ride to and fro work. To do that would require that I put all that shit somewhere.

The Bag

Say hello to Timbuk2.

Now, I have had this bag for the last two years – I have used it as my briefcase traveling round the country with my prior employer – It has a padded sleeve sewn in for the laptop (big bag !) other than that, it is a rugged jumbo messenger from Timbuk2. I have changed out the standard strap pad and added a pouch for the phone.  THIS is one OUTSTANDING bag.

So, with all that loaded up, I started commuting on a skinny bike (tires at least) with all this on my back in my Timbuk2 (with the exception of all the service bits in my Jandd seat bag).

My first reaction was – what took me so long to actually use a messenger bag for the reason they were made! This was the way to go and I knew it immediately. No restriction of movement like a pack and no truck like handling like panniers and fat tires. Something about the way the bag hangs – makes it a great companion if  you have to haul a load of crap around.

My ride is just under fifteen miles each way. Lots of downhill with some rollers on the way in and, you guessed it, lots of climbing with some rollers on the way home.  The challenge is that the hardest climb is two miles from home at the end of the day. It was only during these end of day climbs that I began to understand that the weight has to go somewhere issue came to bear.  Where you ask? My sore ass. That’s where.  That was the one remaining problem and remains to this day – I just carry too much crap around with me. The way I work, what I do, I need my laptop. I live on it, work on it – I could have whatever I want at work – and at home – but the best way for me to work is to bring my work with me.

Clothes

Clothes dont add up to much on the daily carry. If I was going to drop something it would be the thermos  of coffee (god forbid) besides, that which does not kill me, or my ass…. makes me stronger. I bring my change for the day, and most of the year it is shorts and a T shirt. I am lucky in that I work at a casual office and do not have to interface with any customers, just a bunch of software and systems geeks. I am unlucky (or, my geek co-workers are anyway)  in that I have no shower at work.  In the warmer months a towel off after a cool-down in air conditioning, and a change into dry clothes is all I do. I have long ago gotten over being seen in kit, or shorts with shaved legs etc.

The larger problem has been getting the kit to dry out prior to departure. Early season and late season, that’s bibs, leg warmers, arm warmers, jacket jersey and tee.  Short on space, I drape kit all over my bike to allow it to dry. I wish we had more space, like for a drying rack and all. Nothing is perfect. Add a shower and a room for my bike and a drying rack for my kit and it would be a perfect job – and seeing how there is no such thing as perfect, I gladly settle for what is perhaps my favorite job ever.

The Bike(s)

If what you have read on this page is all you know of my biking habits – then you may not know that we have no less than twenty bikes and seventeen of them are mine and ten of them say Eddy Merckx on them.  I started out on the Carbon 1xm, and I love that bike. It was the bike that got me back into biking after some ten years off the saddle. I was putting a lot of miles in that year and the year prior, averaging somewhere around 5-7 thousand miles per year. I was also collecting bikes and building them up ( a sickness I still suffer from rather severely) I built up a Merckx MX-Leader and a Merckx Professional. The next purchase was an early 90’s Merckx Corsa-Extra. I built it out in period 8spd Dura Ace 7400 with the only exception being a current Mavic wheel set. The bike quickly became my favorite ride even though it was a full six pound heaver that the 1xm.  I started commuting on it and at last count have nearly two thousand miles, fifteen at a time on that with my Timbuk2 bag and all that crap on my back. And I love it.

 The Ride

It is how I prepare for work in the morning – I get the blood moving and the mind in motion. I am alone with my thoughts and enjoy the physical and emotional exercise.  When I arrive I arrive more ready than on days when I drive in. And I look forward to the ride home. Well, not always – but if I have had a bad day, and would at that point rather teleport home, the ride beats that out of me. There have been so many rides that I have thrown myself at as if my very life depended on it. Almost always on the way home, when it happens, I try to set a new time. The ride home can be cruel. Doing well most of the way, with still a chance to book a new record only to blow out on that bitch of a hill. Even when I get shot down.. I feel better for having thrown myself at that wall. It is almost like a cartoon, and I just keep throwing my self at this wall, and somehow have amnesia on how much it will suck if I try and break a record. Still, I love it and keep at it. The record is tough to break and it has been a while since I set a new PB on the way home. I blog about it from time to time.  It is amazing the gap between my slowest rides home and the fastest. The slowest is no doubt in winter. Dark skies, blowing snow, narrow roads and temperatures struggling to stay in double digits – that’s a whole other game. One of survival.

From June 2011, on the ride in.

The Confession

I ride with an iPod. A little thing. Size of a half book of matches that clips into my kit. Not display, just buttons. I have it loaded up with ride appropriate music. I love it. This a controversial topic in bike forums around the interwebs and on the street. The thinking goes that you will be distracted and not hear traffic and… well… wreck and get killed. Some of the same people who argue that to me also say I am a dweeb for rocking a mirror on my glasses. Whatever dudes.  I love music. I love to ride. I love to mix the two together. Never when there are others on the ride, that would be anti-social. I am more situationally aware than any other rider I have ever ridden with. IMHO. Nuff said.

Traffic

In general, not a problem. Ride enough and you will mix it up. Maine has a three foot law that almost nobody knows about. I would guess that somewhere around 90% of my ride has 2-3 foot shoulders so that helps – not all the time though. I have yet to go down and hope to keep it that way. I have met my share of rude and ignorant people.

 

Tech

FIrst is safety. I always wear a helmet, gloves, eye protection and have a mirror. I also run a rear blinky, all the time – even during the day and my blinky light of choice is the Dinotte 400R. When I am out with other riders who may never have seen one I always apologize for the retina damage 🙂 This thing is perhaps the biggest factor in staying safe. I have more people stop and talk to me and ask about where I got it. I am due a commission from Dinotte.

I track all my riding on a Garmin and dump that data into Ascent. Great combo.

I have over the last year taken to riding with a GoPro HD camera. I refer to this a my CDR or Cockpit Data Recorder… I delete most of what I recored – I save some. The video above is an example of the output. I have captured a few close calls that, should they have developed into something other than close calls, the CDR combined with data from the Garmin would be of great benefit in the litigious aftermath.