Cycling, hiking, camping, etc — now back in southern Indiana. Words and photos.

Great weekend, and my first bicycle commute

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Sarah and I had a great weekend. We spent a lot of time outdoors and did some photography. I also put in over 40 miles of road riding over the weekend. I’ll post more on those topics later; For now, I want to talk about my first commute by bicycle, which I did this morning.

I had worked out a route in advance, and did a trial run on Saturday (see the route on Bikely.com). It’s only 2.79 miles, and it took me 12 1/2 minutes on my test ride. Of course, that was at a pretty brisk pace, and on a Saturday afternoon during spring break. Today, it took about 15 minutes, and I averaged 12.4 mph. Normally, it’ll take a bit longer than that.

Last night, I gathered most of the things I knew I’d need and put them in a backpack. I need to get a rack and some panniers or another kind of bag, but for now, I’m using the backpack. In the backpack, I put:

  • Undershirt, underwear, socks — intended as spares
  • Belt and shoes
  • Deodorant, some wet wipe things to clean my face, comb
  • Pump, patch kit, bike lock, Sarah’s old digital camera

This morning, I got up, took a shower, and put on my pants that zip off into shorts, a white T-shirt, and a jacket. I put a pair of dress pants and a shirt in the backpack. Sarah had told me it was only 32 degrees outside, so I grabbed my full-fingered biking gloves and put the cutoff gloves in the backpack. I had discovered the night before that my coffee mug actually fits in the water bottle holders in my bike, so I put that in there. I put on my biking shoes and left.

Due to the time change, it was still a little bit dark this morning, but not bad. I set out and turned onto the bike path — I didn’t see a single other person on it (not that it’s that long), and it’s fun to ride because it’s hilly and you can really get moving. The only problem is that it spits me out at the Bypass, a very busy road that I have to cross, and there’s no stoplight or stop sign there, so I just have to wait for a gap in the traffic. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long.

After that, almost the entire route is on 7th Street, which was pretty vacant due to the lack of IU students (spring break). I went at a moderate pace, slower than I usually ride, since I didn’t want to work up too much of a sweat, but I kept moving pretty well. Most of the stop signs I rolled right through, as nobody was around. IU’s campus is fairly pretty, so it was a pleasant ride, but I’m worried that it’ll be too crowded once the students come back.

There are only two stoplights along the way, and they’re at consecutive streets, so it’s unlikely I’ll have to stop at both of them. I had to stop at the first one this morning, but the second was green by the time I got to go.

I had prearranged to put my bike in a storage room during the day, but I have to open the door from the inside, leaving the bike outside while I do so. In fact, there are two sets of doors, but the inner one even had a doorstop, making it very easy to bring my bike inside.

I should have changed clothes in the storage room, but instead went and changed in the stall in the bathroom. This was far from ideal, as it’s hard to change in such a confined space. My shirt was a little bit wrinkled, but the wrinkles came out after I wore it for a few minutes. My back was a bit sweatier than I would’ve liked, due to the backpack. I combed my hair, put on some more deodorant, changed shoes and put my biking shoes back in the storage room.

All in all, I’d have to say that my first commuting attempt was a success. However, there are some improvements I need to make:

  • Get a rack/bags so I don’t need to use the backpack
  • Leave shoes at work
  • Change in the storage room
  • Wear something other than an undershirt while riding, since I’m going to change it anyway.
  • Remember my breakfast

Things I liked:

  • Riding is invigorating and helped me wake up
  • The bike path
  • Riding through campus (again, this was probably only enjoyable because it was vacant)
  • Birds flying alongside me as I rode
  • Fresh air

If you look at those lists, you’ll notice that the only problems I had were related to carrying gear and changing my clothes — no problems with the ride itself.

I’d like to thank VelociPete and SpiralCage for their excellent commuting blogs, which in part inspired me to try this. I also hope to start something like SpiralCage’s “Commute Pic of the Week,” if I keep this up.

13 Responses to “Great weekend, and my first bicycle commute”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Did you zip off one leg? It would make sense because you really only have to worry about the one leg and then your other one could be warm. And asymmetry is fashionable. You could start a new trend.

    BTW, I’m still not OK with the idea of you being naked in the storage room. I’m the only one who should be accessing your supplies!

  2. furiousball Says:

    That rules, I really want to figure out if my commute is doable via my bike. I’ll have to use the trip odometer on the way home. I’m not OK with your storage room nakedness either…stop it, or at least stop blogging about it, which in my world mean it doesn’t exist.

  3. Apertome Says:

    Changing in the storage room: An excuse to moon my coworkers.

    I actually found out there’s a shower on the other side of the building where there’s different company, but that area is locked, and I don’t know that I’d be allowed access to it.

  4. Marty Says:

    I used to go hiking before work, but I was fortunate enough to have a) a gym nearby and b) our company had a shower (for some reason). I used to love getting out there and getting exercise before getting into the grind. I’d love to try to ride into the city and I can ride probably 60% of the way – but the rest would be through scary areas of Camden (think Nightmare on Elm Street, if Elm Street was 5 miles long, and had Jason, Chucky and Superfly out there gunning for you). I guess I could take the train halfway, but that seems to defeat most of the purpose. One of those things that make me miss working out in the burbs.

    Glad that you’re going to have a lot of good morning rides (with camera, of course). But please, please, please remember – what happens in the storage room stays in the storage room.

  5. Pete Says:

    I’m a big supporter of public nudity. I say keep it up. Just don’t get caught. Before you know it, you’re the weird guy at work nobody talks to. ;-)

    Nice job on the commute, btw.

  6. Fritz Says:

    Props to you for commuting by bike. When I used to work at places without a locker room, I usually changed in a bathroom stall. For your short distance, though, can you just wear your work clothes on the bike and go slow to avoid the sweat?

  7. Apertome Says:

    Fritz: Maybe, although sometimes I find it difficult to ride slowly, sometimes I end up riding quickly for no apparent reason. Your idea might work better if I were in better shape and sweat less in general.

    Changing in the storage room is working out pretty well so far, but I’m still not sure it’s the best solution, ultimately.

  8. Ed W Says:

    Congratulations! The hardest part is simply deciding to try it in the first place. After that it’s all just problem-solving. One way to avoid wrinkling your workclothes is to store a week’s worth of clothing at the office. That way you carry a big load only once a week.

  9. Jett Says:

    Glad to find another bikely.com user. I think people searching for routes in Atlanta might get tired of seeing my name keep popping up.

    Yes, geting the backpack off your back helps a lot. I have the same problem going slow because I don’t start sweating until I’m done with the three miles. Since I don’t care what I look like when I get home, I try to get the speed out of me on the return trip.

    Looking forward to more posts.

  10. SeBo Says:

    Nice job with the new commute to work. I started doing that last year when gas prices were outrageous. My commute is super-quick – 1.5 miles door-to-door. However, I’m a bit of a fair-weather commuter, for now. I’m lucky if I commute 2-3 times per week. I’m hoping to get more consistent in that this summer.

  11. parker Says:

    i started commuting to work this year as well and have really enjoyed it. i’m not car free yet but i’m for sure car lite. i bought a messenger bag and found that my back doesn’t get nearly as sweaty with that style bag. may want to check into it. i also got an xl bag so i can literally carry anything to work and back leaving no excuses for me to drive. got mine from: http://www.baileyworks.com/
    keeep it up!

  12. frïdrix Says:

    Do you think it’s ironic that the backpack you carry for a change of clothes actually makes your clothes sweaty?

  13. Ear to the Breeze » Blog Archive » Commutiversary Says:

    […] started commuting by bicycle one year ago today. I’ve had a lot of fun, lost weight, improved my fitness, saved money, and decreased my […]

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