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State of the bicycle commute

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Bicycles make a lot of sense on college campuses. There’s very little parking, and there are a lot of small paths where cars can’t go anyway. Plus, my wife and I share one car, and want to keep it that way. Using my bicycle for transportation helps facilitate that. In general, commuting by bicycle has been working very well.

That said, since I started school in January, I have changed my commuting strategy slightly. Before then, I was a very dedicated commuter. I commuted by bicycle every day, no matter what. Lately I’ve changed my stance a little bit. Oddly enough it wasn’t the cold, wind, snow or ice that made me change that. It was rain.

Frankly, I’ve never enjoyed commuting in the rain, but it’s worse when I’ll have to slog around campus all day. Sometimes I do enjoy rain on country rides, but in general, rain is one of my least favorite riding conditions.

Eventually I decided that I didn’t need the aggravation of commuting to class in the rain. And I have to say, giving up my stubborn, I-must-always-commute-by-bicycle attitude felt quite liberating. Now when it rains, I take the bus. And while on the bus, I read a book and listen to music. Then I have to walk a ways to get to class, but I don’t really mind walking in the rain, so long as I bring an umbrella. And again, I can listen to music while I walk and see more of the world around me as I go.

So, am I less dedicated to bicycle commuting now? Maybe. Bicycling is about different things to different people. For some people riding no matter what gives them a lot of pride. I’ve been there myself. But sometimes my bicycle commute had started to feel like a chore … and for me, riding is about fun. I’m glad to have some alternatives.

I still ride nearly all the time, but I don’t feel bad about taking the bus when I need or want to.

I had an interesting mishap last week. I had my hardest midterm Thursday morning. I got up earlier than usual to give myself plenty of time — in fact, ironically, I had just started writing this post about how well bicycle commuting is working. But, just as I was maybe 1/3 of the way to class, my chain broke! I called my wife, and asked her to look up the bus schedule (I was right by a stop). But the bus wouldn’t be coming for 45 minutes or so. I’d be too late for my midterm. Fortunately, Sarah was able to leave work for a while, pick me up, and take me to class.  I was only about 5 minutes late for my midterm. Whew!

I’m not sure what caused my chain to break, but I later bought a new one, and fixed it. Not without some frustration, of course. Sometimes I have trouble with even the most basic bicycle repair tasks.

6 Responses to “State of the bicycle commute”

  1. Fonk Says:

    I’m with you on the rain thing – I hate riding in the rain, too.

  2. the flat tire Says:

    I dislike the rain very much thank you.
    I always carry a SRAM powerlink or KMC Missing Link and a chain tool.
    Never had to use them(knock on wood) and least they’ll get me home.

  3. Tim S Says:

    Ouch! epic chain break en route to mid-term sounds intense! As to rain, I get you. As someone who must present oneself in front of a group each day at work, being a drowned rat just isn’t the way to go. I admire, though, all those 100% committed commuters b/c I find myself asking how on earth they keep commuting in the rain, the cold and when they’re sick. As to buses, I did that way back in ’92-3 going to my restaurant I worked at and I loved it. Just as you state, a little music, something to read and somebody else doing the work. You’re fortunate to have a route that works for you.

  4. Jon Grinder Says:

    I walked the last three miles of my commute home, one day, because of a broken chain. I had a chain tool with me, but no extra links. My fixed gear bike didn’t have enough fore-and-aft wheel adjustment avauilable to allow the now-shorter chain to reach.

    Lesson learned: Carry a chain tool AND some extra links!

  5. Tracy W Says:

    I really don’t mind riding in a light rain, but when it’s coming down in buckets I don’t feel very safe out there with traffic. My general rule of thumb is that if I feel like I can get to work reasonably dry with my rain gear, I’ll ride. If not, I drive and don’t worry about it. I carry my clothes for the day in panniers that aren’t waterproof, so I put them in plastic bags, but in a strong driving rain, even that tactic is questionable unless they’re safely ziplocked in bags without holes.

  6. Dan Says:

    I’m trying to catch up on blog reading, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to yours in a while. So, I didn’t know you were back in school. What are you studying? Going for a degree I assume. I’m a little jealous.

    Agreed that rain will not do for commuting, unless one has dry clothes and a locker room at the other end.

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