Loving the Commute: Edition #1
This is the first instalment of a series on bicycle commuting by guest contributor, Aaron Madrid. Who better than a newcomer to the world of commuting to talk about their experiences and suggestions to get you doing the same?
Loving the Commute
by Aaron Madrid
While we are all confident that eventually the great financial pendulum will swing back into the black; many have began to look for new ways to save money. Most everyone has to get to work (or their daily protest) and as such, soaring gas prices are always hard to swallow. For me, as a follower and apostle of the way of the bike, I made the decision to try to begin commuting to work by bike. In addition to the fact that I was trying to lose some weight and the obvious financial benefits I quickly realized there were other less obvious benefits to commuting to work. If you are visiting this site, you likely already know the feeling of freedom and excitement you get from riding. Imagine if you could start and end your work day with that feeling, every day. Commuting is good for you, good for your wallet, and good for your soul.
Living in a smaller college town I see students riding bikes all over the place. The recent cycling revolution has drawn even more to the sport outside of the campus as well. In fact, cycling has become so popular in my town that the city is looking to creating more bike accessible parking as well as extended bike lanes both on and off the campus. As I spent the better part of 2011 commuting, I thought that perhaps it would be nice to share some of my experiences as well as stories from other commuters I have encountered. Also, look for reviews of some great commuter gear in this series to help you along the road.
Mark Twain once said “Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it… if you live.” I don’t know that he actually meant it the way I took it, but regardless, it is this quote that sat in the back of my mind during my first weeks commuting. Don’t be fooled, riding in traffic on the open roads, for even a short distance, can be dangerous. With all the distractions out there for drivers these days, all it takes is an innocent, poorly timed glance at a vibrating cell phone to result in a terrible accident. I love to suffer on the bike, and my route to work offered plenty of occasions to do so. However, commuting offers a new variety of suffering than what most cyclists might be used to. In addition to the uphill route I was riding every day, I had to contend with the horrifying campus traffic made up of students that aren’t familiar with our roads, routes, (or rules in general it would seem sometimes). I had to cross bridges that offered mere inches between cars and the wall for me to navigate. I didn’t have the choice to stop, or give up when the ride got physically tough…I had to get to work and I had to get there on time!
At the same time, if I was going to make this work, I had to overcome any fear of the traffic around me. Each day was a battle, but one I knew I could win. There is something about the thrill of that fight, so early in the morning, that made me excited just to get up. I would mount my steel steed, place my helm upon my head, crank the Rush (don’t judge me) and hit the road. In my city (and most in the United States) it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks, and my route offered few actual bike lanes to offer protection. I quickly had to become comfortable with my place in the lane. Eventually it became an exhilarating addiction. I would pull up next to cars at red lights and race them off the line for position. I was always careful, but I couldn’t help daring to challenge the massive metal beasts that roamed the concrete jungles with me. Sometimes I won, sometimes they won… ok mostly they won…either way it is a blast.
It is these feelings of excitement, dread, and the spirit of competition that drove me (no pun intended) to start this series. Commuting to work isn’t just about saving money, or getting in shape. Commuting is a way of life. Commuting is a new challenge. Commuting is an entirely new aspect of cycling that some of you have yet to discover. Some commuters challenge themselves like I did, some find it more relaxing, and some can’t handle the fear and have to get back behind the wheel.
In these articles we will explore what it takes to be a commuter, how to be safe, and what commuting means to those that are already a part of this elite group of mildly crazy individuals. I invite you to strap on your helmet, ring your bell, and ride with me!
Aaron Madrid lives in Lafayette, Indiana and is a bike lover and cycling commuter. A lifetime geek he now spends his time with his family or out riding his bike…occasionaly finding time to read comic books and play video games. You can read his previous guest posts on Loving the Bike, “A Self Proclaimed Geek Takes on Cycling” and “#bikeschool: Bike Prices”. Also be sure to find him on Twitter (@Aaronthestrong) or at www.GuerrillaGeek.com.
Images c/o Wallbase.cc