Ok, I admit it. I’m a bike commuter fraud. Yes, I do ride 26 miles most weekdays. But let me get something out in the open. I have a huge advantage over most people who bike to work. I’m a slob.
It’s not that I’m really a slob, I just have a loose work dress code. When you’re a grad student working in a lab with one other person in a basement of a building that’s removed from the majority of labs (yeah bed bugs!), the dress code can be pretty lax (i.e. nonexistent). In the winter, it’s jeans and a t-shirt. In the summer, it’s shorts and a t-shirt. Sneakers are all season.
I think that a sizable bike commute obstacle people worry about overcoming is workplace appearance. Take Mrs. Bicyclebug for example, who just began bike commuting. After her first week, she purchased some extra cosmetics to keep at work and a travel steamer to ensure her packed work clothes end up crisp. Me? I’ve only recently thrown a 25 cent barber shop comb into my bag – still unused!
The other night chatting with friends over drinks, bike commuting came up. They’ve dabbled in commuting but were in awe of my persistent and long rides. My chest puffed. My ego grew. My awesomeness awesomed. Then they asked if I kept spare suits at work? Did my office have showers? No and no. Well what do you do when you arrive at work all sweaty? I um..not really an issue, I guess. Exchanging glances, they were now skeptical. You are so busted, their expressions told me. About to be exposed for the fraud I am, I quickly changed the conversation, so, how about that local sports team?
The reason I end up feeling like a cheat (vs. fortunate) is that I omit what is a very important part of a bike commute for my suit-wearing counterparts (I mean you haven’t officially finished the 96-er if you don’t eat the gristle and fat, right?). After having a bike to ride, figuring out how to look like you didn’t just bike to work is the next most important thing to figure out.
But then again, am I really cheating the system? After all, I get just as sweaty as everyone else. The only difference being that I keep myself immersed in the joy of bike commuting – the damp, sticky, smelly joy of bike commuting all. day. long.
On second thought, maybe a spare t-shirt is in order…
*** This post was drafted in December 2012 but never published. It was written 10 months before my bike crash. Thankfully (and most importantly), I walked away from it. I spent a few restless nights replaying the event in my head. I did everything I thought was right and would keep me safe. It turns out that neon green and flashing lights won’t stop an inattentive driver from running stop signs.***
I just finished watching The War on Britain’s Roads. Although balanced, the show was dark, sad, and a bit unnerving. The tension between cyclists and drivers was demonstrated through CCTV and helmet cam footage of accidents and near misses. More than once I cringed and wondered how I would ever be able to ride a bicycle again. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be a driver who collides with a cyclist…or the pedestrian who witnesses it…so…I might as well stay inside and never leave. No. Life is meant to be lived. And cycling makes me happy. And the vast majority of riding I do is safe and uneventful and the people I encounter are mostly courteous.
Like any sensible bike commuter I take precautions to limit risk. I wear a helmet and hi-vis clothing. My bikes are wrapped in reflective tape and equipped with enough lights to compete with my neighbor who leaves his Christmas lights up all year and just adds more each succeeding year (yeh, that guy). These measures fall into prevention and protection.
But shit happens. And then what? That brings us to the next phase of bike gear for accidents. The first is a helmet cam. I have the Contour ROAM attached to my bike. I now have an unflappable witness. If a do get into a situation that requires legal action it’ll no longer be their word against mine. Lets just hope the video replay is on my side.
Sometimes shitter shit happens. We don’t want to think about these things but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare. Say I get knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital. How would my wife find out? I always carry my license with me but besides a name and address it lacks any useful contact information. That’s where RoadID comes in. This personally engraved bracelet has not only my name but also two family members and their phone numbers. I also included a Douglas Adams’s quote on an extra line as a reminder to not panic.
So while there’ll also be the potential to encounter a whacko behind the wheel at least now I can enjoy myself with a little piece of mind.
I love bicycles. I grow an unhealthy attachment to them. I find myself caressing the smooth finish of their top tubes, intricately lubing each chain link with the precision normally reserved for neurosurgeons, and I consider it a success when I can hide the panic and hyperventilating that accompanies locking a bike up outside. Now with all that said, I have no problem shuffling the bike stable when I feel it’s time.
In my last post before my hiatus, I bought a Tern Verge s11i folding bike. It looked cool and rode awesome for a folding bike. I ended up selling my smaller Dahon Curve D3 to make room (although, space requirements for a folder isn’t much). I liked that bike too but it was just time to shuffle. 18 months later maintaining S-1*, I let the Tern go for a more compact Brompton. I didn’t really have a good reason for swapping, it just felt like time.
My full size bike shuffle has been just as fluid. My Trek MTB was handed down to my little brother. This freed up the space for a lighter, faster bike to compliment my heavier Bridgestone commuter. I settled on a Soma ES. The steel bike allowed for fenders, racks, and wide-ish tires (up to 32mm with fenders). I had a few fun months zooming around until it became acquainted with a Camry – OUCH! When the dust settled, I was once again in the bike market.
I splurged on a Rivendell Sam Hillborne. I had intended to hold off on this dream bike until I finished graduate school. But, I reasoned that since I may not always be in such a bike friendly area, I might as well enjoy it to the fullest extent possible. It’s heavy and slow but boy is that ride smooth!
So there you have it. I’m sitting comfortably with three bikes: the Sam, the Brompton (Gizmo), and my trusty Bridgestone (who’s been gathering too much dust in our building bike room, sorry buddy). Do I still spend an ungodly amount of time looking for the next one, THE ONE? Sure. But for right now, I’m content and fortunate to have such a well-rounded stable.
Now time for some riding. But on which one?
*S-1: S = the number of bikes at which point your spouse will leave you therefore, you must always be at least one bike away from this number.
Hi. Remember me? I’m that guy that occasionally wrote my biking experiences here. Sometimes I wrote about great rides with friends or neat new bike-specific gear. Unfortunately, I began to feel more and more posts were about the 1% of negative interactions I had while cycling. Which (1) isn’t really fair to the other 99 people I’d encounter who showed me courtesy and kindness and (2) it wasn’t really an adequate representation of my experiences on a whole while biking in DC. Combined with life, I decided I had other things to do to keep me occupied. I stopped writing. 18 months later, I’m not sure I should have.
Things have happened. I know they have. But without written and visual records, they’re all sort of jumbled memories in my head with no use to anyone. Whether I’ve been more or less engaged in the #bikeDC community, I’m not sure. I do know that without needing blog material, I’m less willing to take part in activities that aren’t already ingrained in my routine. 18 months later, I feel I’ve been stuck in Groundhog’s Day (but without the companionship of Bill Murray). In the end it comes down to this: if spending a few minutes uploading pictures and putting together a ride report is the cost, then blogging is probably worth it.
So like an eclosing butterfly emerging from its dormancy, I think it’s time I got back in the game.
I got out of the kiddie pool and jumped into the deep end.
I’ve been fantasizing about three bikes for the better part of a year, a Rivendell Sam Hillborne, a Velo Orange Campeur, and a Tern Verge S11i. Each is for a specific niche of riding and I had daydreamed ad nauseum about how I would use each. The Sam for long wandering hills through the country, the Campeur for barreling down unpaved and double track fire trails, and the Tern for zipping around the city in search of good coffee. A few problems with these scenarios though. First, all my proposed niches were already filled (Bridgestone, Trek, and Dahon). This severely limited my convincing fuel. It would predictably always dead end at sure I want it but I don’t need it. Everything considered, the Tern would probably be the “wisest” purchase of the three based on where I live (city) and how I get to work (train on most days). Fantasizing persisted.
Over the long holiday weekend, I convinced the Mrs with the prospect of Tyson Corner’s malls to come with me to Bikes@Vienna. Bikes@Vienna specializes in recumbents and folding bikes and they have tons of models to try out. I had
no little intention of actually purchasing a bike on this day. No, really. In fact, a few months ago I test rode a Tern Verge Duo (a cable-less 2-speed with coaster brakes) I had been admiring. I wasn’t smitten. That fantasy faded and I was once again a mostly normal-functioning human being. I believed something similar would happen on today’s test ride. Plus, bringing the wife along would ensure I at least slept on it.
I arrived at the little shop to find the large display of bikes that normally sit outside were not there. Instantly bummed, I realized they must be closed for the holidays, I… oh, never mind, they’re open! I ran towards the door like a little kid running to the gates at Disney World. My wife sprinted behind me (though because it was freezing cold and windy).
The shop was packed with bikes normally reserved for the parking lot. Too windy, the mechanic explained. Unable to get between the bikes, I timidly inquired if they had the Verge S11 in stock (This crept into my mind: I want a Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time). They had one ready to go. Strapping on the shop’s helmet (and realizing I have a small head), I was off…
It was instant. This bike was unlike anything I rode before. It was not like other Dahons, or the Brompton I tested, or even the Verge Duo from a few weeks ago. To give you an idea of how it felt, sit on a comfy stool, move your legs in tiny circles in the air (and then travel down the road really fast). It was smooth, easy, and natural. I rode the bike for a bit up hills, through traffic, over gravel with quick stops. Really, the only thing on my mind was figuring out how to leave the shop without giving the salesman my credit card.
Back at the shop, my wife (who I brought along for control) was on her phone. I gave her a big thumbs up and a goofy smile. She continued her conversation. I was all alone. I told the salesman how great it was and then quickly tried to steer the conversation away. Oh, so do you have any of the titanium Bromptons in stock (I really had no desire for a Brompton at that moment).
Somehow, I made it out and headed back to the car. I debriefed my wife. Then she said, ok do it! I tried to respond but my shock produced only a whimper. She went on, “You’ve obsessed. And researched. And obsessed. If you don’t get it today, you’ll be back in a couple of months. Why wait?” Reverse psychology, of course. Somehow the keys made it into the ignition but, it was impossible for them to move anymore than that.
This back and forth went on for a while. Then she said, “well I don’t want to hear you keep obsessing if you don’t buy it today.” Oh! So I would be doing her a favor. Well in that case.
PS: Despite itching to pedal home, I still had a prior commitment I made with the Mrs. Bike conveniently stored in the car trunk, it was off to the mall. Ugh…
PPS: Thanks honey!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 8,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 13 years to get that many views.
One of those rides today where I’m amazed I actually get to live here.
Waking up to a beautiful December morning, I knew I needed to get out for a ride. I had a few options in mind. One centered around a 70-mile romp out to Annapolis and back. But since too much daylight had already passed for an already short day, I would hold off on this exploration trip (also, I have a fear that if I get too close to this place something “bad” might happen).
Another consideration I had to think about was that my wife was away for business so I couldn’t leave the dog alone for too long. Ok, why don’t I just bring her with me. As I unfolded her dog trailer, she leapt up and waited at the door. Our first stop was to Adams Morgan’s Walter Pierce dog park. I had never been here before and didn’t even know it existed until I caught a glimpse of it at the start of the 50 States Ride. The dog area is a nice shady area tucked into the corner of the park. Butts were sniffed, slobbered-covered balls were thrown.
We hopped back on the bike and headed somewhere. I really had no idea of where I was going. And that was ok. I worked my way south then cut onto the bike lane on Q Street. Q Street is a one-way street. So why was another cyclists headed straight towards me? I held my ground. Onward. If my experience, if someone decided to salmon the wrong way, they usually have the courtesy to get out of your way. She did not. Then she motioned for me to get over. ME!?! With the wide trailer in tow, I shifted left slightly to guarantee I was now taking the whole lane. She motioned again, waving me over…and smiling. I glared. At the last second (in truth, it was more like that steamroller scene in Austin Powers), she moved herself over. I glanced back at her, hoping that she was waving to a friend and not signaling at me. Nope. I yelled at her. Onward.
I picked up the 15th Street cycle track and continued our journey south. Passed the White House where they were erecting some type of inauguration stand/stage thing. I decided to turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue to check the progress of the bike lane repainting. Plus, since Mayor Gray formally made it illegal for cars to cut across the cycle track I would be perfectly safe. Oh, nevermind. A van with Maryland tags decided he was above the law. He made his turn. He didn’t make eye contact even though I pointed at him (looking very much like a tattle-tailing 5-year-old).
There were painting crews parked in the bike lanes. This was ok since it was for the greater good, I reasoned. So, maybe I just never realized this before and maybe it’ll be different when the final markings are done but why are the traffic lights directly in the middle of the westerly bike lanes at the intersections? The only way to get around this was to shift right into the traffic lane or cut into the path of the eastern bound cyclists. Take a look next time. I don’t think I like it.
We made it down to reflecting pool by the Capital. I sat admiring the dome and Christmas tree. Raven sat fascinated by the seagulls.
Going back home I decided to take 7th Street since it has a dedicated bus/bike only lane that is strictly enforced (BAWHAHHAHAHA!!!). A few blocks in, a cab driver honked at me. I turned around (remember I had my fur-child onboard), pointed at his cab then pointed at the next lane. I followed up this silent outrage by next pointing at myself then our current lane (the bus/bike lane). It was sort of lame but hopefully got the point across that I would continue to ride in the middle of this lane. The light turned green. He drove up beside me, window down, and said, “I wasn’t honking at you, I was honking at that asshole next to me.” Stunned, I gave him a wave. Who would have thought that honking could be directed at something over than a cyclist?
I continued up 7th Street mostly because this has one of the least steep hills to return home. Another cyclists pulled up alongside me and asked a few questions about my trailer. He was curious if my dog minded sitting back there. I told him, “no, I really think she likes it. She just sits back there and doesn’t say a word.” And as if on cue, Raven stood up through the top opening and started barking at the man.
A few negative observations. But really, who cares? Overall, it was a good day to BikeDC.