Monday, January 13, 2014

Commuting: Day 1 Recap . . .

I've already got a lot of homework to do (first day of the spring semester), but here's a quick follow-up on how the first ride into school went for me . . . 

My morning got a little delayed because Skyler's bus never showed, and I had to drive her to school.  Luckily, that still left me with plenty of time.  

I opted for the Fate - my 29er hardtail mountain bike.  The front fork is blown out, but I can still lock it out, so it's perfect for commuting (or so I thought).  Somehow, I managed to fit all of my necessities into my backpack.  It was stuffed, and it was heavy. 

I've decided a partial commute is all that's going to work for me right now.  I can't justify spending 4 hours of my day riding my bike to and from school/work.  That's absurd.  But 2 hours?  1 out and 1 back?  That's good stuff.

The ride to school was the stuff that good dreams are made of.  The airline trail was mostly hard from the overnight freeze, and surprisingly drier than I've seen it in the middle of the summer.  Also, I should probably note here: the ride towards Willimantic from Hampton is ever-so-slightly downhill.  It was a fast and glorious ride to school.  

I found a conspicuous location for my bike, locked it, and hung my clothes (and food) on it.  Then I left a note that read, "To whom it may concern, If there is a problem with me leaving my things here, please call..."  Nobody called.  

Since it's the first week of school, we don't have any labs. So I mostly hung around all afternoon waiting for my 7pm class... then I found out that was cancelled too.  

I left school around 3:30-3:45, and set out for the airline trail.  But before I made it, I had a close encounter with a handicapped driver.  Fortunately, I sensed a car slowing down alongside of me before the #*@% made a righthand turn directly in front of me.  She missed me by inches.  I yelled. 

When I finally made it to the airline trail, I was eager to get into a groove and relax.  Yeah well, it got warm out today, so what was wonderful this morning was soft and miserable this afternoon.  My backpack felt like it weighed more than earlier as it threatened to bury me in my tracks.  Plus, the return meant that I was going up a very slight incline.  I suffered in the worst way.  

FYI - the weight of a backpack is not just a problem for the back; it's also a problem for the buttocks. Imagine weighing an extra 20lbs. Now imagine spending some time in the saddle.  

Anyhow, it was a pleasure to meet my friend, Liz just as I went through the underpass of route 6 - having someone to follow was nice.  (Thanks for that). 

So, day 1 is done.  Now to figure out the next day that this will be feasible.

I'm definitely going to need panniers.  And I've been given some tips on how to make my own Bar Mitts, so I'm going to try that soon.  Also, I'm going to have to take my cross bike off the trainer and use that, but fortunately, Donnie D ( "CEO" of Danielson Adventure Sports) has offered to let me use his steel road bike on my trainer.  

Until next time . . . 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bike-Commuting: I Need to Start

For a while now, I've been doing a lot of yammering on about how, one of these days, I'm going to start commuting to work and/or school by bike.

Like everybody (except the people who actually commute), I've had tons of excuses over the years for why that hasn't actually happened (with the exception of the very few occasions when I did commute). 

The current bike lock-up option at ECSU.  Doing it wrong.
Beside the fact that I need to get my 10 year-old off to school in the morning, I also need to carry schoolbooks, lunch, and clothing.  There's nowhere at Eastern for me to keep anything, so what I bring has to stay with me     

I did send an email to the Dean of students in the hopes that he'll direct me to someone who's in charge of university planning and spending.  Of course, I made sure to mention that ECSU is one of the “greenest schools in the state,” and that they could do better.  Then I suggested that they get some bikelockers, and I even provided them a bunch of links.

But let’s get real.  I’m going to be done with school in December, I need a place to keep my bike now, and there aren’t going to be any really awesome solutions anytime soon. 

So, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to bring my bike into the basement of the science building, and lock it up there.  I’m going to ask someone if I can have access to a closet, or a cupboard, or something where I can keep some food and clean clothes.  I’m not going to take “no” for an answer.  Then I’m going to try to ride in at least 2 days per week. 

A photo I found on the web. Doing it weird.
Now, I’ve got two options for where I’m going to start my commute.  One is in Brooklyn, CT – I have to drop my daughter off there anyhow, so I could just “park and ride.” I could probably even keep my bike there if I wanted to in between commute days.  The other option is to start at Goodwin and take the airline trail into Willimantic. 

Starting from Brooklyn, I’d be taking a lot of dirt roads and eventually the airline trail too, but I’d have to ride on Route 6 for a stretch (dangerous, even by car).  Google maps estimates that trip to take about 2 hours, but I’m guessing, it would be a little less. 

From Goodwin, it looks like the ride is about 10 miles, and G-maps estimates that at just under an hour.  Based on the handful of times I’ve ridden that stretch in the past, I know I can do it in about 45 minutes if I push.  But I wasn’t carrying a bunch of crap when I rode it then either. 

If I’m going to give this a whirl, this coming week will be the week to try it.  In fact, Monday looks ideal – first day of the spring semester, no homework to worry about yet, and decent weather. 
Downtown Boulder, CO.  Doing it right.  
I finally have all the gear I really need (winter riding shoes, YES!).  But there are just TWO more things that I’m probably going to want if I really commit to this: 1) Fenders, because DIRT, and 2) Bar Mitts, because COLD.  Here’s hoping this commuting thing sticks so I can pimp my ride.

Now, beside the fact that this is going to be good for me, I’ll save a crap-load of money on fuel, and I’ll get to ride my bike more often (making me a more tolerable person).  Plus, other people commute all the time, and that is pretty darn inspiring - role models are so great. 

One of these "people" is my buddy, Steve. After asking him for a few commuter tips (he’s been commuting regularly for years now), he went above and beyond by dishing out a 4-part blog series. 

Here’s part 1: The Intro

Then came: Food

This one is pretty detailed, and very helpful: Gear

And this one is my absolute favorite: What’s in the bag?

But that’s not all.  Via the ever-amazing Twitter, Steve introduced me to @ryantkelly who wrote this: how to commute to work by bike.

I stole this pic from the here. Doing it right x3.
Anything, and probably everything you want to know about commuting is in one of those links. 

Now comes the real challenge…

…walking the talk.  Or in this case, riding it. 

That’s where this bunch of yammering comes in.  If I say it on the internet, it means I have to do it, right? 

So if you’re reading this, I want to know: 1) What are your excuses, 2) If you do commute, please tell me your secrets, and 3) Do you want to take the challenge to start this week?