my iron horses... well actually aluminum
We all know that exercising is good for us. I hate going to the gym. I find it boring and I can't get myself motivated to do it. Most of us work jobs where we don't get alot of exercise and my job is no different. I basically sit or stand all day and do relatively little moving around. But in the interest of not turning into a flabby slob, I knew I had to force myself to get some exercise and the only way I was going to do that was to incorporate it into something I have to do. It couldn't be something optional like going to the gym or going for a run.
Enter bicycle commuting. We all have to go to work. If you don't have a car, you have to either walk, ride the bus, or bike. When we moved to Pittsburgh, we sold two of our three cars and just kept the minivan for long trips. We found a place that was about 3 miles from work. It also happened that my house was higher elevation than work. This worked out beautifully because I could get to work door to door in about 15 minutes and it was basically coasting the whole way. I was very alert and awake by the time I got to work and I never got sweaty because it was mostly downhill. Of course, on the way back home, it would take me 30 minutes all uphill and on hot days, I was in serious need of a shower when I got home.
There's benefits beyond the 45 minutes of guarenteed exercise every day. So far, I've racked up over 2000 miles on my bike just commuting to work for the past year and a half. At the estimated rate of 50 cents a mile for gas and car expenses, that works out to 1000 dollars saved. Also, that works out to about 100 gallons of gasoline that we didn't have to import. Last year, the US imported 4.35 BILLION barrels of oil to the tune of almost 300 billion dollars. Bike commuting would solve many of our country's major problems: the obesity epidemic and resultant healthcare problems and costs, air pollution, dependence on foreign sources of energy, and trade deficit.
Things I've learned in the past year about bike commuting:
- It's alot easier than I thought. I can get to work even faster than I would be car and once you're on the bike, it's fun.
- Weather isn't really a problem. In modern society we are so cut off from our natural environment surrounded by our air conditioned or heated cars and houses that many of us feel like if we get some rain on us, we'll melt - or that anything that is not 75 degrees is either too hot or too cold. It's actually quite refreshing to get rained on and once you get to work and change, you feel fine. When it's pouring rain or when it's cold a rainy, I use a Gore Tex shell and Polarguard tights, but if its warm and the rain is light, just T shirt and shorts work great. You do need to get at least a rear fender on your bike though because otherwise, you'll end up with a big strip of road grime up your back.
- Snow isn't a problem either. I actually get better traction on my bike than in my car. Probably because I have alot less momentum and inertia. You just have to learn to ride without making quick turns or stops. Now, when it snowed 2 feet, I had to walk but people weren't really driving their cars either.
- Use the smaller residential roads and not the main roads - it's alot safer and much more pleasant.
- Assume every car is out to hit you. I've read that you should assume that you're invisible to drivers when you're on a bike. After getting hit by an SUV last year, I just assume that everyone is out to get me. That mentality keeps you hyperalert and I haven't been hit since.
- Drunk college guys will throw stuff at you - usually empty beer cans.
- Rear tires wear out REALLY fast. They last about 1000 miles from what I can tell. I've never worn out a bicycle tire until I started commuting. I'm on my third rear tire but still on my first front tire.
- Passing cars in traffic on a bicycle is funny.
- Passing cars who are not in traffic is even more funny.
- Balaclavas really keep you warm.