Joel, who answered our last set of 10 Questions For Soul, was kind enough to put his thoughts to “paper” and give us a little bit of insight to his new commuting lifestyle. Enjoy!!!
Commuting: Journal Entry #1
I got my first bike before I ever went to kindergarten. It was a hand me down from a kid I hardly remember, but a bike none the less. It was a few years later before I ever even dared to ride it… You know how that goes, dad holding the seat, telling you to focus on riding, and the next thing you know your all by yourself. The feeling of you, your bike, and the open road. Well, I had lost touch with that feeling. Before I started commuting I hadn’t ridden a bike farther than a few blocks in about 6 years. That makes that break the longest time I’ve ever gone without riding a bike any kind of distance in my entire life. That’s kind of weird to think about, but moving on… My commute is about 16 miles round trip. It has its hills and its flat spots, along with a couple of places to get some good speed(unless, of course, there’s a head wind in every direction, like today). My reasons for starting were physical, environmental, and most importantly financial. When the thought first crossed my mind I thought my commute was so long and almost impossible. Then I actually took the time to look into it and found it was a pretty easy commute compared to some, and I learned that commuting is rather easy to do in general. There are laws that pretty much give you the right of way in most situations, but I’m pretty sure most people don’t know this.
There seems to be this mystique about cars and how they are the only way to get around. How anything else is unsafe and impractical and that you need to harass anyone doing anything different…
I had totally bought into that. I thought that riding my bike would take so long and Id be so sweaty and dirty that I would need a shower before I went to work. People would laugh at me and not want to come into my office because I smelled like I had just ridden 8 miles in 100 plus degree weather… I saw Pat riding home from work sometimes and thought it would be nice if I could just ride home from work and then just shower when I got home, but then there goes all of my reasons for commuting except for the physical. Initially I thought I could drive my van in and ride home then ride in and drive the van home and just alternate like that, but that just seemed like a hassle. It all seemed like a hassle until I actually shut up and just did it. I decided to stop putting it off until I get a new bike and just ride the one I had. It wasn’t really set up for it, but it had wheels and it moved.
My first morning went pretty smoothly. Despite my legs being jello half way to work, I managed to make it in forty-five minutes. I made it home in under forty(I even had to stop and take a break at the “hill-o-doom“). I could barely walk up and down the stairs, but I made it there and back with no major problems. Each time I was able to make it a little quicker and my legs were a little bit less wobbly when I got to my destination. There were the occasional hecklers, diesel down-shifters, and the semis that like to buzz you, but overall the people were accommodating. I would ride home with Pat on the days that he rides, and that started out as a challenge, but eventually I was able to keep up and even draft off him so the headwinds didn’t hit me so hard.
I started out on an early 90’s Univega mountain bike. Nothing special, just a bike some old people in our church gave to my wife and I. It was an okay bike when they bought it, but then it was left on the back of their RV for probably ten years. After about a month of that I made a good find at D.I. and picked up a 1988 Specialized Rock Hopper for $15. I put some new tires on and there was a noticeable difference in the ride. I think the Univega is a little small for me and it definitely needs its bearings lubed, but the Specialized fit just right and seemed like it was taken care of somewhat. The whole time I was riding these I had my eye on a brand new Raleigh Rush Hour down at Red Rock Cycles. I had gone in before I started riding the Univega and test rode it. It was sweet. Smooth, light, fast, but also out of my price range. They said they could get me a good price on it because it had been sitting there for so long, but I still had no money. Almost two months later I have the Rush Hour. I didn’t save enough money from commuting to buy the bike, rather my family decided to get it for me for my birthday. I got an even better price on it and now Im actually in good enough shape to ride a single speed that far. I just got home from riding it home from work for the first time and I am impressed. I conquered the hill and made it home in just over a half an hour despite a major head wind almost every where I turned. I don’t know if the wind is like that everywhere, but it sure is annoying.
Commuting has done a lot for me in the short while I’ve been doing it. I’ve lost weight, saved money, and enjoyed my ride to work everyday. I can easily see myself doing this for a long time to come. Hopefully more and more people will stop thinking their car is the only way they can get around, or at least realize that people on bikes are helping them out rather than hurting them. Less traffic, less pollution, better looking people… Only good things can come from riding your bike, and more people need to know this. Hopefully you now know this and reading my journal entry wasn’t a complete waste of time. Thanks for reading and enjoy the roads and trails.