The one where she rides her bike to work

by DaniGirl on May 17, 2010 · 16 comments

in It IS all about me

The very first day I started working at this office back in November, as I drove the short jaunt to work I thought to myself, “And hey, maybe I can even ride my bike to work in the summer.” Even as I thought it, though, it was in that “ha ha, not likely” kind of way. Once you get to a certain age, you begin to intimately understand your own peccadilloes, and begin to get a little cynical about your own optimism. (How’s that for a complex personality?)

But as winter gave way to spring, I’d drive along the route to work imagining what it would be like to be coasting along on my bike. It’s not a long ride, just a little bit shy of ten kilometers. It’s flat, which is nice. Despite the fact that the road is busy and crowded with fast-moving and frankly terrifying traffic the whole way, you can traverse just about the entire distance on either a bike path well removed from the road or through an idyllic little suburb of tree-lined, sidewalkless streets where cars are not welcome during the morning rush.

So as April gave way to May, I began to collect what I’d need to actually ride my bike to work instead of just spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about it. I acquired an extra-large thermos, because the need for hot coffee is fundamental. I got a shiny new red bike with commuter tires to replace the 15-year-old mountain bike with knobby tires that slow you down. I got a rack and some panniers for the back, so I could transport my coffee, and my camera, because I won’t leave home without either. I got a new lock, and I upgraded the seat on my bike. I planned the route, and took a couple of test rides through the neighbourhood to see if my 40-year-old ass was going to survive a 10 km bike ride after almost a decade of non-riding. And then the weather turned crappy and cold and rainy and I had a good excuse not to ride.

This morning, though, the skies were brilliant, the forecast was fair, and I had no excuses left. I made arrangements for Beloved to pick up the kids from daycare in the afternoon. I packed my gear and a set of dress clothes in my panniers, brewed a pot of coffee while I showered, and filled my thermos. And, with a giddy sense of broken routine, I took off into the early morning sunshine on my shiny new red bike.

I was just getting into a nice rhythm when I hit a moderate bump and something went SPROING and nearly yanked me off my bike. The hook that is supposed to hold the pannier in place somehow came loose and got wrapped around the axle of the rear tire. I managed to pull it out, but I think I’ll be taking that one back to the store. I’m just glad I didn’t go ass-over-teakettle, or I would have never convinced myself to get back on the bike again.

The rest of the ride was idyllic, I have to admit. I love early mornings, and riding through the perfectly still but brilliantly sunny morning was heavenly. I cruised past the horses in their paddock that I admire from my car each morning, and could smell the earthy, grassy smell of the pasture. I kept a moderate but steady pace, and the hard core cyclists flew past me.

I was about half way when I realized that I’d forgotten my dress shoes at home and would have to wear my gym shoes with my dress pants for the rest of the day. Oops. That’s always a classy look.

I made it the rest of the way in without incident. It took me a little more than 30 minutes, including the time it took to pry the pannier hook out of the axle and wash the axle grease off my fingers in the dew-soaked clover. I had another issue trying to lock my bike in the warehouse of our office when I could not force my key into the new U lock I’d bought, and it was a good half-hour later that I realized the reason the key wasn’t fitting into the lock was because I was trying to fit my filing cabinet key into my bike lock. Small details. And I realized that if I’m going to be riding through shady, tree-lined streets in the early morning, I should learn to breathe with my mouth closed. I ate my first bug this morning, too.

So, in the end, the actual experience of riding my bike to work was extremely pleasant, while the details of getting myself to work in presentable condition for work were a little more challenging. Did I mention I also forgot to put on deodorant this morning? Bad day to forget that one. But my butt only aches a little bit. That’s a good start, right?

And let me tell you, even with the breakfast bug and the sore butt and having to wear my gym shoes with black pants all day? Still a million times better than riding the bus to work.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 smothermother May 17, 2010 at 9:46 am

Yeah! So glad that you enjoyed it. And it is the perfect week to start as well. You should get the whole week in without any adverse weather. And do not be detered by the bruised like feeling in your ass when you get on the bike tomorrow morning. it will pass after a day or two!

Welcome to the cycling commute!

2 liz May 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

Alright, alright, I’m gonna do this on the days when the spouse has somewhere to drive to in the mornings (he generally works from home) so that he can take our son to school (or day camp in the summer).

3 DaniGirl May 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

Tomorrow?! Whole WEEK? What are you, crazy? You mean I have to do this more than once? Haven’t I proven myself a high-performance athlete by managing to do it just this once? Yeesh!

(Go Liz! If I can do it, anybody can!)

Haha, captcha = “woofing almost” It wasn’t *that* hard, but I might woof if I have to do it all week!

4 Elise May 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I am also on the market for a bike and a kid’s trailer. I’m still considering because I was commuting to work last winter, and fell (damn streetcar tracks in Toronto). Not too nasty fall (left me with a crack in my cheekbone, still!), but left me a little scared of cycling in Toronto.
I used to commute to work in Paris, should be able to do it in Toronto!

5 DaniGirl May 17, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Elise, they had the coolest sidecar trailer at the bike shop I was in. Looked so fun!

6 suze May 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Way to go Dani!

And just in time for Bike to Work week, too: http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/bikemonth/

7 Ingrid May 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Hey Dani – the weather is supposed to be beautiful all week. Now that you’ve worked out the kinks on the first day, it should be smooth sailing of rhte rest of the week. And you really should bike all week to get the full effects ( fitness, etc.). With one day a week, you’d only feel uncomfortable and have a sore butt for the rest of the summer. Where did you end up getting your bike?

8 Tania May 18, 2010 at 8:05 am

I used to love riding my bike to work, just for the mere ‘wake-up’ factor. Those were my most alert days. I also found that my daily stress dissipated on the ride home. Hope you can keep at it!

9 Finola May 18, 2010 at 8:59 am

Awesome!
I ride my bike to work too and even though at first it feels like an awful lot of effort, it soon becomes just part of the routine of the day.
Enjoy!

10 A Crafty Mom May 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

I’m very impressed – way to go!! That is really awesome, and good for you for doing it. I’ll be checking in to see how it goes for the rest of the week 🙂

11 staciesmadness May 18, 2010 at 12:45 pm

it sounds awesome, kudos for actually following through!

12 Pearl May 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Ah well, if you’re like me, if you don’t forget one thing, then its another so cycling details are just one of those days…

Feels good to get out in the sun and fresh air, changing scents.

13 Janet May 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Once you get into a biking routine, you’ll wonder why you ever took the bus in the first place.

Just stash some deodorant and dress shoes at the office, and you’ll have no worries!

14 Amber May 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm

You are my cycling inspiration, Dani. I am on the hunt for a new bike, and I hope to get out and ride it. But I share your age-induced personality trait of doubting my own optimism. If you can do it, though, so can I.

And thanks for sharing the tip about keeping your mouth closed. Sage wisdom, indeed.

15 Richard May 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm

If you are hesitating on the panniers and you got them from Canadian Tire or they are the cheaper Schwinns or Raleigh, I say take them back. My first set of panniers got caught in the spokes several times until eventually the straps completely separated. I got no support from either CT or the manufacturers. The worst was when the bag detached and completely embedded between my wheel and back struts. Imagine if your camera was in that bag! In another incident I didn’t know until a kind motorist yelled out the window that my bag had fallen off.

I use these http://store.trekbikes.com/jump.jsp?itemID=355&itemType=PRODUCT&iProductID=355 and they have now survived through their second winter. They snap in both near the spoke and at the top. No messing with the straps and they’ve held up quite well. They even have a built in rain cover if you ever get brave enough to ride in the rain.

Keep riding!

16 Kim May 27, 2010 at 4:11 am

So you got over your helmet hair after all :). Like you said, anyone should be able to bike to work. See what excuse my hubby thinks of this time. He will be inspired by you.

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