The truth about bike commuting

Bike commuting is possible.  However, I am not going to lie: bike commuting can be a challenge.  Scratch that.  It is a challenge.  Now, maybe I’m biased.  I’ve got some chronic anxiety, and I’m “relatively” high maintenance.  My boyfriend seems fine just tossing a messenger bag over his shoulder and pedaling off, but for me, nothing seems to go that easily.  Messenger bags throw off my balance and pull at my breasts.  No fun.

I was very careful when choosing my bike, and I believe I made the best decision for my needs and price range.  It’s step-through, so I can wear a skirt (and I even wore a skirt to the shop to test it out), flat pedals for diverse footwear, fenders, a front basket, a comfy seat, and upright handlebars.

I want to “trick it out” further, of course.  I have a rear rack, and I want to add it, but there’s a twist: apparently the hub that allows you to change gears is just in the way of me screwing in the part of the rack that mounts in the middle of the wheel.  Unfortunately, I may have to go back to the bike store to get that worked out, though I was hoping to do the work myself the other day.

I already own some bags in different sizes, which I may clip onto the rack, and I purchased a deep basket, which will be perfect for carrying shopping bags and work-related items.  For now, I’m using my backpack, which is imperfect because it makes my back hurt and causes me to sweat more than I would if riding freely.

I’ve taken to carrying a packet of makeup wipes with me for cleaning my face and other sweaty bits once I’ve reached work.  I’ve always got to have my lock with me, and I’m looking for a good way to attach it to my bike rather than carrying it in the basket.  I bring an extra pair of shoes to work because I don’t want to ruin my good shoes on the road or wear heels on the bike.  I do not currently have a water-bottle holder, which is fine for my work commute, but this does cause me to forget to bring water on longer trips.

If there were a shower at work, I’d be in heaven.  For now, though, I’m happy that there’s a bike rack in a not-so-busy area, and the door leads straight to the bathroom and water fountain so I can freshen up before heading to my desk.

I was surprised to find that biking really didn’t take much extra time–maybe five minutes, eight if I miss the light–but getting into work mode afterward will take more practice, and I should really leave home earlier so I don’t get so stressed.  Biking slowly on a cool day has got to yield less sweat, right? I’ll test the theory and get back to you.

Last, I highly recommend Headsweats headbands.  These little suckers are lightweight and thin, but man do they ever soak up the sweat.  These are a must for the workout, the commute, the whatever.  One day, everyone will rock one again, just like in the 80s.

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The bike commute: The epitome of awkwardbutdelicate

This first awkwardbutdelicate post has got to be about commuting on my new bike.  What is more awkwardbutdelicate than rolling along a rough city road, cars going 45 on one side and a curb on the other?  What’s more awkward than toeing the line between driver and pedestrian yet more delicate than finding the perfect fluid balance?

I’ve been road biking for a while.  I basically graduated from daydreaming while spinning my wheels around the cul-de-sac as a kid to dark, indoor Spinning classes as a very young adult.  I ventured outdoors again my second year in college, and during grad school I purchased my first “real” bike–a black and hot pink Trek hybrid.  From there, I found my need for speed and bought a Specialized Allez from Craigslist–a serendipitous circumstance, as I soon discovered.  Now, a couple years later, I’ve suspended my goal of saving for a fancier road bike in order to purchase a cute, commute-friendly bike for trolling around town, going to work, and completing light errands.

The commuting season, as I’ll call it, has just begun in Florida.  This morning was a brisk 59 degrees, and I dressed in a pair of warm gray pants, a work-appropriate T-shirt, and my Birkenstocks.  For those interested in the triumphs and trevails of bike commuting, I’ll go into a little more detail in a future post.

I felt great on my way to work, except that, due to a technical snafu, I had to carry my laptop in my backpack, along with my makeup pouch, a cardigan, my keys, and other accoutremount. In my basket was a string bag of clothes to be dry-cleaned, my U-lock, and my breakfast of Greek yogurt and a plastic container of mueslix.

In natural, awkardbutdelicate fashion, I carried my laundry past the my office to the location of the dry cleaner.  I walked and walked, only to find that the dry cleaner was no longer there, though I could still see the remnants of letters that had once stuck to its glass windows, advertising various cleaning services and alterations.

Every journey begins with a quest, right?  I had a goal!  After work, I hopped back on the ol’ bike and made my way to a different neighborhood.  This probably wasn’t the closest dry cleaner, but those places have been closing down like crazy lately!  I caught the bike path to the main road and then hopped back on another path, which meandered through waist-high weeds and offered views of a large lake surrounded by pristine apartment buildings and offices.

When I made it to my location of choice, for some reason I didn’t see all of the abundant bike racks right in front; instead, I took my bike to a more populated rack further away.  Once securing my bike, I removed my work-appropriate patent leather ballet flats from my basket, set them in my backpack, and grabbed my string bag.  I clipped my helmet to one of my backpack’s straps, since my boyfriend tells me never to leave it in the basket, and hoisted the bag onto my shoulders.

The may be the most embarrassing part of the bike commute: entering an establishment.

I entered.  A bead or two of sweat dripped down my face.  I hoisted my clothing to the counter, counted out–Jesus–four skirts, two pairs of pants, two shirts, and a sweater, and answered the woman’s questions while quietly setting my bag to the floor.

Ticket in hand and no longer burdened by my string bag of smelly laundry, I made my way down the block to a pizza place. This is the second life-related challenge to bike commuting, closely related to the first: fitting into everyday life.

I sat down at an outdoor table, probably put my bag in someone’s grimy spilled pizza, and waited to be waited on, using my phone for company.

Okay.  I’d made it that far, doing “normal” things with a backpack and bike helmet at my side.  What was next but to purchase a bottle of wine?

My bike was still snug in the rack, and, carrying my box of leftover pizza, my backpack, and my helmet, which kept banging against my side, I made my way to the wine section.  There, I found the selection my friends had recommended (Barefoot’s Moscato, which is good though a bit sweet for my taste, but who really cares once a glass is down?) and headed to the check-out counter.  Okay, so that was awkward.  Even I’ll admit it.  I had to set my pizza and keys on the conveyer belt thing and dig through my backpack for my ID, accidentally catching my sweater on a piece of Velcro in my backpack and trying hard not to curse out loud–aren’t bike commuters supposed to be friendly folk, after all?

I paid for my wine and said something even more awkward about being on my bike and “don’t worry; I have a basket.”  I’m sure the checkout girl thought I was drunk already.

For the last leg of my journey, I set my pizza box and wine on the ground, unlocked my bike, and pulled it into processing position.  I tucked the wine into my backpack (yes, along with my computer), wedged the pizza box sideways into the basket (with the ballet flats underneath), and my empty mueslix container nearby.  I made my way home a different way than I had come.  By that point, my trick knee ached, and sweat dripped down my face and back.

I made it home and immediately showered.  I’d made it–normal chores in a slightly abnormal fashion.  Only I was more exhausted, of course, though perhaps a little more happy and sun-drenched than I would have been otherwise.

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