I remember when it used to be a big deal. It wasn’t so long ago that riding the 15 miles to work seemed like it warranted a lot of extra effort—waking up earlier, packing extra clothes, making sure to allow enough lee time in case of a flat or dead legs. Then when I got to town, I’d have to shower, change, make myself look presentable for the world.
Or so I thought.
What I discovered when I actually started doing it on a regular basis is that it’s not a big deal at all. It doesn’t require much extra effort once you’re in a routine and have your gear down pat. And looking presentable is way easier than it might seem, even as a woman.
Though I had been wanting to get into such a routine for a while, it was something that seemed too easy to put off. I always seemed to have the perfect excuse. I woke up too late—every day. I didn’t have the right bike for it—I only had my mountain bike. It was raining. Or too cold. I didn’t have time. I loved to ride, and I loved to ride roads, but I just couldn’t seem to get myself to ride to work whole lot. It was too easy to get that extra hour of sleep or relaxation time in the morning and the just hop in the car and drive the 20 minutes into town.
Then I got a road bike. Well, not really a true road bike—more of a gravel/touring sort of bike. A Raleigh Willard. The timing wasn’t great, as the bike became mine just before the cold and snow set in, but come spring, I was one step closer to making this whole regular bicycle commute thing happen.
I got a rear rack, and a nice set of Ortlieb panniers for it, eliminating the need for an unwieldy and uncomfortable backpack.
I guess the big catalyst that really forced me to start riding to and from work more was the fact that Evan and I have been sharing a vehicle for months. In the winter, both of our schedules were much less busy, so it wasn’t such a big deal to carpool, and for me to wait around in town until he was done work, and vice versa. But come spring, both our lives became more hectic. I got a job with Singletracks.com and started my own map-making business, meaning I was doing a lot more work from home, but still commuting into town nearly every day to work my job at Boxers Cafe. Evan started needing to be at work super early, and stay later in the evenings. Our schedules didn’t mesh so well for carpooling anymore, and he needed the truck a lot more for hauling boats and bikes from one place to another for work. The fact that I was busier too meant that I had a lot less time to just go out and ride “for fun.” And so, I turned to my bike for transportation, and I turned a commute that I’d have to do regardless into an opportunity to get a ride in.
At first it was a big deal. Riding required that I planned ahead. But it wasn’t long before it became routine. I keep all my tools, a rain jacket, and other essentials in frame/seat bags on the bike. I throw my work clothes and shoes in a pannier in the morning, and I’m off. It’s way easier in the summer when it’s warm. There’s less to think about when it comes to clothing. I’m lucky that my job allows me to wear what I want, so on hot days I’ll usually just bike in whatever strappy tank top I’m wearing to work and just change my shorts and shoes. I’ve stopped worrying about taking a shower when I get to town—I just slap on some deodorant and tie my hair back. Usually, on days that I ride, people actually tell me I look great, because I have that healthy glow of having exercised already.
I feel better on days when I ride to work. I need my alone time in the morning—that use to mean I needed to wake up early to sit with a cup of coffee and not be bothered so that I could mentally prepare for the day. Now, that ride to work counts as my alone time (I still need coffee though—that will never change). Some days, I don’t feel like riding, but I have to, because Evan has already left with the truck. But soon as I jump on the bike, those feelings of reluctance go away, and I become lost in the zone of my legs pumping, heart pounding, wind blowing past my ears.
It helps that we live in a place that is perfect for road riding, with a plethora of back roads and scenic views at the crest of every hill and around every bend. There are a number of different fairly-direct routes from our house to town, ranging from 12 miles straight on the main road, up to 20 miles or more on winding farm roads, and everything in between. Some days, I barely see a car. We are so lucky in this way, that it’s so accessible and easy. The hardest part is committing the time and energy, and just doing it.
And when you do, it feels awesome.