For the past couple of months, Evan and I have been sharing a vehicle because we both seem to have terrible car luck and his truck has a mystery issue that has us running around to different mechanics and spending too much money.
Unfortunately, both our jobs are far enough away that commuting by bike every day is prohibitive (my commute is 25+ miles over a mountain and his is about 40+ miles over several).
My work is sort of on the way to his work, at least. But it’s not directly on the way, so we developed a system that works for both of us. He drops me off at a spot that is convenient for him and doesn’t add much time to his already-long (45-50 minute) commute. I then ride about 3 miles (if I go the direct way) to my office. At the end of the day, we do it again.
At first, I was a little annoyed at the tedium of getting suited up for such a short ride. It’s not a big deal when the weather is nice, but when it’s cold or rainy, a 20 minute ride is long enough to want proper gear. Spending almost as much time suiting up as I was on the bike seemed silly at first, but I’ve grown to love it.
Since a 20 minute ride is long enough to notice if I’m not dressed appropriately, it’s been great for testing gear. I ride regardless of weather. I ride in the pouring rain, sleet, and ice, and my coldest commute this year so far was about -5 degrees F.
I’ve also been exploring all the hidden neighborhoods and nooks and crannies of State College. I try to find new routes to get to where I need to go. I often take a longer way in or back to meet Evan to get more time on the bike and also to see something new. There are more bike paths in this town than I ever knew. But I’ve also discovered that many of them aren’t maintained in the winter, which makes things interesting when we get big snowstorms. I’m forced to explore even more.
Evan built up my Penhale Gypsy frame as a super-commuter, with full fenders, dynamo front and rear lighting, Jones bars, flip-flop pedals (flats on one side, SPDs on the other), and in the winter, studded tires, which have been invaluable for the often-icy side streets and bike paths.
The mini commute is not glamorous. It’s not that exciting. But any time on a bike beats no time at all, and it’s forced me to get out in conditions where I otherwise might opt to stay in. I do the hardest part of going on a bike ride — getting out the door — twice a day. There’s no doubt it’s made me less apprehensive about riding in tough conditions. As that saying goes, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing choices. If you’re dressed appropriately, 35 degrees and raining or -5 degrees and frigid isn’t bad at all.
I’ve become a better city rider (not that State College is a big city, but it feels like it compared to my rural home), something I’ve always struggled with. I don’t like needing to take the lane. I am uncomfortable with intersections and trusting that cars will regard my hand signals. Now, I’m slightly less uncomfortable with those things.
When we have a second vehicle again (someday…), we’re going to continue to carpool a lot of days, so the mini commutes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And summer is going to be so easy!