A Non-Cyclist’s Journey Into Cycling

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Journey-Into-CyclingIt’s time for another installment in my Bike to Work Series. This week we’ll actually dive into the daily logs I kept when I first started cycling to work last summer.

Remember, at the time I had decided to ride every single day regardless of the weather. I’ve softened that a bit, but it’s still interesting to see how I dealt with things as they came along. The writing style is definitely different than my normal posts, because a) this was before I started blogging, and b) it’s just short simple thoughts thrown down on “paper”. I think I’ve only made 2 or 3 minor edits, otherwise it’s as I originally wrote it.

Read the whole thing or just skim it. Either way, enjoy the roadtrip through my thoughts…

Tue-Thu, June 20-22, 2017

Perfect weather in and out. Cool mornings and warm afternoons. Dry. No issues. Route is awesome, except final climb home kinda sucks. Approx 40 mins in, 45 mins home. Used a backpack on first 2 days, new panniers on 22nd*. Back is still sweaty even without the backpack, but not nearly as much.

* These are the panniers I bought (NOT an affiliate link); looks like the price when up from when I bought them: Timbuk2 Tandem Panniers

Timbuk-2-Panniers-from-MEC

Gear

Quick dry t-shirt, cheap nylon shorts, cheap helmet, safety vest ($1 at a garage sale), good running shoes ($100 ish??), Specialized Crossroads Sport bike, blinking front and rear lights, cheap bell (push lever that has multiple simultaneous tones/rings, not the pull back/release level single-ring bell), bike computer, full fenders (want to extend front fender down a bit to better protect my feet and lower frame). Hacked bike rack (lower half of baby seat). Tried 2 or 3 other racks over the weekend, but didn’t fit my bike with respect to seat stays and fenders. Good cable lock. (Tried U-locks, but they’re a mega-pain, so I simply won’t leave my bike where I think I would need a U-lock.) Cheap splash pants in the morning. Added new panniers on 22nd. Perfect size, easily come on and off the bike. Don’t even need to strap them to the lower part of the bike rack. I picked them because they will fit on the hacked rack I use (doesn’t have side rails to clip most panniers to), come on and off with easy, are the right size, waterproof, tons of internal cubbies, and reasonably priced ($125, but eliminate the need for a $35 rack).

Fri June 23, 2017

Hot. 20C-ish plus humidity when I left in the morning. Didn’t bother with the splash pants (too hot). Started to sprinkle a bit halfway there, and full-on rain as I pulled into work. No issues. Still ~40 mins trip time. Need to bring some clothes and towel home for washing.

Hot on the ride home, but not ridiculous. Nice and fast. Modified my route slightly to take a short, very very muddy gradual uphill section. If that is any indication of riding through snow, it’s gonna suck. I need to find a way to make it happen!

Panniers worked really well; they swallowed all of my stuff with ease, although there’s not too much additional room unless I start packing more efficiently.

Mon June 26, 2017

AM

Perfect day for a ride. Cold when I started out (around 12C). This is close to my limit in shorts / T-shirt, since I was shivering down the first hill. However, I quickly warmed up and had a great ride. Even knocked another few seconds off the ride. I’ve been lucky with great weather so far…

Gear

Lubed and cleaned the bike yesterday. Pumped tires up – quite a difference. They had dropped from 70 to 46 psi in two weeks. Added a front fender extension to better protect my feet. Bought some awesome biking rain pants at MEC. Tried them, my coat and milk bag shoes** in a rainstorm yesterday afternoon – worked like a charm! I will need to keep wearing gloves in the rain, since my hands got cold during my test run. Noticed that both of my pedals are broken on the outer ends. Need to call bike shop and get them replaced (under warranty…?). Need to bring the bike stand from the shed into the garage so I can lube the bike without help (can’t turn the pedals, hold the bike and hold the lube by myself). Bought another normal belt for my pants to leave at the office, instead of having to haul it back and forth every day.

** Milk bag shoes means putting your feet in old, clean milk bags and then putting them in your shoes. Surprising but it works.

PM

Another nice day for a ride, but very windy. Commute time was a few minutes longer than normal. However, I didn’t feel as bad climbing the two big hills near home. Am I getting stronger…?

First Cycling Trip to Work - Time

First Cycling Trip to Work (Pedaling Time)

Tue June 27, 2017

AM

Very cold this morning: around 9C. Felt stiff, sore and tired, possibly from all the biking, but more likely from baseball last night as well as a late night hitting the sack. Rode in wearing rain coat and rain pants to help with the cold. I’ll want to pick up a long-sleeve moisture-wicking shirt. Felt sluggish for entire ride, and definitely not motivated, but I kept pushing on at a slower pace. Worrying about how this will be when there’s snow on the ground… Got into work and saw that I was only a minute and a half slower than yesterday, which was far better than I thought. I continue to surprise myself!

PM

About 20C, sunny but windy. Wind really sucks. Got me thinking about E-bikes yet again, and how I’ll ever do this in the winter with snow. But then I shifted my thoughts and realized that I’ve been surprising myself a lot lately, so I just focused on pedaling and toned down the effort a bit to “smell the roses” and enjoy the ride. In fact, even the big hills weren’t so bad. Sure, they sucked, but I made it up without too much of a fuss. Onward and upward! (Literally…)

June 28, 2017

AM

Cold again (12C), but sunny and dry. I was chilly on the ride in, and I think I know why now: my arms sweat like crazy! That’s why they, in particular, feel cold. It’s time to go find a long-sleeve t-shirt. Legs are a little stiff and sore, but much better than yesterday (no baseball last night). Like yesterday’s ride home, I toned it down just a bit, but only took an extra minute or two longer than previous days. I must be getting stronger… Thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Brake and shifter cables are stretching and need to be adjusted within the next few days. I’ll be dropping by the bike shop on the way home tonight about the pedals, so I’ll get it tuned up while I’m there (as well as get a lesson on how to do it myself).

Spent a few minutes last night on Google Maps checking out bus routes for snowy weather. They tend to be in the 1hr 10min range, which is about 25-30 mins longer than biking, but probably not much longer than biking in snow. Worth further investigation and possibly even a trial ride. Winter options so far include sucking it up and riding through it except under extreme conditions, borrowing Andrea’s car on moderately snowy days and riding the rest of the time, getting a pedal-assist e-bike, carpooling, taking the bus, and keeping a car as a winter beater. Sounds like a good trade study to me!***

*** I never actually did this trade study. I just wimped out for the winter.

PM

Perfect day for a ride. Stopped at the bike shop on the way home to get the pedals replaced (as well as adjust the brakes and shifters). Upgraded to better plastic pedals with studs – much better! Because I don’t carry my wallet when I ride (just a spare $20 for emergencies), I couldn’t actually pay for them… So I left the $20 as a deposit and I’ll go back tomorrow to pay the $15 balance. Bike mechanic recommended studded winter tires for my use.

Also, during the day I spoke with a guy at work in his 50s who used to commute daily by bike until he had a serious unrelated medical situation. His ride was 17 km each way, and the second half of his route was identical to mine. He also used studded tires, and switched to them when the weather dropped to around the freezing mark during this commute.

Interesting observation: The last couple of times I’ve driven somewhere, I was acutely aware of how smooth it was to ride in a car, even a little Civic. The seat, the suspension, the power… It felt like I was in a little isolated bubble (or a motorized La-Z-Boy as Mr. Money Mustache would say!) It just goes to show how quickly I’m adapting to bike riding.

First Cycling Trip to Work - Distance

First Cycling Trip to Work (Distance)

June 29, 2017

AM

Nice and warm on the way in. Some pretty windy gusts. Love the new pedals.

PM

Very windy, but warm. Stopped in at the bike shop to pay the balance on the pedals and check the chain wear (about 25%). Talbot St hill downtown is a slog, so I’ll keep looking for other options for winter routes. Drove down Colborne later in the evening, but that might be the same problem. I’ll have to ride each route each direction to try them out.

July 4, 2017

AM

Cold this morning. I had forgotten that 12C is pretty much my limit without a coat! Reminded me that I need to get a long-sleeve wicking shirt. Otherwise, a very nice ride.

Yesterday at the swimming pool I was talking with another parent, and she remarked how my route is very nice. I thought about that a bit some more, and yes, it is. I’m fortunate to be able to commute to work mostly through forests, along the river, and through very old well-maintained neighbourhoods. Ok, so the far east section along Oxford isn’t nearly as nice, but still manageable.

Had a Canada Day weekend conversation with friends of friends. Met this one guy around my age who seemed to complain about everything London has to offer. You couldn’t pay him a million bucks to ride, and the traffic lights suck, and local politicians are useless, and and and… Complainy-pants much? How about taking some action and trying to fix one of those problems instead of just bad-mouthing? I told him about how our ward councillor managed to get the local playground fixed, and suggested he contact her. I doubt he ever will (“she’s not MY councillor” – “ok, so don’t tell her what ward you live in”); it’s far too easy to just blame someone else! This ties back to biking: instead of complaining about commuting costs and traffic and pollution and no exercise, I made a simple plan and just took action. Now here we are on day 9, and it still feels great!

PM

Beautiful, warm (bordering on hot), sunny ride home. Fast. I really like it when there’s no wind and my bike has been freshly lubed…

July 5, 2017

AM

This biking thing is starting to become pretty routine (at least in good weather). I’m going to stop journaling now unless something particularly noteworthy comes up.

May 16, 2018: First Day Cycling to Work in 2018

Chilly in the morning, but not too bad. I warmed up sufficiently within 10 mins or so. Ride was pleasant without much traffic. View of the city was awesome: City skyline backlit by orange/red sky near the horizon, clear blue above. I felt relaxed and focused during the ride. Took 40 mins door to door, and just over 15 km.

Ironically, when riding along the short stretch of Oxford St, I felt that I was doing a decent job being assertive (but not aggressive) in holding my lane link; however, I was proven wrong when a minivan passed me as I was crossing the railroad tracks. The van squeezed between me and the left side of the lane, and came within a few inches of clipping me with its mirror. Not cool. Fortunately, I observed that the van turned into the delivery area at my office. After showering and freshening up, I went to security to report the van. Turns out it was a mail courier making his daily run. Security took me seriously, and will speak with the courier tomorrow when he’s back and remind him of the Ontario law stating that you must give cyclists at least 1m clearance when passing. Who knows if the rules will sink in or not…

I was lucky this time. Tomorrow I will command more of my lane, especially near the tracks. Overall, though, a nice ride in and a great way to start the day!

Pencil with ShadowYour Turn Now!

What do you think? Have you ever journaled like this, either daily, or for special occasions? It’s fun for me to read back through it and job those memories! Why don’t you give it a try, too?

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