Monday, June 26, 2017

Another safe ride in

I had a dentist appointment this morning and when I was leaving and getting my bike, an old guy started a conversation with me.  He looked like it might have been some years since he retired and I'm not sure what he did for work but he told me a story about how he commuted from Medford to Wentworth for school.  He was telling me that he didn't have much money and he and his buddies car pooled to school.  He said that it wasn't just saving money that was important but that they helped each other work out their problems together, that having friends close by was important.  And he said that it's a bummer (my word) that people drive alone and are so isolated as they get themselves to work.  I'd like to think that he kept this up after school and through his career and by the sound of his last comment, I suspect that it's true..

I left Medford Square and headed down Main Street and Medford Street, heading to Somerville and Cambridge.  It felt a little less safe than Arlington and Cambridge and I kept me eyes open and stayed in high alert, which I think one ought to do when riding in an urban environment. So it surprised me when the driver of plumbing company van was honking his horn to catch my attention at a light.  He apologized for cutting me off.  I thanked him for his concern although I didn't exactly recall him getting all that close to me or anything like cutting me off.  Whatever the case, it was nice that he was aware of a cyclist on the road and that it was good to pay attention to cyclists and give them room.

Not far down the road, maybe a block or two, a SUV passed me with  the passenger side window open.  It was an old guy driving alone and as he passed me he said move over.  The way he said it wasn't overtly obnoxious but just telling someone they didn't have the right to be on the road is pretty obnoxious.  Then he continued on his happy way and I was wondering what I did that seemed bother him.  Maybe it was because I was riding a bike.

This all probably isn't news but it's better to tell a story of something nice and something not too terrible.  I, or most anyone who rides a bike in the Boston area, sees some pretty awful behavior on the road on a daily basis and none of this resembles that awful behavior.  So I'm just being hopeful during a time that the country seems to be collapsing into fascism and our climate seems less than reliably stable.

Today's commute: 16 miles.  Miles for the year: about 1,400, a thousand of that commuting to work.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Riding a bike is a habit, right?

Last fall I managed to put a big dent into the front fender of a Prius on a morning commute last September. I also managed to bruise my left knee and thigh and my bike crumpled into a useless mess.  I was off my bike for over a month but I got  back on my 3 speed for commuting in October and I bought a replacement Surly in early November.  I commuted all winter, missing maybe one day a week, sometime because I needed to carry large items for work, and while I did three road rides, I sort of lost the habit of getting on my bike for recreational, especially in inclement and marginal weather and even on decent days.  On days that I would have certainly gone out for 30 or 40 miles last year, I would instead decide that it wasn't just that important to get out, in part because of potential misery but also because it was no longer a habit.  I experienced this with running and kids. I was able to run for the first 4 years with kids, most often with one in a jogging stroller, but by the time they were 2 and 4, time demands made it harder to get out.  The less I got out, the less I was likely to get out and now I don't get out running.  I'm now nursing a sore knee (that I don't notice when I ride) so while I figure out how to get tested I am not trying to run.  But I can be riding and I haven't been, except commuting.

Before yesterday, the last time I rode was a slow ride to Bedford on my road bike in late January.  I can complain about the weather since then but it was really habit, in the same way that I stopped running.  But I am getting on in years (I turn 60 next year, something that just doesn't seem real or even possible) so I can't fall off of the exercise wagon completely.  Yet it was difficult to imagine getting out.  I have been out with my family this year but those are few and far between and never long or fast.  I don't attribute my lack of riding to fear of cars and their inattentive drivers , although there is some of that in my head.  Also I've sort of lost my early bird habits so getting out when it didn't matter to the family is hard.

So late yesterday afternoon, after the rain passed through, with one boy on a play date and the other on a walk with my wife, I texted my wife and suggested I pick up my younger son and take him for a ride.  She thought that I should just go for a ride myself, which I thought was a great idea.  I need to replace my chain on my road bike so I took the Surly commuter and got out of the house.  

It was fabulous.  I had two hours and I found myself getting a fast start - my commuting speed since getting back on my bike is less than 10 MPH so 14 seemed like a good pace.  I decided that maybe I could ride farther than I initially though then I thought I wouldn't go for the flattest ride possible and some hills would be nice to ride.  Then I just had to get home before I was too tired, or late.  I stopped for a bio break just outside of Concord then found a couple of people ahead of me and passed them.  Then I passed another person.  He caught back up with me to complement me on my nice commuter (it is a nice commuter) before slowing down to wait for friends.  I wasn't racing with anyone except myself and I did a great job of it. I pushed myself and remember why I love riding.  I felt like I had a great workout and came back home with a decent amount of energy.  That eventually faded and I'm tired today but it was a great reminder that I should get on my bike more.  I will never be a racer but I have fun riding as fast as I can.  16 mph is hardly a record for me but it felt pretty fast to me.  And one ride doesn't make a habit but it's a start.

Oh, and about the fear I mentioned.  I've always been vigilant about cars on road rides and yesterday was no exception.  I was hyper aware of cars coming in from driveways and side streets and I did have a bit of a panic as I braked when a car almost didn't stop coming into Page Street from a side street in Bedford.  I had room to maneuver and they did come to a stop a bit late.  And it did serve as a reminder that while it's fun, you have to take your safety into your own hands because drivers aren't always of cyclists, daytime running lights or not.

Proof that I did ride yesterday.

My Surly Cross Check, built up by Ride Studio Cafe.  It's an impressive bike for me.  The parts are what I wanted and  there isn't much that I would add.  I am looking into a front rack like a Nitto M12 to carry a front bag  for day trips instead of using a pannier I am now.  I can't use a seat post bag while I have the silver bracket installed for pulling my younger son on a trail-a-bike. The panniers are in use for commuting so I wouldn't get rid of the the rear rack.  Besides, my rear light is mounted on the rack.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Multi Modal Commuting

Back at the end of January, I managed to ride each of my bikes on successive days: my IF road bike on a simple 20 mile loop on a Sunday mostly on the bike path, my new Surly on a 15 mile round trip commute to work, and, finally, a 5 mile multi model commute on my Swobo 3 speed.  That pattern didn't continue.  With the snowy weather I changed my commute from mostly riding on my Surly all of the way to work to exclusively multi modal commutes, riding to Alewife and then taking the train.  For the multi model commute, I ride my Swobo, which has the Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700c x 35 mm studded tires and is a bike that I don't mind suffering some benign neglect.  That seemed to work for a while and it turned into a habit.  I managed to get into work on time and get home on time for dinner.  While anyone who takes the Red Line regularly can tell you, it isn't always uneventful, particularly in bad weather.  Somehow I managed to miss most of the minor, moderate, and severe delays (I get the alerts via email) and actually enjoyed taking the train.  I even had a few interesting conversations about work, one of which led to an interesting opportunity for me.  That said, I'm not quite ready to give up riding all of the way into work right now, particularly since sunset is getting later and I can get most of the way home before civil twilight ends.  Just to give myself a start, I already packed my panniers on my Swobo for the full commute (I use an old BaileyWorks SuperPro when I take the train) so I'll have to unpack if I can't break my Red Line habit.  Wish me luck.