Category: commuting

Mother Nature Needs Meds

Wind is public enemy #1. Well, at least in my world. When I was on night shift, I could always rely on a headwind going to work, and a headwind coming home. Many a curse word has been muttered (and some made up), only to be drowned out by Mother Nature’s exhale. I’d rather ride in a hailstorm.

Oddly enough, she also knows when it is time to drive to work. I try to commute by bike five days a week, but some days I wake up and just don’t feel it. These days are few and far between, and this morning was one of those days.

In this neck of the woods it is rare to have rain in the morning, but instead it typically falls in the afternoon through the middle of the night. Maybe it’s the effect of the rain on my sleep (doesn’t it make everyone sleep better?), but this morning I woke up and just wanted to sleep for the rest of the day. It should be noted that I usually get a solid eight a night and get up at 5:00 a.m. without issue every day, even weekends.

Waddup, Ma Nat? Why you messin’ with my schedule?

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

Practically speaking, three years of night shift commuting (6:00 p.m./6:00 a.m., and 5:00 p.m./1:00 a.m.) allowed me a glimpse at the dark side of commuting, pun intended. No matter when one commutes by bike and shares a road with motorists, danger lurks in places unaware. While during the day we deal with traffic in volume and sunlight decreasing visibility during certain months, at night there are nocturnal wildlife and…the other nocturnal wildlife: the drunks.

While some of this may sound like common sense, there was a time when each and every point following were eschewed due to either ignorance or inconvenience. How I am still alive to be riding today is something I ponder during my brief daily conversation with the man upstairs.

  • Light: You cannot have enough of it. A pothole sucks when you see it, and it sucks harder when you don’t.
  • Route: You cannot know it well enough. Helps in planning for the unexpected. When you know what to expect, especially at night, the better your loved ones feel.
  • Defense: You should be carrying something to ward off would be assailants, such as bears and dogs (frightening experience with both, and both times Wasp spray ended the conflict). This did not help in the bunny-induced endo I unwillingly performed which resulted in a hairline fracture to my elbone.
  • Dog Tags: You need to be identified in the event of an accident, but this also applies to daytime riders.

Bottom line is you cannot plan for everything, but you can most certainly maintain heightened awareness for the duration of a ride at night. There aren’t many of us who dare roll during the hours ungodly, but plan well, and you will not find yourself lamenting time and miles lost due to working the graveyard shift.

Bicycle commuting and international business travel

Rented Kona Ute at Bristol terminus of Bristol & Bath Railway Path

On a recent business trip to Bristol, U.K., I decided to stay in the city center and bicycle-commute to the company site on the city outskirts. Local co-workers direly predicted that I would be instantly killed by hostile drivers, demonstrating if nothing else that beliefs of car commuters about cycling transcend international boundaries.

Rob Bushill delivers the Kona Ute to my hotel

Scanning the pages of the wonderful British publication Velo Vision, I saw the advertisment from Really Useful Bikes. I contacted proprietor Rob Bushill, who also runs a dairy and hot tub business, and he agreed to drop off a Kona Ute at my hotel. I flatted out almost right away on the first ride, but Rob graciously returned to the hotel and fixed the tire for me (he hadn’t left me any tools previously).

As with so many old cities, Bristol’s center city has a truly labyrinthine network of streets. Fortunately the Bristol & Bath Railway Path runs from downtown Bristol all the way to Bath, 13 miles away. I was able to take the Path out into the countryside, where I navigated a much simpler set of rural roads to take me to the workplace. The ride was a lot of fun, and since the weather was cold, I didn’t have to worry about getting sweated up. I was pleased to see hundreds of other cyclists commuting on the path even on rainy days.

The Kona Ute is quite heavy and has appropriately low gearing. As a roadie who is used to clipping into pedals and hauling on drop bars, I was taken aback at how difficult riding rollers with an upright posture and flat pedals proved to be. Overall, bicycle commuting in Bristol was surprisingly easy, with drivers showing exceptional courtesy despite the many episodes of clueless behavior I exhibited. Best of all, Megacorp approved my request for reimbursement for the bicycle rental without a quibble, as they should have given how much money I saved over renting a car an buying gas. Thanks again to Rob Bushill for his great customer service!