A friend asked me to put together a few tips for those who may consider riding a bike to work. Here are my recent observations:
1. Pack light. My shoes and lunch are typically the heaviest items in my panniers. I now have a couple pair of shoes at my desk so I don’t have to pack a set daily. I also get everything together the night before so my morning rush isn’t anxiety fueled.
2. Stock up. I have stocked my desk with favorite snacks and used a driving day to load up my toiletries. I take a shower at work after I arrive, so having everything necessary here and ready to go makes my bags lighter and getting to my desk a faster process.
3. Take your time. I’ve seen so many things I passed right by in my car. Like the auto detailing shop near the interstate that is half-way painted with a giant orange chicken. It may be a phoenix. There are plenty of old businesses with antique neon marquis too. There’s a “vegans for peace!” hand-painted sign in a Tempe front yard, where wildflowers and leafy greens from an unkempt garden ramble up the sign poles. There are plenty of curious people too. I nod at the two guards at the federal court building, who are responsible for looking under each car with a mirror as they enter the garage. They’ve started waving back. I cheer the anti-Joe Arpaio protester on the downtown corner, who also holds a hand-painted sign and spends half his time keeping his long hair from blocking the message as he rants. I’ve spoken with more than one bus driver who has a window down and is waiting for the same light, while I’m rocking on my toes in the bike lane. And, I stand next to the same guy each morning on the light rail platform. He rides a bubble gum pink fix gear bike and is covered with retro tattoos. Sadly, he is not overly chatty at 7 am.
4. Use the light rail or bus line if necessary to make this process work for you. I use the light rail for a few miles in the morning and it gets me to work in time without being totally exhausted. I try to ride the entire 14 miles home because I’ve got more time. This may change with the impending summer heat — but for now, it works. And I’m still not on the highway.
5. Also: bike shorts. They will make your undercarriage thank you. And pump your tires every day. Even a little bit low, it makes the afternoon slog harder. And be patient with your body. It takes a good 2-3 miles before my left hip clicks into a comfortable place. That hip never bothers me otherwise, but it screams first thing in the morning when I get on the bike.
That’s it. I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this change has been. I look forward to getting on my bike come Monday morning and don’t feel a bit of guilt when I want a giant carne asada burrito with all the cheesy, green sauce extras for lunch. And the miles add up; I’ve ridden more than 250 in the last month — almost a full tank of gas.
The only downside is I am pretty much too tired to accomplish anything when I get home, other than find food and make sure Nelson sees the park for a brief walk. There is a specific pleasure in walking around this physically tired all the time. My anxious edge at work is gone and I’m feeling stronger.