So, in recent weeks we've covered some of the basics of commuting: gear, a change of clothes, planning your route. As a runner first and a cyclist second, I don't feel qualified to give anyone advice on how to maintain their bike-my husband still changes my tires that absorb far too many thorns on the Homestead trail. What I do feel I can speak to is the experience of being on a bike before and after a long day of work.
Driving to work, most people are on auto pilot. Look around you at a stop light. People are drinking coffee, checking their phones, eyes not quite open all the way. Especially on my current morning commute, when the time change has left things a bit darker than feels right to be going to work. Something about leaving in the morning without a single hint of sunlight...but anyway. Most mornings, if you asked me what happened on my way to work, I don't know that I could tell you. Sure, there was that time I stopped and caught a loose dog and returned it home, or the time we saw a car slide into another car, but for the most part, 99% of my mornings are unremarkable.
And driving home from work? Don't get me started. I've been known to have such road rage I make up new words. I've tried to curb it-rage must be sang along to the song on the radio, combine your dirty word with the name of a cute animal, nothing worked. Leaving work, everybody just wants to get home. It's a ride of necessity that nobody wants to be on, and we're all kind of mad about it. Maybe you're still thinking about that comment your boss made, or a rude customer, or that problem you hadn't quite solved yet-or you are until someone cuts you off.
Biking to work is different. Aside from those times you have to get a bit defensive because of the aforementioned sleepy drivers, it's often just you and the path. You get some great sunrise views from the saddle, and you get a chance to prioritize your day. True, sometimes I wish I had coffee in those bottle cages and not just water, but for the most part-I get to work happy, refreshed, and ready for the challenges ahead. I've also got a couple of routes I can take depending if I've got time to take the long way or not.
The ride home from work is different too. My route is entirely made up up bike path, and I know I'm lucky for that. This does mean that the way home is often decidedly more crowded than the way to work. We've got people out for their evening jog, a bit of campus traffic to deal with, and other cyclists getting their ride on. However, this traffic is far different than the other maniacs in cars on the road. These are your people-the fitness people. I've arrived home sweaty, tired, ready for a snack before dinner...but very rarely do I get home as angry as I can get in the car. Another bonus-time on the bike has always been able to sort out things in my brain and put them in their proper compartments. That comment the boss made? Eh, he's just cranky. The rude customer? See previous. That problem-hey! I've got it! Things just resolve themselves when you can get physically reactive instead of just driving the same route you've done a million times.
This doesn't mean it's all rainbows and sunshine, floating to work like Nyan Cat. Getting my stuff together usually takes some forethought-usually the night before takes about 5-10 minutes of decision making. I work out over my lunch hour or immediately after work most days, so I have the option to wear my gym clothes to work, change there, and then repeat at lunch and then again on the way home. This gets a little dicey in the Summer when sometimes repeating that sports bra more than one exercise session is an unpleasant experience. I have to do laundry a bit more often in the Summer. But generally, I get my biking clothes laid out, my work clothes packed in the bag, add in my snacks and lunch for the day, and hope the backpack fits on my back without toppling me over. On occasion, I'll ride in work clothes but I've found that living in Nebraska, there's about 10 days a year I can make that work without sweat becoming a noticeable factor. Sorry, ladies, but I know we all sweat.
So, why do it? Why do we get up a bit earlier than normal, lay out our clothes like it's the first day of elementary school, and search for a magical thermos that will fit in our bottle cages? For a little "me time". For that extra bit of exercise when your day is simply too packed to fit anything else in. For the environment. To make Lincoln #1 in that commuter challenge. Everyone has their reasons. Finding the one that spurs you into the saddle instead of the seat on a sleepy April morning may take some time, but boy, will you enjoy the view once you get there.