Six Random Observations from Six Months of Bicycle Commuting

Six months ago I started commuting to work by bicycle.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and finally after moving out of our house and to an apartment closer to work I was within biking range.  It was scary at first, which seems silly, but when you’ve been driving to work for the past 20 years doing something completely different is scary.  Plus there were unknowns, like can I bike that far, will I be stinky when I arrive, what will my coworkers think.  Happily everything worked out great and I’m really enjoying the new commute.

Over the past six months I’ve observed some things that I didn’t notice when driving to work, so today I’d like to share six random observations from six months of bicycle commuting.

  1. Animals are everywhere.  I never noticed all the wildlife around the city and in the suburbs when I was driving.  The slower pace of biking has allowed me to see deer, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, frogs, and various types of birds.
  2. I think lizards may be adrenaline junkies or may have some weird death wish thing going on.  Lizards sit on the sidewalk to warm themselves in the sun, and when I roll up on my bike they dart out from the complete opposite side of the sidewalk and try to run under my tires.  I try to dodge them as best I can, and so far I’ve only rolled over one of them, but I’d prefer not to squish the wildlife during my bike commute.  Squirrels are a close second.  I had one dart out and hit my spokes which sent him flying up in the air.  When he landed he took off at full speed for the nearest tree.
  3. Biking in the rain isn’t so bad.  All my coworkers always talk about the rain like it’s the end of the world if I have to ride home in the rain.  It’s not like acid falls from the sky… it’s just water.  I ride every day unless it’s raining in the morning for the ride to work or if there is a really high percentage of bad storms for the ride home after work.
  4. Weather forecasters can’t forecast the weather.  I’m sure we all know this, but I’ve noticed it even more when I check the weather in the morning to see what the afternoon ride home will be like.  So when I said high percentage of bad storms in observation number two, I’m talking about 80% or better chance of rain combined with my own observations of what the week has been like.  Anything less than that and it might not rain at all.
  5. Drivers go absolutely nuts before a rain storm.  It’s like they have completely forgotten their car will shield them from the wetness of the rain.  They drive fast and reckless as if they have to rush home before it starts to rain or those drops from the sky will melt their cars.  There must be some sort of animal instinct that tells us to rush for cover, but it’s one we should pay more attention to as it puts us in danger and causes accidents.
  6. Biking to work saves money on gas, but costs more on food.  According to my pedometer software, which has a place to enter other activities, I burn about 450 calories each way, so about 900 calories for the round trip commute.  I’m hoping some of that will lead to a little more fat loss, but some of those calories have to be replaced.  When I bike to work I tend to eat a slightly larger breakfast and/or have a power bar or some fruit as a snack between breakfast and lunch.  I’m also really hungry when I get home, so we’ve been eating dinner earlier in the evening and I usually a little more on the days I ride.

I have really been enjoying my bike commute, and I look forward to my ride home every day.  When I was driving to work I dreaded the traffic on the drive home, and now my bike commute is the highlight of my workday.   I’d like to hear from you, what do you notice when you ride a bike, or when you take life at a slower pace?

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Comments

  1. says

    Are you still using the first bike? I find it hard to believe you can be sold a bike which will only go for 75 miles before it falls apart! if you are now commuting practically every day you must be running up a lot of miles. Good for you! Do you think your colleagues will catch on to this? It sounds as though you want to carry on doing it so it would be worth investing in a good bike I should think. I live in a country area and it is amazing the number of animals which seem to have a death wish – including deer sadly. There are some roads I just won’t drive down at night because of my fear of hitting a deer. Not your problem during the day I imagine! Happy cycling!

    • says

      Hi Frances,
      I did upgrade my bike. I upgraded to a Jamis Commuter 1. It’s a $400 entry level commuter bike, and so far it’s working really well. I have about 700 miles on it at this point and it’s still going strong. I commute by bike three to four days per week. I work at home on Wednesdays and we are off every other Friday, so pretty much every day I go into work I commute by bike. It’s a 20 mile round trip, so the miles do add up.

  2. says

    I have been biking to work from spring to autumn for several years now, taking the bus during the winter, and I wouldn’t even know how to do it any other way. We don’t own a car, so that’s not an option for me. I have noticed the same thing you wrote about when it comes to rain, people seem to be ridiculously afraid of it! It doesn’t bother me at all, since I can just hop into a warm shower both at work and at home. Biking to work really is the best.
    Anzi´s last blog post ..Uusi Projekti 333 kausi alkaa

    • says

      Hi Anzi,
      Thanks for dropping by and sharing. It’s great to hear from someone else commuting by bike. I wish we had showers at work, that would be nice after biking to work. Isn’t it silly how people react to a little water falling from the sky?

  3. Karen (scotland) says

    Love that your commute home is now the highlight of your day. I’ve never commuted by bike but used to live in a city centre and walked everywhere. I remember the twenty minute walk (to work) there and home was a good way to blow the cobwebs out my head and gather my thoughts on the day ahead/behind me.
    Glad cycling is working out for you.
    Karen (Scotland)

  4. says

    Great post about the fun of biking to and from work! Since I do not own a car, my bike is my only transportation throughout the spring, summer and fall. I live in a fairly large city and I can get anywhere I need to on my bike. It’s great for all the above points you mention and saves me a ton of cash each year! I also like biking in the rain as well…:)

    Lyle
    lyle @ the Joy of Simple´s last blog post ..Simple Pleasures – Fun Mobility

    • says

      Hi Lyle,
      I love hearing from other people that use a bike for transportation. What do you wear when you bike in the rain? I’ve been using a poncho, but I’m curious to hear what you use.

  5. says

    Hi Freedom. I actually just wear what I have on at the time. I have never bothered to buy any rain gear and try to plan my day according to the weather-person. I have however gotten soaked a number of times which I kind of enjoy. However, if I am biking to a student’s house (I’m a guitar teacher), it can be a little uncomfortable giving a lesson in wet clothes, but other than that, I don’t mind biking in the rain. It’s kind of like me battling Mother Nature…although she always wins :)

    All that said, I do like the poncho idea and as long as it doesn’t impede movement and such, I might look around my local Good Will shops to see if there’s such a thing.

    Really enjoying the blog by the way :) Take care.

    Lyle
    lyle @ the Joy of Simple´s last blog post ..Simple Pleasures – Fun Mobility

  6. Arlene Martinez says

    I also have a cruiser bike and I have been riding since mid-May. I live in Seattle and my normal commute is 2 miles to work and 2 miles back, but once or twice a week I’ll do a 5-8 miles journey to some nearby neighborhood. Just now I am experiencing biking in less than 40 degrees. Here are some things I’ve noticed from biking:

    1. At the beginning, I was much more grateful of the time I got to spend at my destinations, as I would really struggle to get there. (Seattle is really hilly, so even the 2mi back from work has a humungous and challenging hill to overcome in a cruiser)
    2. I’d much rather get wet riding my bike than trying to catch a bus.
    3. I actually get less cold riding my bike than busing. But it is always hard to get motivated to get started.
    4. Both my husband and I sold our car and switched to bikes and we save $250 a month.
    5. Since I started riding, I am always checking out other people’s bike and gear.
    6. Biking you get to smile at other cyclists and drivers (to make sure they don’t run you over). Conversations sparks in communities of cyclists struggling over a hill or getting drenched in the rain.

    In short, I have LOVED switching to commuting by bike and even though it seems unorthodox to do so in a beach cruiser, I am a slow rider anyway, so I enjoy the view, have a comfy bum and don’t sweat over potholes.

    Thanks for your blog! When did your bike break? Did you get a new one? Post a photo! OK, I’ll continue navigating this blog for a li’l longer and I may find these answers myself.

    :)
    Arlene

    • says

      Hi Arlene,
      Thanks for stopping by. I started on a cruiser, and if I had a shorter commute I might have stuck with it as I really like the way they ride. Mine started having problems after a month of daily commuting. It was already old and had sat out in the weather, and I guess the daily commute was too much for it.

      I upgraded to a 7 speed commuter bike, a Jamis Commuter 1. It’s been running strong for the past 10 months.

      I’ve been having a bad run of flat tires lately, and I just ordered some puncture resistant tires in the hopes that will help.

      I can relate to the motivation to get started. It wasn’t bad in the summer, but now that it’s cooler in the morning I have a harder time convincing myself that I should ride instead of drive.

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