Category Archives: Commuting

Night Riders

Who says you have to stop riding just because the sun has gone down?

Well, that’s what I used to think. Once we reached the point where we didn’t have enough evening daylight for our mid-week afternoon/evening rides they came to an end. Unfortunately so did the fitness until you started hitting the trainer.

This year a club member who grew up in Philly and used to do “night riding” with her club there has organized a night ride with our group.

Last week was the first one but I didn’t go. It was dark and windy. I had gotten home early enough to settle in for the evening and I would be damned if I was going back out on the bike.

This week was different. I had bike commuted to work so my return trip got me home a little later than driving. I was dressed and ready for biking so I didn’t change. The ride departure was also a little earlier, which meant there was less time to settle in. It was also warmer – in the mid 50’s.

I was excited and a little apprehensive, not ridden in the dark much. However, two days earlier I was out on a club ride and heading back when it was getting pretty dark. Surprisingly I felt pretty comfortable with it so I was ready for a full-on night ride.

A small group met at 6:10 to head north to rendezvous with another group 15-20 minutes away and then we headed off as a larger group. There were 11 of us total with a nice mix of men and women. Everyone had at least one head and tail light on. Some of us had two, like me who had a bike mounted front/rear light in addition to a head lamp and rear light on my helmet. Many of us also had reflective clothing on, or additional items for reflection. In short, we were highly visible and I was really surprised at how much we lit up the road.

I found the drivers seemed more courteous as well. I’m sure many of them were more than a little surprised to see a group of hearty, and perhaps a little crazy, cyclists out on an evening ride well after sunset.

We ended up with a 30-mile route and the pace was such that we all stayed together. That’s key so no one gets dropped or left behind in the dark.

Two hours later I arrived back home and thrilled about my first successful night ride and looking forward to next week’s ride with my fellow night riders.

A Man Named George

Sometimes it is well worth the time to slow down on the bike.

As I left my office by bike today I noticed a cyclist in the distance with panniers. This is not uncommon around my office – I often see groups of people riding through (always south) loaded down with gear.

I knew I would catch up to him/her and figured I’d slow down, say hi, and chat for a bit.

After saying hello, it was the usual questions. I asked him where he was heading. He replied in an accent, “Oh, Portland, then Portsmouth, and finally New York.”

So I asked him where he was from, expecting to hear Canada. I was wrong. He was from the Netherlands. Okay, now I needed  to know more!

Where was he coming from? Again, assuming Canada was the correct answer, which it was, but there was more. Turns out he had flown to England on June 21st to bike up to Scotland before flying to Iceland and biking around that country then finally flying into Hallifax, Nova Scotia. He explained he was biking to New York and need to be there by September 1st, which was when his wife was flying there to meet him. He was also making this trip solo.

We hit a hill and he said, “Okay, bye-bye.” He was much slower than me on the little hill, and with 50 kilos of gear and on a mountain bike,  you would be, too! I slowed and he caught up to me at the top. I told him that I wasn’t leaving him because I was enjoying chatting with him and if he didn’t mind, I’d like to ride with him for a while. He was agreeable to the idea so we rode and chatted more.

I asked him what the best part of the trip had been. He told me it was Prince Edward Island. I have heard it’s beautiful there and told him that. Then it occurred to me that he didn’t just land in Hallifax and head south. The guy headed north and rode around Nova Scotia before turning towards New York.

His average day is between 100 – 120 kilometers (60-75 miles) a day. Every day. He typically stays at a campground and sleeps in a tent but a few days ago, when I rained a lot, he told me with a sly grin that he stayed in a motel instead.

Soon I got to the intersection where I would normally turn right. Knowing George was going straight, I decided to go straight and continue to ride with him.

We talked about what we did for a living, how many kids we each had (and how many grandchildren he had), etc.  I’m not sure what it is about being on a bike but I can talk to anyone when I’m out biking. Put me in a room of strangers and expect me to mingle and I struggle. When I’m on the bike I can roll up to anyone and strike up a conversation.

He had ridden all over France and Switzerland in his life. I joked that this route must have seemed pretty flat to him after biking in Europe.This trip had been a dream of his for 10 years and here he was making it happen.

As we neared Portland I was already late getting home but decided a detour was in order to show him an efficient way to get him through the city and towards his destination a bit quicker.

We got to a point where I was going to leave him and wanted to get his picture. He was happy to accommodate my request.

My commuting companion, George from The Netherlands

I called my husband to report that I was late, had a good reason for it, and would explain when I arrived home soon. He informed me that he still wasn’t home and would be in about 30 minutes. I made the decision to ride a little further with George to make sure he made his way okay.

Then I realized it would be really nice to take a photo of him in Portland and email it to his family. He also thought this would be a great idea. So we did!

"Greetings from George in Portland, Maine"

It was finally time to say goodbye to George. I wished him well and told him it was a pleasure to join him on part of his journey. I will be thinking of him often over the next few weeks as he continues on his trip and especially on September 1st when his wife arrives to meet him.

Tonight I got home an hour later than normal, took a route I wouldn’t normally take, all because of a man named George. And I was happier for it.

Turning the Corner

We finally turned the corner on the weather. The sun has finally come out and it’s been a great few days!

I managed to commute by bike three days in a row this week – Wednesday through Friday.

Sometimes it seems like so much work to prep a bag, decide what’s best to pack in a messenger bag without getting too wrinkled, and get to work early enough to change, freshen, etc and look presentable for work. I don’t work in an office where it’s casual and being a woman doesn’t make it any easier. Still, I prevailed quite nicely.

My husband even bought a cute commuter bike and also commuted to work by bike this week.

It has felt so good to be back on the bike. I feel like I’ve been off it forever. Many of my fellow cyclists feel the same. It’s been a very dreary spring and hopefully this sunny weather continues for a long stretch.

First Bike Commute of 2011

Today was my first velo commute of the year. It was 27 degrees with clear skies and happy, singing birds. I was surprised it didn’t feel very cold.

I love the early morning commute. There is very little traffic so I can enjoy the ride and the beauty of the morning. The ride home will be a bit more hectic but manageable.

It’s amazing how great I feel when I bike to work. I arrive awake and very upbeat.

With gas prices creeping higher and higher, my goal is to commute more by bike this year. Planning it out and setting specific days to commute might help me achieve this goal. It’s too easy to be lazy and drive to work so I need to make an effort to make bike commuting part of my routine.

Vehicular Cycling

Today was another spectacular day to velo-commute. However, an interesting thing happened to me on the way home tonight. Let’s start with a little background.

I leave my house by 6:45 am. At that time there is little traffic. Still, as a commuter I follow the rules of the road. That said, I do take a few liberties when needed.

For example, I know the cycle of the lights pretty well. I know that if I’m at a light and there is no traffic moving in my direction at the light then it’s not going to change to let me through. So if I’m there through at least one cycle and still no traffic I’ll sneak through on someone else’s green light but only when it’s safe and when I know I won’t impede traffic or disrupt the flow of the intersection.

I will sometimes roll slowly through a stop sign after a car has passed and no one is waiting to get through.

However, during the afternoon commute, when there is much more traffic to contend with, I follow the rules implicitly. I stop at stop lights, behind traffic as if I am also a vehicle. I stop at stop signs and wait until it’s my turn, just like any other car.

So now I get to the interesting part of my story. I’m at an intersection where there are about 10 cars waiting to go through. It’s the less busy way through the intersection so the light isn’t as long as it is for cross traffic.

At this point I have two choices. 1.) Ride up along side of traffic to the light so I move in front of everyone or 2.) stay behind the last car and wait as a car would do. I chose the latter because it’s the right thing to do.

As the traffic in my lane starts to flow I get on and pedal easy, though I move to the right as I’m trained to do on a bike. Herein lies my mistake.

The car behind me sees an opportunity to move up past me, even though we are both moving slowly to the next light cycle. I really couldn’t believe this was happening though I shouldn’t have been surprised.

So as she slowed (yes, it was a woman) I kept moving and pulled in front of her and centered myself in the lane so she couldn’t do that again.

Here I was trying to do the right thing, acting as a vehicle, and she was going to crowd me out for it. Sheesh!

I know it seems like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth with the two scenarios for vehicular cycling. But they are indeed very different. If I thought that I could move through the intersections normally, as a car would, on my commute to work I absolutely would. With the lack of traffic it would be almost impossible to arrive at work within a reasonable time.

So what would you do in both of these situations? Do you encounter these same issues on your commute, or on your training rides when getting through intersections?

Today’s Commute

This was how I got to work today. It’s really the first time I’ve been on a MTB. I usually ride my road bike and use a messenger bag for all my “stuff”.

Using a MTB might be easier for a commute because it’s a little more solid especially when using panniers. (It also might give me a way out, into the shoulder, if I’m run off the road by a motorist.)

Last night I decided to take some time to put on the Quattro pedals we bought for it a while back, put the cleats on a spare set of shoes, and also put on the quick release rack. I pumped up the tires so it would be ready to roll.

I think I was a little excited about riding a different bike for my commute because I was up before my alarm. Instead of dawdling, I got up and ready to leave a little earlier, knowing the bike would probably be a bit slower. Also I wanted to stop off at the store on my way to pick up some fruit for snacks. I knew I would be able to manage it easily with the panniers on the bike.

Today was really a test for me in that I want to commute more by bike. Sometimes an errand or the amount of things I need to transport is a limiting factor. If I can manage ways around that with a different bike then there are fewer excuses not to velo-commute.

Velo Commute, Finally

I just haven’t gotten around to commuting much by bike this year. I did it once for Green Streets day on June 26th.

Today was supposed to be a nice day and with no errands to run or a group/training ride tonight, it was a good opportunity to bike to work. The plan was to ride easy both to and from work as a recovery ride.

It was an uneventful ride with the exception of another commuter pulling up next to me. We started chatting and I realized it was a guy that I rode with along the same route early in the season two years ago. Even though we ride the route often, his commute is longer so he had to leave earlier, thus we don’t see each other along the way.

You just never know who, or what, you are going to see or meet along a ride.