Essay: The bicycle commute
National Bike to Work Day was last month. Reading other people’s stories and social posts about biking to work got me thinking about my own bicycle commute, one that is now defunct as my home and my office are one and the same.
While working from home has its distinct advantages (lots of time spent in sweat pants, no office gossip distractions, being able to work when it best suits me, lack of a commute means time saved to do other things), I do miss riding my bike to work. Yes, I can go ride my bike before work, and I do, but having a distinct destination is different.
For the past few years, I had a 12-mile ride if I went the short way, and 14-20 miles if I got ambitious. I live in a very rural setting and worked in the nearest town, so many of these miles were back roads and even some gravel if I so chose. It was great. Though it was hard to get out the door some mornings, especially the chilly ones or rainy ones, starting the day feeling refreshed and satisfied was always worth it.
When I first started riding to town, it seemed like a big deal. I thought it warranted a lot of extra effort – waking up earlier, packing a change of clothes, making sure to allow enough lee time in case of a mechanical or dead leg. Then when I got there, I’d have to shower, change, and make myself look presentable to the world. It was so much easier to jump in the car, drive 15 minutes, and be there. No change of clothes required. I liked the idea of riding, but in reality, the convenience of a motorized vehicle won out over pedaling far too often.
Then my husband and I went through a series of car misfortunes that left us sharing one vehicle for months. We worked on the same block so we often carpooled, but I worked odd hours at a restaurant and he worked long hours at an outfitter. When the busy season hit, our hours lined up less and less often, so carpooling was no longer convenient. Riding to work became much more necessary.
The more I rode, the easier it became. I got my routine down pat. I always had my gear ready to go. I learned exactly how long it would usually take me to ride and how much time I needed to leave to chance and freshen up. I was riding more, so I was getting faster and the commute seemed less and less difficult. Before too long, those 12 miles became a quick sprint rather than a daunting ride.
I realized that I actually looked better on the days that I biked to work because my skin radiated a healthy glow. I realized that showers are overrated and I actually didn’t smell as bad as I thought I did. I became known as “that girl who rides her bike everywhere” (an exaggeration, but where I live, it’s rare to see people biking for transportation at all).
I’d started passing many of the same cars, on their commutes too. The same school busses would rumble by each morning. The guys in the kitchen at work made it a point to ask me every day if I’d ridden my bike in.
We finally bought a second vehicle, but I still rode my bike to work on a fairly regular basis. By now, it was easy, a welcome beginning and end to my day, a much easier endeavor than I initially thought.
Though I don’t have a daily commute anymore, I enjoy riding to town whenever I can, or to the local tavern, or to social gatherings, or to bike rides (ride to the ride, as they say). There’s something highly satisfying about biking for transportation, using the power of your own legs to get you where you need to go. You might arrive sweatily, but it’ll be worth it, I can promise you that.