Committed to the Commute

Yesterday I decided to observe and celebrate the first day of spring by bike commuting for the first time in 2012.

For me, getting organised for “the commute” is a serious undertaking. It’s 30 km each way so a lot of clothing layers are required to be prepared for all the weather possibilities this time of year in Calgary, and my preferred route follows a combination of surface streets and bike paths, so proper lighting, reflective clothing and a bell are all musts. Additionally, I drive a work truck, so if I am going to ride to work, I first have to make sure my truck is there should I need it during the day.

I also need to make sure I have a sufficient amount of clean work clothes at the office to last me the week, or at least as many days as I plan on biking. It is too much to pack the clothes back and forth each day along with my lunch, especially without getting my clothes overly wrinkled. I regularly give presentations to large groups of Engineers and clients so I need to look at least quasi-respectable. To this end, I removed the shelves and quietly made some other modifications to a “book cabinet”
in my office. Note the chain lube sitting on top:

The Commuter’s Office

The Secret Towel Rack

Back of Door – Layers of the Commute

Any week that I plan on commuting by bike, I pack everything I will need into my truck on Sunday night. I drive to work on Monday morning, unload everything into my office, and then park my truck in the shop until I next need it. I bike home at the end of the day, and continue biking back and forth until Friday afternoon, or until something comes up that requires me to drive home. This means that when I wake up each morning, regardless of the weather or how tired or lazy I am feeling, my vehicle is 30 km away, and I am Committed to the Commute. Case in point, this morning:

In anticipation of my first commute home from work yesterday, I brought my mountain bike to work, thinking it was the safest bet in the event of any new pathway detours or lingering ice or snow patches. It was to be my “scout” ride. I also attended to the weather forecast throughout the day. Although the temperatures looked fine, the winds were predicted to be gusting at 40 – 60 kph from the west, and my ride home is pretty much exactly to the west.

As it turned out, the forecast was not wrong. A 30 km ride with a few hills that usually takes me an hour and ten minutes took me a full hour and forty-three minutes.

The wind buffeted me head on and I found myself stuck in a mental rut, rotating through just three thoughts as I spun in granny’ish gears: 1. the local above-average windiness of the past couple of months has been a hot-button news topic as of late, so, no, I am not imagining it; 2. I can’t believe I brought my mountain bike – my heavy, full suspension mountain bike with big fat lugged tires that puts me in an upright perfectly wind-catching position – instead of my road bike; and 3. if I look over my shoulder and catch somebody wheel sucking while I struggle feebly against the wind I am going to violently clothesline them when they eventually pull out to pass me.

It took me a little longer than normal and I was pretty tired, but, as always, I made it home just fine and the second I stopped pedalling I returned to a pleasant and happy state, content to have tackled and completed another windy ride.

Still wrapped in several layers of sweaty cycling clothes I inhaled some turkey loaf for dinner at a pace much quicker than that which I had cycled at, and then enjoyed a nice long hot shower.

Later that night, still perched atop my post-ride high, I climbed into bed with images of a right jolly ride to work the next day dancing in my head. Roughly six and half hours later, I was roused from my sleep feeling deep hatred for my stupid alarm clock and those images of the night before were replaced with the feelings, sights and sounds of a fuzzy, tired, dark, windy, and cold morning reality. Yuck. There is NO way I wanted to bike ANYWHERE. The night before mania had been replaced by the morning after depression. But like it or not, I was Committed to the Commute.

With no way out, I got out of bed, dressed extremely warm, and pedaled off into the dark morning air. My sour mood quickly melted away. Save some frozen fingers and toes, the ride in was enjoyable and quick at just over an hour. And with a quick trip to Mountain Equipment Co-op at lunch today (hi Lincoln) to pick up some Gore-Tex boot liners and a pair of split finger cold weather gloves, it should be at least a little easier to Commit to the Commute tomorrow morning.


How to Dry Your Cycling Shorts in a Pinch

I travel a fair bit for work, and I try as best I can to get some exercise when I am on the road. Sometimes this leaves me with the predicament of how to properly clean – or at the very least air out – my wet, sweaty, and let’s face it…….utterly, totally, EPICALLY disgusting three-day-old gym clothes. But then I came up with one heck of a solution. It requires your hotel room to have a certain accessory, but it is otherwise very quick, very straightforward, and almost automatic. Scroll down and enjoy:





scroll down further…..










almost there….






How to Dry Your Cycling Shorts in a Pinch

The Results are in

Well folks, it’s been exactly one week, and the results are in. According to the participants of my first ever poll (in no particular order): I am a dum dum, a cry baby and an imposter cyclist; and the most interesting thing about me is not that I fixed up an old rusty bike from the landfill and now ride it with great pleasure, or that I have a special and dear riding partner who reminds me of the joys of riding, but that I am guilty of once flipping a motorist the finger. Hmpf. Be careful what I ask for, right?

I am just kidding, of course. The whole poll episode was great fun for me, and I drafted those responses with intention and zeal, excited for people to pick any of them. Before I review the actual results with you, though, a few thank you’s are in order.

The first is a big thank you to everyone who voted, favorited my post, or chose to follow me on WordPress or Twitter. Thank you, it’s all appreciated. Some people went so far as to offer up their own responses to my poll, and those that were intended to be funny (… we really have to talk to our wives if they are our riding partner 1x a month?….), definitely were. Thanks for taking the time.

Another huge thanks goes to Fatty from Fat Cyclist. Without him, the number of respondents would have been, well…..just a wee bit smaller.

I am a regular reader of the Fat Cyclist blog, and a supporter of all the humour and charitable goodness that Fatty brings to this world. Accordingly, I own a Fat Cyclist jersey and wear it with pride, which I alluded to in my poll.

On February 20, after posting the poll to my blog, I tweeted the following to Fatty with a link to my poll: “Yes, I admit I’ve worn my Fat Cyclist jersey to spin class. Does that embarrass you?”.

Up to that point of the day, there had been 12 visits to my blog. Within 3 hours of Fatty retweeting the link, there were 496. The Fatty Effect. Thank you Fatty, you made my poll a whole lot more fun.

Now, the presentation of the results, followed by my in-depth analysis. For the latter, I have decided to elaborate upon the most popular poll responses. The proportional number of votes for an answer will be my guideline for the depth of interpretation necessary. And following that, where necessary to preserve my dignity, will be my rebuttal.

For question number 1, I asked whether cycling jerseys belonged in indoor spin classes. Most of the voters selected “n/a – ‘Spin class’ and ‘cyclists’ simply do not belong together. Get outside and ride, you crybaby”. I interpret the popularity of this response thusly:

Cyclists do not “spin”. We have voted at our secret cycling clubhouse (where aluminum is banned, the password is “bidon”, and we demand everyone speak in French) and determined that you may no longer refer to yourself as a cyclist. Not even if you continue to use the pre-qualifier “recreational”, as you have done until now. You may be “spinning” (insert dramatic, venomous “puh-too” / spitting sound) inside because it is winter time, you live in Calgary, and it’s lonely when you ride the trainer in the basement, but that just makes you a crybaby. You can never join our élite club, but if you stop spinning immediately, and vow to henceforth only ride your bike outside, or on the trainer, then one day we may let you help unload our bikes (please wear velvet gloves), pump up our tires (no, you can’t use a gas station compressor pump), and wave to us as we pedal away for a group century (we will pretend we don’t know you).

Wow. Enough said. I should obviously feel shame. If you would like an apology from me, I would be more than happy to issue one. To get your heartfelt apology in person, please come and find me next Thursday morning around 6 a.m. I’ll be at Westside Rec Centre in the cycling studio. I’ll be the one wearing a jersey.

Actually, the funny thing with question number one is that the next most popular answer, with 22% of the votes (third place received only 8.5%), represents the polar opposite opinion: jerseys can rightfully and proudly be worn anyplace, anytime. Obivously, this is a very relevant, dominant and polarizing issue. I will contact my local political pundits immediately, and see that this issue gets the attention it deserves during the next federal election. I suggest you do the same.

Question 2 asked how a recreational cyclist such as myself might best prepare for riding the 2012 Canmore 24 Hours of Adrenalin as a solo rider. In this case, the most popular response, with 30.5% of the vote, was the one I had most hoped people would pick, because it was the one that described my exact plan: start training later. To those people who chose that response, thank you, you are kind and empathetic to my procrastinating and seasonal ways. And your passive support must have worked because I was up at 5 a.m. on the next weekday, riding my trainer in the basement.

Your second choice, with 28% of the vote, was: “n/a – ‘Recreational cyclists’ don’t ride the 24HOA solo. Re-examine your choices you dum-dum.” Enough people voted for this that it is clear they were trying desperately to send me this message:

“Recreational” cyclist is a misnomer – there is no such thing. Cyclists are people who ride until they crash out, Shermer’s Neck sets in, or they win the race. That’s it. And if someone does self-identify as a “recreational” bicycle rider (notice we refuse the use the word cyclist here) e.g. someone who rides “occasionally” and for “fun”, they should not enter any race, and should most certainly be blocked for life – forcibly if necessary – from entering any 24 hour race. 24 Hour races are hard-core. As are cyclists and mountain bikers. It’s black and white. No gray. Except for carbon fibre.

This was almost the winning answer. Yikes. Had it won, I would have been forced to tell you that this recreational cyclist (yeah, I said it) ALREADY completed the race last year as a solo competitor. That’s right, I tucked 8 laps under my size 32 belt. So there. I was underprepared, and it really hurt, so I’m not disagreeing about the dum-dum part. It’s the recreational cyclist part I’m desperately clinging to. If I were to think of myself as anything more, I might have to train and forego that banana loaf I enjoyed tonight.

As for the final poll question, “what should I write about next”, the clear winner was “why you should think twice before flipping that guy in the car the middle finger.” This one was low on my list of priorities, but I am a jersey-wearing, spinning, recreational cyclist of my word, so I shall oblige. Stay tuned…..