As I mentioned in my #30daysofbiking post (can’t believe it’s been TWO months since I wrote that — talk about time flying!), I’ve really enjoyed having a regular bike commute again. The weather has been quite accommodating this fall — until this week, I’ve only driven the car to campus once (a rainy day where I had to be across town right after class).
My previous regular bike commute ended in December 2009 when I took a job in Jefferson County (promoting biking, somewhat ironically) and ditched the bike for the car. While my current commute is a similar route to that last commute, there are some major differences that I’m dealing with this time around, including some things that I knew were nice, but didn’t fully appreciate about my last set-up.
Until now, I’ve always had a “home base” at my final destination. For a couple of years, that was just a cubicle, which wasn’t as nice as having my own office (a rare luxury these days, I know), but even with just the cubicle, it was something — a place where I could leave my stuff and not have to lug it around with me all day (think change of clothes, rain gear, cold weather clothing, etc.). As a non-employee student, that place to off-load is a luxury I don’t have.
During the 2.5 years that I had a private office, I had a built-in place to change clothes (rather than attempting to do so within the confines of a bathroom stall). I was also spoiled by being able to bring my bike right into my office with me — no need for my trusty steed to have to weather the elements. With my current commute, I’m lucky if I can cram Midnight into the partially covered bike rack on days when wet weather looms.
Similar to my previous commutes, I do have access to a locker room and shower on the other end. I’m able to leave a padlock on a locker, so I stashed a pair of shower sandals and a bar of soap. Unfortunately, all of the lockers are half-size, so it limits the usefulness as far as stashing gear on a daily basis (might need to get a second padlock and just claim another locker, as I’m about the only person to use the space anyway!).
I’ve used the locker room to change and freshen up a number of times, and in October I finally got around to trying the showers. All went well the first time, but on the second occasion, there were no towels available (there had been previously, so I hadn’t brought my own), and I was forced to ditch the shower plan in favor of a less comprehensive clean-up regimen — guess I need to stash a towel there, too!
The other big difference is that on my previous commute, I had a fairly easy public transit back-up plan: a short walk to a bus that ran every 20 minutes -> bus ride to MetroLink (light rail) -> MetroLink to within a block of my office. That meant that if the weather looked iffy later in the day (storms, heavy rain, winter weather), I could confidently bike to work, knowing I could leave my bike locked IN my office and rely on transit to get home. And on totally rotten days, I could leave both the bike and car at home and enjoy transit (to be fair, not always a perfect experience, neither as fun nor convenient as biking, but it usually worked out well).
I haven’t even looked at my transit options for my current commute, but I know it’s nowhere near that nice, and while technically doable, it starts bordering on ridiculous when I do have access to a car.
Anyhow, that’s a snapshot of the forecast for the beginning of this week (taken on Monday). I drove to class on Monday night and I’m car-bound today as well. Fortunately, Thursday looks better.
I have biked in rain a few times this semester, once or twice in fairly light stuff (but you still get pretty wet after 40 minutes) and once in an all-out downpour. Doable, but it requires hauling my wet stuff around all day (or cramming it into a half-size locker where it doesn’t really have a chance to dry), and no nice transit back-up if things get really nasty, so it’s definitely a harder sell.
We’ll have to see how the weather plays out in the new year. January and February usually bring our worst winter weather. Between getting myself and Gabriel where we need to go, I may need to accept being in the car more than I’d really like for the first several weeks of the spring semester.
Regardless of what the new year brings, I’m quite happy to have established this new bike commute. I’m definitely stronger and faster than I was just a few months ago, and I’m reaping the mental health benefits of the regular physical activity as well. At the end of the day, there’s something so rewarding about getting somewhere under my own power!