PDA

View Full Version : One month under my belt...



Subby
01-31-2012, 09:38 AM
Fat, stressed and perennially late is no way to go through life. But that was me during the second half of 2011, car commuting from McLean to DC. I would spend upwards of 2 hours a day in the car for a round trip that totaled just 20 miles. No wonder my wife and kids kept telling me I was cranky. And fat. I thought it was just because I had turned 40.

So I dragged my 225 lb. carcass into The Bike Lane on January 2nd and bought a Trek 7.3 hybrid. The sales guy tried to upsell me into a road bike with paddle shifters, etc., but that seemed kind of intimidating, plus I wanted to get a nerdy rack for the back of the bike so I could haul all my stuff - and the cool road bike wasn't going to let me put racks on it.

Anyway, cold and scared 5h1t73ss, I made my first ride in on January 3rd. One mile into the ride, my sweat pant leg got stuck in my chain and bent something - maybe the derailleur, maybe the johnson rod - who knows? It just made a terrible scraping noise the rest of the way in and all the way home and I had to stay in the middle gear just to keep it from creating a ton of sparks and setting me on fire.

So that first trip sucked and I drove in the rest of the week. But I got my bike fixed that weekend and kept at it. I ran in a few days. I ran home a few days. But mostly I biked. I'm still The Slowest Biker on the Planet Earth but I made the trip in 49 minutes this morning - a new personal record! Plus the whole scared thing - familiarity extinguishes fear and the more I rode in, the more comfortable I became.

All told - I made 36 total trips to and from work in January (18 days in the office). 22 of them sans car. I saved 220 gas miles ($56) and I lost 15 lbs.. And I could not be happier.

Thanks to everyone on this forum for sharing their experiences and making the transition a little easier for me.

WillStewart
01-31-2012, 09:44 AM
Great way to create a bold shift in your lifestyle - kudos!

Have you noticed any difference in your physical fitness? How about outlook/attitude?

americancyclo
01-31-2012, 09:45 AM
12 mph is a respectable speed for a commute! Glad you're enjoying it, this afternoon's commute should be wondrous!

Greenbelt
01-31-2012, 09:59 AM
I was going to say exactly what americancyclo said (what is it about that!). After year and a half of regular commuting, I've totally stopped noticing my speed or time. I just sort of ride at whatever pace seems comfortable on the legs. If the wind is unfavorable, I just slow down. If it's good and the trails are clear and legs good, well then faster is fun.

The relaxingness and beauty of the commute is sort of sucking the competitive travel time optimization instinct out of me.

I notice this when I'm driving too. I'm thinking "What are these people speeding around so angrily about?" But then I get stuck in traffic and I remember what it's like.

pfunkallstar
01-31-2012, 10:04 AM
I was going to say exactly what americancyclo said (what is it about that!). After year and a half of regular commuting, I've totally stopped noticing my speed or time. I just sort of ride at whatever pace seems comfortable on the legs. If the wind is unfavorable, I just slow down. If it's good and the trails are clear and legs good, well then faster is fun.

The relaxingness and beauty of the commute is sort of sucking the competitive travel time optimization instinct out of me.

Unless you are looking to train, which is perfectly okay mind you, keeping track of time or trying to afterburn on the trail is counterproductive. I keep up a pretty quick pace, but have noticed that from WFC to Metro Center, hauling ass v. not quite hauling ass doesn't make much of a time difference. The things that really slow you down are riding safely, lights, cars, tourists, etc... all kind of important things. So I agree with Greenbelt, 'screw it,' you are going to get there so might as well enjoy it.

ALSO MAJOR KUDOS for keeping up the commute, Mclean to DC is hilly and has some intimidating areas to negotiate that aren't too bike friendly. Keep it up! It only gets easier in the spring, the summer, well, just be sure to bring a towel.

off2ride
01-31-2012, 10:09 AM
Keep it up Subby. It'll just get better and easier as the miles accumulate.

Riley Casey
01-31-2012, 10:40 AM
Well thats just a pitch perfect post for a day when its going to break 60 degrees. Great going Subby. Just think how much you'll enjoy these rides when its 60 degrees during your commute in the morning. Thats what a bike commuter lives for. A commute becomes a pleasure cruise and its over all too soon - but it always happens again the next morning. :D

eminva
01-31-2012, 11:18 AM
Yay! Way to go! This is great to hear. Anecdotally, I have noticed more commuters out on the trail compared to last winter, which is all good.

Just for the record, you can put a rack on a road bike and the sky will not collapse. I suppose there are those who will look askance, but hold your head high and get your stuff to work in whatever manner works best for you.

Hope to cross paths someday!

Liz

consularrider
01-31-2012, 11:23 AM
Definitely it appears there are more commuters this winter than the past four. Better weather does help, but I'm sure there are other reasons. Subby, glad to see you getting out there. I've been very happy being a year round commuter since coming to DC just over four years ago. And as eminva said, you can put a rack on a road bike. There are models that even have eyelets so you don't use the seatpost style. That said, I'm sure the FX 7.3 will serve you well. My hybrid commuter is heavier than that and I do like the more upright position while riding in rush hour traffic.

Dirt
01-31-2012, 11:30 AM
Fantastic and successful success story!!! I'm happy that January cooperated with weather. :D

pfunkallstar
01-31-2012, 12:05 PM
Definitely it appears there are more commuters this winter than the past four. Better weather does help, but I'm sure there are other reasons. Subby, glad to see you getting out there. I've been very happy being a year round commuter since coming to DC just over four years ago. And as eminva said, you can put a rack on a road bike. There are models that even have eyelets so you don't use the seatpost style. That said, I'm sure the FX 7.3 will serve you well. My hybrid commuter is heavier than that and I do like the more upright position while riding in rush hour traffic.

They are NEW commuters, which is awesome, at least I'm just taking a stab at that based on the combination of new bikes/and "not sullied spandex." That, or people just really lucked out over Christmas with some sweet new duds.

Arlingtonrider
01-31-2012, 12:19 PM
Congrats Subby! Commuting not only gets easier as time goes on, but also a lot more fun. I'm another one of those newly on the trails this winter, although i've been a fair weather commuter for a couple of years. Last January - zero miles. This month/year - 275 miles, not counting today, and liking it more all the time. Enjoy your rides!

p.s. I also ride a Trek hybrid and think it's an awesome bike for my riding and commuting needs. It's been my sole bike for about 13 years. Every once in awhile I think about getting an additional bike, but I haven't really felt the need for one yet.

Greenbelt
01-31-2012, 01:24 PM
Just for the record, you can put a rack on a road bike and the sky will not collapse. I suppose there are those who will look askance, but hold your head high and get your stuff to work in whatever manner works best for you.

Road bike (granted not a high-end or racing model) before and after various commuter conversions...
654655

5555624
01-31-2012, 01:53 PM
Every once in awhile I think about getting an additional bike, but I haven't really felt the need for one yet.

Come over to the dark side.... :D

dbb
01-31-2012, 02:10 PM
Welcome to the best fitness club in the DC area!

Not only is the dues really low, but the other members are great. This is the place to get advice and encouragement. As te weather improves, so will your fitness and joy about riding.

Dana

rcannon100
01-31-2012, 02:12 PM
First, I am 50, been bike commuting since I was 15 (use to bike several miles to church). I am almost a 100% bike commuter ---- if you are going 12 mph, you are going faster than me! (Dont worry about the speed - at whatever sucky speed I go.... I beat the 3 bus up Lee Hwy yesterday - 12 mph will beat stop and go rush hour traffic any day).

Second, DC to McLean --- curious as to what your bike route is?? Custis to Lee Hwy to Old Dominion??

Subby
01-31-2012, 02:29 PM
Thanks to everyone. The encouragement is so great...glad I found this place.

My attitude is much improved - I feel like I am getting paid to commute when I can spend gas money on stuff like donuts and beer. :)

To rcannon - I usually come home via CCT/Towpath/Chain Bridge in the evening. I love biking along that stretch of the Potomac in the afternoon but I'd rather do Custis in the morning.

Rootchopper
01-31-2012, 02:40 PM
Dang, you are off to an impressive start! I agree that there seem to be a lot more bike commuters this January than last but you really have to attribute much of that to the weather. It's been downright tolerable.

You're riding faster than me and I've been at this quite a long time. Keep in mind that you're going to work! If it was "play" it would make sense to rush. No worries. Enjoy the ride. As someone else said, after you've been at this for a while you'll stop paying attention to your speed. As for me, between the sunrises, the ninjas, the sunsets, the monuments all lit up, the bald eagles, the great blue herons and so forth, I see no reason to rush. (It helps that my boss is also a bike commuter.) In a month or so you'll be slap happy with all the flowers and songbirds.

I don't agree with the idea of putting a rack on any old racing bike. You may find the chain stays are too short for panniers. It's incredibly annoying to be hitting your heels on the panniers all the way to work. Also, I found the rear wheel on my old Trek 1200 (bought in the late 1980s) was really not up to loaded commuting. (How I hate the sound of a spoke breaking!) Your hybrid is a terrific choice.

Keep at it and welcome to the party.

Justin Antos
01-31-2012, 03:50 PM
Great story! I'm impressed you ran in and back from McLean - that would wipe me out.

Also, I've got a rack on my road bike too :).

acc
01-31-2012, 06:24 PM
What a great story! You bought a bike and fundamentally changed your life. I'm so happy for you. Congratulations and best wishes for another good month.

Ann

DaveK
01-31-2012, 06:42 PM
I don't really have anything new to add, just more of the same - great job, and at the time of year when it's the hardest to get started. Just wait until the sunny, beautiful days... well, much like today except with a little more light. Congrats!

KLizotte
02-01-2012, 01:30 AM
Subby, am I reading your original post correctly? You RAN into work last month on some days?! As in sneakers via your own power?! If so, then I'm flabbergasted. Running that far seems far scarier (and more exhausting) to me than biking. Lordy, no wonder you lost so much weight so fast.

Irrespective of whether you ran/run or not, congrats on keeping up with the bike commuting. As others have mentioned this is one of the hardest times of the year to take up regular cycling (I think August is right up there too) because of the cold, wind and darkness. April is typically a fantastic month to ride (March is a crap shoot but with the current freaky weather we've been having....)

Don't worry about not having a road bike. The hybrid you've got is a great all-around bike, esp since you ride the bumpy C&O (skinny tires do not like muddy, rocky tracks at all) and what matters most is fit and the "smiles per mile" it gives you. The only change I would suggest is upgrading the tires to those with a higher tire pressure (but sticking to the CX or hybrid style); this will give you a slightly faster ride for the same effort but still allow you to traverse cobblestones, the C&O, and the roads with ease. I very much like my recently installed Armadillo Elite CX tires; I can go thru anything with them without worrying about flats.

All the usual common sense stuff applies: know how to change a tire, make sure you know how your pump works (don't laugh, I didn't the first time I got a flat on one of my old tires and the two cyclists that stopped to help couldn't figure it out either), have good lights, carry around one of those tiny multi-use tool thingees (parts have a way of vibrating themselves loose over time like your water bottle cage), etc. Plan on cleaning and lubing your chain every 200 miles or so; it's a pain but makes a big difference in how well your bike runs and will save you money in the long run. If the LBS you bought your bike from offers a year of free service because you bought a bike from them, don't feel shy about using them a lot for anything and everything (they won't clean/lube your chain though :(). I got my money's worth of "freebie" service. Carry a travel pack of baby wipes with you; they come in remarkably handy. Always, always wear bike gloves of some sort - they will save your hands from road rash should you fall (I've learned this the hard way too).

Get copies of the freebie bike maps for the area (DC, Arlington, Fairfax, etc); makes it much easier to visualize how to get around by bike.

With the potential for winter to rear it's ugly head in Feb, pay attention to when there might be ice on the roads. The trails ice up quicker and longer than the roads. People are usually very good about posting updates here on the forum.

Your speed is right up there with average commuters and hybrid tires are slower than the skinny kind. You will also get faster as you lose more weight (both pounds and the heavy winter clothes) and become more fit. The disappearance of the winter wind helps too. Getting someplace safe and stressfree is more important than speed.

Trial and error with commuting clothes and equipment is part of the course for the first few months; after a while getting out of the door in the morning will be much quicker and more routine. If you don't have a shower at work, you may wish to start investigating your options now before summer comes since you will need to wash up before going to your job unless you are a freak of nature that doesn't sweat.

Once the trees start budding, the trail bunnies appear (lots of them!), and the flowers return you will start looking for more reasons to bike. Best to prepare the wife that she is going to become a bike widow soon.....

elcee
02-01-2012, 09:09 AM
12 mph is a respectable speed for a commute! ...

More than reasonable. There's a lot more anecdotal evidence vs. hard studies, but here's one about the French Velo'v system in Lyon (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1011.6266v1.pdf), where the average speed was about 13.5 kmh (8.1 mph).

Subby
02-01-2012, 09:22 AM
KLizotte - thanks for taking the time to share all of that. Very helpful and I really appreciate it.

I took everyone's advice and just enjoyed my ride home yesterday. No concern with time, just kind of going at my own pace. The weather was beautiful - and when I hit a few pockets of warm breezes, I got an incredible surge of euphoria. I think I am starting to get this bicycling thing. ;)