In early May while keeping up with general training, I suffered a calf injury. I couldn’t run, even the elliptical seemed to put stress on the calf. I was distraught. In an effort to maintain my fitness level, I turned to the bike. At that time I had a hybrid bike, the Canondale Bad Boy. The Bad Boy is a great bike for commuting and riding around the city with slick tires. I have a set of rims with knobby tires for the Bad Boy too, but the bike is neither a great road bike nor a great mountain bike. It’s utilitarian. I tried to do a couple 20+ milers on the Canaondale and knew I would have to bite the bullet and get a real road bike. In the meantime, I figured why not commute to work as much as possible.
At the time my office was only 4 hilly miles away. I had a gym right next to my office which was key for being able to commute. After all, Maryland’s summers are super hot and humid. I would never be able to ride in without the aid of a shower to freshen up before heading to the office. I started commuting with a messenger bag from Timbuk2. I could carry clothes and toiletries, but there was no room for my laptop. The other issue with the messenger bag is carrying weight high on my back (wholly sweaty back!) Not being able to carry my laptop eliminated two days from the commuting schedule off the bat. I couldn’t ride in on Mondays and Fridays if I wanted my computer over the weekend. To solve the problem, I went to REI and purchased a Topeake bike rack. The Canondale Bad Boy has disc brakes so, I had to make sure I got a rack that had clearance over the brakes. Next, I needed saddle bags. I took my laptop with the laptop bag down to the store and tried slipping the bag into the saddle bags to make sure the set up would work. I ended up buying waterproof Ortleib bags / Panniers. Waterproof and laptops go together GREAT! They have worked out quite well.
Once my bike was set up, I just needed to pack. To avoid forgetting items I loaded up a toiletries bag that had everything I needed. On Monday’s I would just zip it up and throw it into one of the Ortleib bags. The rest was easy, pack the clothes and the laptop. I started biking to work in May. Between May and September I bought gas for my car one time. I still have filled up again yet. I drive a 1988 Volkswagen Westy/Vanagon that gets 12 mpg. Not fueling up for that long is crazy. I had no idea when I started commuting I would be able to save that much gas.
Riding to work was so much fun that even after my injury healed, I continued to commute by bike. Even after 14 mile runs before work, I would hop on the bike for the quick commute. The miles really added up, eight miles a day. I also started falling in love with cycling. I ended up, after years of procrastination, buying a real road bike. After commuting all week and doing my running miles, on Sundays I would treat myself to a 30-40 mile ride on my super cool carbon fiber self propelled rocket. The difference between the two bikes is the difference between driving an SUV and a Porsche.
So after a great summer of riding and commuting what did I take away?
I recently relocated my office and the commute will at least double, I need to find a shower and I will be good to go.
Get a bike. Get some bags. Get a shower. Get to work.