Monday, May 08, 2006

Work is the Time Between Rides

With a route just under an hour inbound and more than an hour outbound, riding makes up a good chunk of my workday. The work itself just becomes the time between rides.

Working in the bike shop gives it all a unified theme, but I have not always worked in the industry. Wherever I worked, I rode my bike to it.

For a while I worked three days a week at a newspaper and two to four days a week at the bike shop. The contrast was interesting.

At the newspaper I would arrive, change into the work clothes I kept on the premises, go to my computer terminal and sit. I might have to go downstairs to the front office a few times, but generally I spent the working hours sitting on my butt, correcting people's writing. Sometimes, faced with the same wad of errors from the same writers week after week, I would simply pass out, my head falling to the desk in front of me.

At the bike shop I spent most of the day on my feet at a repair stand. I had to lift and lug things. As the years have passed I have welcomed opportunities to sit.

At the end of the day I was either tired and butt-sore from sitting or tired and footsore from standing. The best part of the day was the ride.

Because I have ridden my bike to every job I've had since I graduated from college in 1979, I tend to rate life based in large measure on how the ride is. True, I use the car now for the dark months, particularly with a winter commute of 70 miles, but I know I will get back on the bike as soon as conditions remotely permit it. I have almost a thousand commuting miles already this year. That does include base miles to prepare for commuting, but those tend to be minimal because passable riding conditions and sufficient daylight for the commute usually arrive together.

As a practical matter, my wife and I will do a half-carpool sort of thing on certain days. She goes to town at a different time, with more stuff, requiring a car. If we happen to be headed home at the same time, I can hitch a lift with her to keep from pounding out the same 30 miles at the same commuting pace day after day. I know a pedaling purist would never get off the bike. I used to be that way myself.

There are two ways to vary your ride length if you do the same route every day. You can shorten the route by taking other transportation on some days or you can lengthen it by adding extra distance to either half.

My average commute is 30-33 miles. In the past, I might run that up to 50 or more on some days, making the basic 30 feel shorter. That works, but it takes time. At least once while I was training to race I rode the full 30-mile commute, followed by a 50-mile training ride with another rider after I got home. More frequently I would run the day up to 48 miles by diverting to the newspaper's parent company to pick up the payroll to deliver to our office. I did not get extra pay for courier duty.

On a recent trip to Boston I was reminded that bike commuting encompasses a huge variety of routes, riders and machines. It requires only one vital ingredient, the urge to incorporate a bicycle into the process. People ride to their carpools, ride to the train station, or ride the whole distance. That distance can be long or short.

We're well into National Bike Month. For those of us who ride it's just another month of riding. But don't forget to talk it up to people who might be teetering, inclined to ride but in need of an extra nudge. Stress that riders create their own style from all the options available.

1 comment:

Treadly&Me said...

Nice post cafiend. "Work is the Time Between Rides" - I like that. For ages I've been saying that "Work is just something I do while I’m out on a bike ride".

Say it either way - it helps to keep everything in perspective doesn't it?