Monday, January 28, 2013

Someone's always got a more rad ride

A recent article from the New York Times website highlighted long-distance bike commuter Christian Edstrom and his 40-mile journey from Chappaqua, N.Y., to the offices of JP Morgan in Manhattan.

Edstrom said he commutes by bike in part to put his cycling into a block of time when he would be away from his family anyway. He gets to ride a couple of relatively high-mileage days without having to carve out the time from work or domestic life. The article stated he rides the commute at least two days a week. We can only speculate how often he exceeds that and by how much.

I know from my own modest efforts that a commute verging on long distance demands commitment. A life cooperating with others, whether just a spouse or domestic partner or with offspring as well, calls for adaptability. It's better to ride some of the time than none of the time. Zealots and the very fortunate need to remember that a purely bike-only lifestyle doesn't work for most people.

Long-distance commuters make good entertainment. People who wouldn't ride can use us as another excuse not to. "Well, I'm not up to riding 60 or 80 miles a day, so forget it." We also gather experience and provide feedback so that other riders, prospective riders and planners can improve techniques and infrastructure to make bike transportation easier and safer.

I envy the riders with lots of route options including traffic-free alternatives. My projected traffic-free alternative for the coming commuting season will add at least three miles as I work my way over to the trail on the inbound route. In some places those rail trail corridors actually provide cyclists with a more direct route than cars and trucks use. Some municipalities are studying the processes needed to co-locate bike trails with active rail lines so that the improvement of one mode need not require the decay of the other.

If a train swerves to hit you everyone has bigger problems than one hot-headed driver. And what a draft you might get.

The long-distance commuter community does seem to exhibit a bit of early-riser arrogance. One rider from Ridgewood, N.J., Rob Kotch, said that the early group of commuters leaves at 5:30 a.m., but would leave at 4:45 if a critical bridge on the route was open earlier. He said there's a shift leaving at 6:30 a.m. "for the lazy people."

I'm going to blow an air horn outside his bedroom at 9 p.m. Send him right to the ceiling.

I'm sure he was joking. But living in rural New England one gets sensitive to the competitive nature of early rising. The customary greeting for each other any time after 8:30 a.m. is "Good aftanooooon!"

I lost my membership in the early rising club when I took up with a musician. I was barely hanging in there anyway. Do good work while you're awake and get good rest when you're not. Ideally, anyway.

Plenty of rest these days. The subzero cold moves out, admitting a brief bit of snow which will then be sluiced away by heavy rain on Wednesday. All that seems to end up sticking to the ground in most places is ice. You can stud your tires and even your shoes, but it's never the same carefree romp as riding on firm, dry surfaces or skiing and snowshoeing (or even fat-bike riding) on packed or fluffy snow. Ice anywhere but on a rink or a natural water body (or an ice climb, for those inclined) is just a pain. Oh yeah, and in your drink.

I always think cabin fever season will be great for creative pursuits, but the lack of activity slows all my processes down. It's always a challenge to find the slot in the day where physical activity won't displace something else equally important, especially when the convenience of bike commuting isn't an option.

Until society adopts my idea for phys ed for everyone, we will each have to come up with whatever systems we can. Phys ed for everyone is my shorthand for the idea that every person should be given a couple of hours of prime daytime to do something for their personal fitness. Bike commuters who are satisfied with their exercise level could opt out and use the time for something else, but everyone would have the option to get out in daylight and the best weather if they wanted it, with no penalty and no stigma.

Some people go riding or running on their lunch hour. That only works if you get a lunch hour. And someone who is regularly active will need the lunch as well as the hour. I would rather work less and enjoy life more, even if I don't make as much money, than work to exhaustion and hope I live long enough to enjoy myself some day, while others are out of work completely.


CautiouslyAudacious said...

I usually commute 2 x a week in the summers and am a total wimp in the winters but my brother commutes every day year round. It's difficult to do but when not given a choice he says it's faster than waiting around for the bus. I do wish we had more options for safer routes. My commute is about 1/2 bike path and 1/2 shared road.

cafiend said...

Times when I didn't have a car I rode in any weather. In Maryland that wasn't too hard. Here in NH it can be more than challenging. These days I seldom find myself in a position where I have to take the bike or stay home, but it happens sometimes.

Steve A said...

When my own commute was 40 miles per day, I rode more miles than I do now my commute is down to 14, but by a lot less than most would imagine. Now, fog and rain and errands are taken in stride where they once were "drive" days.

adventure! said...

Ah, I think the "early risers club" is over-rated too. As Mark Sandman said: "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man or woman miss out on the nightlife."

greatpumpkin said...

I loved bike commuting when my work permitted it. In 2007-2008 I was regularly doing a ride of about 6 miles each way (half of it up a long, steep hill) that contributed to my 40-lb weight loss and gave me a baseline of conditioning with which to take on longer rides on weekends. Unfortunately my main business is largely car-dependent and unpredictable in its time demands. Most of my winter riding has been short grocery shopping trips, which are better than nothing. If I were changing careers again, the choice of what to do would be influenced by whether I could commute to it by bicycle. I've never been an early riser and I've always been a night owl.

Anonymous said...

From the title, I thought the post was about someone spouting out about how great his ride is as your previously posted billionaire customer comes in with his $10000 beater!

For 25+ years now I've been working rotating shifts, so sometimes I'm the early riser, leaving at 4:30am, or sometimes early afternoon or evening. I try to ride as much as I can, but not winter midnight shifts. I'll tell ya, getting on the bike on a 13F morning to get home is an experience I won't go through again!

One thing I won't do is brag or otherwise act differently from anyone else when I'm at work...I'll certainly answer any questions about bicycle commuting but I want people to realize it's just a way to get from point a to point b.

And I "miss out on the night life" most of the time!