I’m putting together a page that will inspire people to consider commuting by bike, or just getting around in general on a bike instead of driving. So many of the trips taken by car are short (under 3 miles) and don’t require hauling 50 pound bags of dog food, and yet we don’t think twice about grabbing the car keys and driving. Time to “Think Different” as Apple would say! So please, respond to this with your bike commute story, and I’ll see what I can do to organize things and inspire others. Thanks- –Mike–
I was really hoping today would be the last ride for my rain bike this season, but looks like it stays upstairs for a couple more days after looking at Tuesday’s forecast. I shouldn’t complain much; look at the cancelled first stage of the Tour of California, due to snow and cold. Could be worse! Nothing quite so epic for my ride; we waited out the worst of the rain this morning, finally heading out at noon for a short (39 mile) ride in the foothills, made a bit more interesting by first climbing up “walking” Joaquim (as the end of Alpine Road in Portola Valley) in a brief hail storm, and then punishing ourselves a bit more by riding up Page Mill just past Foothill Park and then down Moody before heading home. Kevin was doing fine but I felt really sluggish, probably because I’m fighting off one of those short-lived sore throat/head cold things that have been making their rounds.
But I’ve got nothing as interesting to say or show as last Thursday’s ride, in the post immediately below this. The video for that ride has gone semi-viral, already up to 7500 views in just a few days. Contrast that to the normal 100-200 my prior videos get seen (although my bike commute video is up to 750 or so). I shouldn’t be surprised that my experiences with our website would mirror TV… violence and gore sells! –Mike–
Just 4 of us this morning with Karl, Eric and Marcus heading with me up through the park. Tuesday’s routing is rigid; we absolutely positively will not go through the park on Tuesdays. But Thursdays I’m willing to let the mob decide, and the mob often goes for the back route through Huddart Park.
Nobody was setting any records this morning, although I’m sure Marcus is capable if he desired. I just stayed on his wheel as long as I could and then adopted the more-sensible pace set by Eric.
But the main event had nothing to do with us this morning. Shortly after Skeggs (just after Marcus had left us for home), I hear something coming up from behind, yell out “car” and move to the far-right (I should point out that my normal positioning on a quiet road is not the far-right edge of the road, because you’re not as visible from a distance as you are when you’re in the lane, but I always move over before the car arrives). The time between me yelling “car” and its arrival was incredibly short, because this guy was going incredibly fast. So fast that, when Karl picked the pace up a bit, I jokingly asked him if he was going to try and catch the guy. So fast that I was thinking at the time, can you really drive this section that fast?
The answer is no. Just past the bend in the road we came across the busted remains of a black BMW, upside-down, maybe reduced in height by a third or so as the roof had collapsed a bit. We really didn’t know what we were going to find inside, but didn’t think much of it as we approached the car, figuring that we might be the only people around for a while and whatever needed to be done quickly, had to be done by us. I tried calling but my cell phone didn’t work (neither did someone else’s Verizon; eventually a local resident drove through with what looked like a Sprint PTT (push to talk) phone that did work. Eric went down the road a bit to try his phone there, and stop incoming traffic. We also stopped a car and asked they head down to Sky Londa and notify the fire department. And checked out the condition of the car and the occupant, concerned about the possibility of a fire, in which case we’d have to throw caution to the wind and get that guy out of there, injuries notwithstanding.
As it turned out, there were no leaking fluids, no smell of gas, just some wisps of “smoke” coming from the remnants of 6 blown airbags. The guy was semi-alert but likely cold, and we had nothing to put over him. No obvious external injuries, but someone going from 80+mph to zero in the blink of an eye is obviously going to be busted up a bit. We worked on getting the doors open, which seemed like an impossible task, given the extent of crumpling to the car, but surprisingly, they eventually sprung free. Beyond that, there wasn’t much we could do other than stop traffic and wait for the paramedics, while keeping an eye on the guy’s condition in case anyone asked.
After what seemed like forever, a fire truck, and then an EMT unit arrived, followed later by the requisite string of sheriff’s and CHPs flying up the hill as we rode back down into Woodside, a bit more sedately than normal, a bit rattled, and with fewer miles under our legs because we skipped the west-side Old LaHonda section. For some reason we just didn’t feel like doing it today, plus we were running pretty late. But whatever the inconvenience to us, we were having a far better day than the guy in the black BMW.
(Originally posted for Bike To Work day) So have you figured out how you can ride your bike to work instead of drive tomorrow? The weather report looks good for the Peninsula, with a high of 71 and low of 48 degrees. So what’s keeping you from trying the bike commute thing?
For me, it was the assumption that hauling around my “missile case”, a laptop case including the keys to everything needed to run the shop (in particular the marketing end of things), and a 400ft hill at one end of the commute that just isn’t much fun with a lot of weight on your back. Nevertheless, when one of the two shop vehicles died a second time (one doesn’t put a third transmission into a 13 year old Dodge Caravan with 133,000 miles on it), I was left without a gas-powered weather-insulated tomb on wheels. And that’s really what a car becomes when commuting… you try to pretend that you can do other things than drive, because you admit to yourself that driving is stupid, so you talk on your phone, you turn on the radio, you roll up the windows and put the air conditioning on, you eat & drink. Anything to avoid thinking about your actual surroundings, which is, of course, incredibly dangerous. And dehumanizing.
I started out with a big Oakley backpack, so big that it could swallow up the laptop case. But, riding with a heavy backpack just isn’t much fun, but seemed like the only option since I don’t own a bike with a rack on it. Except that I do! My Bike Friday, my travel bike for trips to France, has a rack on it. Add a grocery bag pannier like my wife uses on her Trek e-bike, and voila, no more backpack, and I get to make a lot more use of the Bike Friday than for a once-a-year trip to France.
The run to the shop is pretty easy, since it’s downhill for the first mile, although I’ll admit that, on a Tuesday or a Thursday, when I’ve just finished the morning training ride, the legs talk to me once I hit the flat part of Jefferson (especially when there’s even a slight headwind). The detour to the bank seems to take less time on the bike than in the car, and there’s been no issue bringing the bike inside. Without the side trip to the bank, it’s about 9 minutes from home to the shop (2.7 miles). Adding the bank in brings it up to 25 or so. The trip home? Not quite so easy, but not that much slower at between 14-16 minutes, depending upon how I hit the lights. Do I feel “rested” when I get home? Uh… no. I’m 100% totally destroyed, because I can’t help myself, the second I leave the back gate at the shop I turn on the timer and it’s game-on. But perhaps “destroyed” isn’t quite accurate, because there’s this strange combination of near-death & energized that really best describes how you feel. I don’t think a non-cyclist can relate to that, and perhaps it’s a more-exclusive club that requires a degree of competitiveness bordering on the absurd.
Please tell us about your own commute! Submit it as a reply to this post and I’ll try to organize them in a fashion that will hopefully inspire more people to Go By Bike. –Mike–
George, Karl, Leslie (pilot-Kevin’s friend), Kevin, Eric, John, Millo, Marcus, Karen… that might be everybody, or I might be missing someone. What wasn’t missed was a day that turned out so much nicer than expected! I put on the long-fingered gloves but really didn’t need to; it probably started around 54 degrees and was up to 64 by the time I got back home a couple hours later. No complaints!
Since it was a Tuesday I knew it would be a bit harder than the Thursday version of our ride, but hard is really what you make of it yourself. Starting up Kings I’m now making sure to not set the pace at the beginning, since people complain that I go hard and then blow up. Not sure how that’s a whole lot different than what I’m doing now… waiting for Marcus and John and Karl to pass by, and then hanging onto their wheels for dear life until… I blow up! The end result is the same; no way can I maintain a torrid pace all the way up the hill. Yet. Working on that one! And I think my new life as a bike commuter is helping out in that regard, since my 15 minute ride home includes a stiff climb at the end, and no matter how tough the day has been, no matter how tired or hungry I am, I still punch it as hard as I can.
Once we get to the park I get a chance to rest for a minute or two, and then continue up the hill at a bit more moderate pace. It’s still tough seeing the fast guys head on up ahead though, and I’ll still try to get back up to them at least once, an effort that pretty much destroys me. As usual. But today at least I got in two hard sprints, with Georgepushing things each time. Looking at the video I shot during the ride, I saw something that I key on during the sprint, without thinking about it… George pulls ahead, takes a quick glance back and then takes off. It’s that glance that tells me I’ve got it. If you’re serious about a sprint and it’s going to be an all-out drag race, there’s nothing to be gained by looking back, unless you’re thinking about backing down, and if that’s in your mind, you’ve lost already. In George’s case, I think he’s just curious and wants to know where he is vs myself or Karl. If it were a tactical sprint, knowing exactly where the other guys are makes sense, but for either the Skegg’s or Sky Londa sprints, the tactics are played out well before the actual sprint (while you establish your position… basically, whose wheel to sit on).
The most-interesting part of the ride for me wasn’t a sprint though. George and Karl had gotten out ahead on the 84 descent into Woodside, with me in that no-man’s land between them and a few some distance behind. Normally I’d be inclined to wait for those behind if there was much of a gap to the front guys, but today? Today I wanted to see if I could run George & Karl down, in particular on the Tripp Road section where I normally run out of gas and am happy to sit on someone’s wheel. But today I managed to bridge the gap to them, after which Karl promptly attacked, leaving me behind. Good tactic on Karl’s part, since it took me completely out of the final sprint.
This is what I do for fun. Or is it, This is what I do for fun? To tell you the truth, at 55, I’m scared to death that, if I slow down, I’ll never get back up to speed again! –Mike–
Kevin’s not quite up to “epic” yet, but it won’t be too long. Today’s ride was the reverse Pescadero loop (where you head over Old LaHonda to the coast to San Gregorio, then Stage Road south to Pescadero before heading back over Haskins Grade), but with the added kick of West Alpine tossed in for good fun! 67 miles, downloading the details from the Garmin computer right now but probably enough climbing to qualify as a “tough” ride (which would mean at least 100ft/mile, so 6,700ft or more for this ride).
As usual, Kevin had a minor seizure on Old LaHonda. It really doesn’t seem to be effort-related since he’s ridden harder without having one, but there is something about Old LaHonda that brings them on. Thankfully it was very short so it delayed us just a few minutes, and didn’t require that we re-think the planned ride. Strange thing about Old LaHonda today was that we didn’t come across a single rabbit (rider in front of us to chase). Where was everybody? Mid-60s and a bit of wind shouldn’t scare people away, but seemed like it today.At the top of Old LaHonda we came across one of our nicest-looking-bikes ever, a pink Project One road bike that we’ve seen a number of times on our Sunday rides. Very nice bike; even nicer customer. She was riding with three others, two of whom had never ridden the other side of Old LaHonda (which I encouraged them to try today, and by the time Kevin and I moved on, it seemed likely they would). I’ve said it repeatedly here; if you haven’t ridden the west side of Old LaHonda, you’re missing one of our best cycling roads, and one that may not survive much longer.
We had a nice ride to LaHonda, after which the predicted headwind coming from the coast materialized and tortured us (ok, mostly me) for the next 10 miles. It’s really not that bad though; headwinds are mostly a mind game, and you’ve just got to decide to beat them. A few years ago, I would’ve been looking for someone else’s wheel to sit on, but today, I’m the guy pulling the train behind me. In this case, just Kevin (we passed a number of cyclists on the way out to the coast, but none seemed interested in jumping on, even though I extended the invitation).Doing the loop in reverse (heading first to San Gregorio, then Pescadero rather than the other way ’round) was definitely the smart move today, as we had a pretty good tailwind pushing us over the two climbs.
“Lunch” in Pescadero consisted of a Coke and a pastry, which provided the fuel we needed to head back via Haskins Grade (thankfully, with a slight tail wind) and then the big climb up West Alpine to Skyline. I tried, and hopefully, got, some decent video of the climb, including the “Bridge of Death” right at the bottom. At just under 54 minutes we weren’t exactly rockets going up the hill, but we were making good enough time to get back home in time for dinner.
OK, the Garmin’s now downloaded and darn, 6670ft of climbing, 30ft short of the needed 6700ft to qualify as a “tough” ride. I’m now remembering this same scenario from an earlier ride over the same route. Guess I need to put the lights on my bike and go back out and do some more climbing?