What I Learned from a Week of Biking to Work
When I wake up in the morning the first thing I think about is going back to bed, certainly not jumping on my bike and heading through the busy streets of Chicago trying to dodge traffic and get to work. But that’s exactly what I did recently for an entire week, loading up the gear for work in my backpack and getting on the pavement each morning to take my 10 mile trip to and from work. I didn’t set out to save money or become healthier in a week, instead I looked at the weather for the week and thought the sun was shining every day, why not ride my bike all week. I looked forward to the goal and of course the accomplishment of my goal, one that I could Tweet about or tell my friends or co-workers what I was able to do. Here is a look at my week of riding my bike to work!
Waking Up Early and Getting Ready
Each day I woke up the alarm goes off at 5:30 am, which is actually the same time I normally wake up on a regular work day. My morning started very similar as I walk my dog each morning, my wonderful Siberian Husky knows this and usually lets me know if I am “sleeping in” after 10-15 minutes after the alarm sounds, I pretty much can’t move or my dog will know and prompt me to take her outside. The laughter I get from her morning stretch and howl usually cancels out any dislike I have for waking up to go outside regardless of conditions. I usually only have one eye open at this point, but by the time I finish I’m ready to start the day.
Before I jump on my bike, I have to get everything ready, which includes:
- Bike riding gear– which for me is shorts and t-shirt
- Clothes for work-since the summer is in full effect I’m usually wearing dress pants and a polo shirt; luckily I keep an old pair of dress shoes at work. I do my best not to forget socks, boxers, and a belt (only happened once)
- Lunch-The easy thing to do is forget this step and just buy lunch every day, so you don’t have to prepare a lunch or carry any extra weight, but my goal is to reach Financial Independence every $10 bill helps!
After that I’m all set, I can literally walk down the stairs grab the bike and go. You probably think I’m missing a couple things and you are correct.
- Don’t you need to shower? I shower the night before and sometimes right before I leave, we have a gym at work, but I’m not interested in paying $50/month for what I would use as a shower facility. More on this topic later.
- You make lunch in the morning? Not exactly I usually take whatever we cooked from the night before and eat this for lunch the next day, it’s sitting in the fridge ready to grab and go.
- Don’t your clothes get all wrinkled? For the most part, I honestly don’t care that much, but what I do is carefully fold and sometimes roll each item so it fits nice and snug in my backpack. Not once did I take out the clothes and think they were too wrinkled to wear.
Riding to Work
When I first grab my helmet (safety first kids) and bike down the road in my neighborhood, one of your last thoughts would be how great my clothing, backpack, helmet, and bike look. Funny enough the backpack ($3), helmet ($3), and bike ($35) were all thrift store buys, did I mention I side hustle on eBay. While I enjoy a good Jimi Hendrix song, I probably wouldn’t have put a patch on my backpack of the man, but for $3 I didn’t care very much. Maybe it will give me street cred with the entire bike riding guitar players as I pedal through Wicker Park.
I live in the city of Chicago, not in the center of the city, I would say closer to the suburbs and few miles away from the lake. My best option is to jump on the streets and make my way downtown to work, right next to cars, bikes, trucks, and everything else they allow on the road. One of the biggest initial fears about riding a bike in the city is getting hit by a car or at least it is for me. As it turns out I found a street in Chicago that offers a bike lane the entire ride in the city, sometimes the bike lane is even far enough removed that you have your own protected lane, for me that’s as close to riding on the lake shore path without any vehicles (just tourists and runners).
The ride itself for the first couple miles is enjoying the sunshine and pedaling to get closer to the views of the skyscrapers, architecture, bridges, and Lake Michigan.
Once I arrive at work, I do a full change of clothes from head to toe. I usually shower the night before, so taking the advice of Mrs. POP I bought some cleaning towelettes to make sure I smelled wonderful. I like to keep things natural so I went with Burt’s Bees and the wonderful fragrance of Cucumber and Sage, I couldn’t have smelled better, although I do smell good naturally!
After that it’s pretty much business as usual. I make sure to grab a little extra water and a morning snack if I didn’t get a chance to eat yet and I’m ready for the 9-5 grind, except with a feeling of accomplishment to start the day right.
Riding to work (The Best)
The best is simple, every morning I would wake up and ride down the street enjoying the sunshine and beautiful views of the city. When I would finish my morning ride I had a feeling of accomplishment, all of that before 8 am! I had already done something, it felt amazing. I knew that the day was at its peak for me as taking a bike ride in the city beats out doing work stuff for 8 hours. Sure I saved a few dollars from riding my bike by not taking the train and riding my bike is great for my health which is important to me, but I really rode my bike because it was fun to do, just that simple.
Riding to work (The Worst)
As you can imagine not everyone is paying attention on the road, so an occasional close call with a driver who is turning and deciding to cut me off while I yell out obscenities that he cannot hear does happen. I’m sure I have taken a Yellow/Red light or not used the perfect hand signals or slowed down the guy that was late to work while I pedaled in first gear because my legs were waking up. I think it all evens out in the end; you know Even Steven I hear is a popular phrase around here. I was never injured or involved in an accident the entire week and assuming you pay attention and stay in your bike lane; it’s fairly safe to ride your bike in the city.
I did forget one guy, actually a person on a bicycle who happened to weaving and what looked like staring at the park/trees/butterflies, who knows. He was wearing shorts with a Hawaiian shirt or something similar, a drawstring backpack, sunglasses, and longer hair. Don’t think Fabio long hair; think Tom Seleck if he skipped the acting gig and went straight for not working and instead spending his days at a little bar called Rummy Mummy for 45 years of his life, yeah that should do it. Well since he was weaving and going slow, I chose to pass him and from what I can remember I passed with an appropriate amount of distance as I went by at my normal speed, I heard something in the background a short time later, but I was just trying to get home and not surprisingly do not care much what others yell from a distance. As I sat at the red light, the light turned a biker’s favorite green color and none other than the beat up version of Tom Seleck decided to curse at me for what I can only remember as passing him on the left while he swerved in a booze filled haze. If I was pretty sure of the booze filled haze, but when I found an open container of Fireball he had on the side of his drawstring bag and some slurred speech it cemented my claim of being drunk. Because the guy was not the nicest guy in the world I did have thoughts of just getting off my bike, punching the guy in the face and heading home, everyone’s happy right:) Instead I chose to just pedal away and think what a great story to share with a few select people here on the blog. Just remember be careful for the drunken, long hair, beat up, shorter version of Tom Seleck, he could be riding the streets near you!
It was a great week of riding my bike to work, I enjoyed the ride! My bike trip was over 100 miles from the week and even had the pleasure of riding with Mrs. Even Steven on the lake path once or twice as we chatted about our days on the ride home. At the end of the 100 miles I was pretty worn out, especially since I normally bike to work once a week. I don’t think I will be biking 100 miles again this year, but I really do like taking the bike to work a couple times a week when the weather is full of sunshine and the temperature is right where I like it. My plan is to certainly ride more in the future and riding I hope that you give riding a bike to your place of work a try this summer or fall, you just might love it!
Do you plan on biking to work? Why not bike to work, let’s get rid of those excuses!
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