Bike commuting is not just transportation, it’s a way to live

Our post today comes from guest author Kris R., a cyclist in Seattle, Washington.

This month we’ve been highlighting stories about cycling for the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge. We’re trying to avoid 100,000 car trips by peddaling around more often. Check out the and the Clif 2 Mile Challenge and the Clif Cast for more information.

It may come as a surprise to most but I’ve only really been commuting by bike for the last 2 and a half years, or about the same amount of time that I’ve been logging rides on dailymile. I made a conscious decision to do a few things right after moving to Seattle and having a fresh start in a new job: to do something that I loved every day, and to move towards a sustainable way of living. Sustainable not in the sense of being green or reducing emissions, but sustainable in the way that I lived every day in a way that allowed me to get out of bed the next day, and the next, and the next.

At first it was hard. I started bike commuting in winter. I’m not very bright in that sense. It was cold, rainy, nasty weather, and I would go for miles without seeing another person. In this photo, there’s so much snow and ice on the ground that I can’t change gears because they’re all covered in ice and my brakes didn’t work properly because they froze in to the closed position. I persevered doing it, because it was something I was happy doing and something I was proud of. Each day was a challenge, and every day I got to see something new. Then the weather got nicer. I didn’t get home wet every day. The days got longer. I started to leave after sunrise and get home before sunset. The hills never got easier though. I just stopped feeling like I’d blow a gasket at the top of every hill.

Commuting by bike was one of the things I started to do towards my goal of doing something I loved every day and something that would keep me moving, but there were a few things I never could have predicted I would ever learn:
I can change my commute from just being a part of my day to being the best part of my day. Commuting in Perth on a motorcycle was a lot of fun – lane splitting is heaps of fun if you know what you’re doing, so you never get stuck in traffic jams. Much to my dismay, lane splitting in Washington will earn you a performance award from the boys in blue so I’m stuck in traffic just like everyone else. On a bicycle it doesn’t matter how bad the traffic is, I get to see eagles, otters, deer, squirrels and other woodland creatures that wouldn’t stand a chance against Australian wildlife, and I’m barely ever stuck in one place for too long – unless I get a flat tire, of course.

Dating a chef and commuting by bike meant I could have my cake and eat it too. Ok, maybe not cake, she’s not a pastry chef, but I still eat anything and everything that looks like food without having to buy bigger clothes every couple of months. Burning extra calories each day does have its benefits – I used to weigh 100kg/220 lbs., “used to” being the important part.

Putting co-workers in the pain cave is a good, good thing. It’s awesome to ride with people you work with, because you get to hear points of view you would never otherwise hear. It’s even better when they are people you normally wouldn’t get any 1 on 1 one time with for career and life guidance. But when I’m riding along reminding them of why they shouldn’t have grabbed that extra muffin, it’s priceless. They remember who I am, which comes in handy if I ever need to work with them again as an instant ice breaker.

Commuting by bike could earn money – for me and for charity. I’ll admit that I’m quite fortunate here: My workplace offers incentives to bike commute – 2 free tune ups a year, a steady stream of incentives and competitions, a shuttle with a 12 bike trailer to get cyclists through the most difficult part, and 2 bike shops at my workplace. Bribe the mechanics with beer and/or “Shut up legs” shirts and you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet deal. Our gift matching program allows donating a certain amount to charity for every hour that I’m on the bike riding too.

I get to ride through beer and wine land every day. There is a brewery and a winery on the trail I take home. Actually, in reality, there’s something like 4 breweries, but I’m only counting the ones right next to where I ride through. When a bunch of us ride home for some event, we can all swing in and go to the pub for a little socializing and having fun. In summer, there are more bikes than cars out the front of the pub. It’s awesome. I don’t even drink beer or wine.
Online mapping has come a long way since 2008. In 2008 there was just one option for finding your way around if you used online software: Google Maps, and only in car mode. Nowadays, there’s a walk, bike and car mode on Google Maps, as well as various other mapping resources like Bikely, MapMyRide, Ride the city, Bike Route Toaster, Ride with GPS… as well as resources like BikeWise that allow me to check my prospective route for any hazard spots that I should keep an eye out for.

It may seem like a strange thing to say, but I don’t think I would have done nearly as well at work or home without bike commuting. I received advice, guidance and have discussions where I otherwise would never have these opportunities. When it’s a good day, it’s the icing on the cake. When it’s been a bad day, I just mash the pedals faster and harder, and I get home feeling better. I sleep better, feel better, I’m less cranky, and my morale is generally higher.
I am where I am right now because one day I decided to try riding my bike to work instead of taking the bus, motorcycle or car, and said hello to people along the way. Hopefully one day you’ll be able to say the same thing too.

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