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Sunday, August 12, 2007

fair-weather vs. most-weather commuting

So! My friend Rich landed that local job and is planning on commuting by bicycle. Rich is already an active, activist cyclist, and when I asked, yes - he wants to use the bike most of the time. (I suppose, as in, don't even think about trying to pay for a parking spot.) Welp, first, there should be a name for it that has parallel opposite connotations to fair-weather :-) ... I suppose die-hard?
What advice? I've been thinking about it, and I think that even if you're already a pretty die-hard cyclist, I'm not sure there is a "standard" set of gear or strategies that applies to everybody. Commuting situations vary so much; riding style (are you a masher or a spinner? I'm thinking it might matter) and ... body type. Gore-Tex and a few layers, and this well-insulated frame is happy and genuinely warm (I show up at work with warmer hands than anybody else), but I'm pretty sure that doesn't work for everybody.
THen there's theft: I gotta lock my baby up (tho' I've forgotten once or twice ... but it looked locked...) but it doesn't compare to the U. and the Urbana Free Library (where two bikes were swiped - locked but not well - while we were at our bike advocacy meeting last month). Beat-up baskets have been swiped, not to mention computers or seats or lights or wheels.
Welp, I'm going to (right now!) go pump up the tire on the black Schwinn and see if it holds and then ride it on Tuesday's ride and offer to loan it. Personally, I think it's the ultimate commuting machine except that it's eclipsed by the Xtracycle & the Gazelle. THat brings me back to the original thought: would I recommend a Gazelle and/or an Xtra to everyone? Well, yes, as far as the Xtra goes - but it's a cognitive leap as big as the one into commuting at all. I don'tt hink most people are ready for that level of lifestyle change.
On the other hand, if you don't have the gear to make it feasible, you're not likely to stick to it. The Xtra goes a loooong way to making bicycling as transportation feasible. We're just a people that hauls stuff around with us. (On the third hand, most people are better than I am at figuring out how to carry things on their bicycles. I am a person who leaves a trail; Pigpen has nothing on me.)
Okay, the other thing that needs to happen is that we need an article in the silly paper with all the other "welcome to campus" glurge that outlines cycling as an option. Hmmm....
Nope, I will pump up that tire first!!!

I'd say they could be called "most-weather" commuters. It takes a lot to keep me off my bike when I'm going multi-mode. You won't see me make the full 29 mile round trip in below-zero weather, but you bet your biscuits I'll ride two or three miles to a bus stop in pretty much anything that Kansas City can throw my way.

The cool thing about bike commuting is that there are really no hard rules. Just commute and use a bicycle for all or part of your trip. All commuters have their own situations. Heat/Cold tolerances, amount of stuff they need to take between home and work, etc. Since there are so many variables to account for, it's rare to see two bicycle commuters that have the exact same routine.
When I lived in Champaign County with a 20 mile (one way) commute I was stopped by the weather only once. It was right around zero degrees and white-out/blizzard conditions. I made it seven miles before I pulled in at a friend's house in east Urbana and called my wife to come pick me up. Discretion and valor and all that.
I should also mention that all-weather cycling in the Midwest is not for everybody. Cycling in a blizzard out to Philo and beyond is foolhardy and perhaps even stupid.
Yea, I agree. When we had our Valentine's Day blizzard this year, they closed the U and Parkland so I didn't have to think about it... but I took the car in that Thurs. & Fri. anyway. Now the car's having its second life as a taxi in Maryland... so we'll just have to see what this year brings! I am, however, on the bus line.
My barometer for "should I do it?" is "how stupid would I feel explaining to somebody who had to rescue me, and at what degree of inconvenience or peril to them, why I was out there?"
No need to worry about a blizzard. When that happens I usually stay home. Otherwise I'm a "bi-modal" commuter.

capejohn from the journals.
I love the challenge of bad weather, and where I commute (the mean streets of NJ!) biking makes even more sense as the weather gets worse. A nice rain stops cars dead in traffic which makes if safer for me to ride. Winter weather hasn't been a big problemo either 'cause the rare case there's too much sno to bike, my company is either closed or delayed. The draw-back to all weather commuting is that now co-workers think I'm crazy!
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