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OutofCharacter / Biking

November 25 2008


I have been trying to make a point out of riding my Bike to work recently. Not a stink pot motorcycle, but a traditional multiple speed bike.

It started after a trip to GenCon in August and I noticed that walking a couple of miles a day through the city of Indianapolis was not hard but not as easy as I thought it should be. So I wanted to get in better shape. Not great shape, no desire to have 'rock hard abs' or 'buns of steel' (although to look at on the other hand... ) but I do want to know I can do just about any exercise or general task without thinking about the physical side of things.

So I started to exercise on the Treadmill 5 days a week. I started small, doing 20 minutes each morning. Then a week and a half in I moved that to 30 minutes. Then I went back to 20 minutes but higher speeds and then increase time again. Eventually I got to doing 16 minute miles in a 30 minute period. That was with the variable resistance set up so I thought that would be a decent level to keep up.

Then I got sick (minor flu) and had to take a week off. When I realized it was going on to be mid-October I figured I should do something different. I had ridden my bike to work twice prior that time, mostly just to prove I could do it. I had guessed it was a 4 mile one way trip and living in South Florida with the mostly flat land it is an easy ride.

Turns out that it is just a bit over 5 miles one way from home to work. I rode a couple of times in October to get the feel for the trip. My level of exertion was not bad on the way to work, which was important with the lack of showers in our building. I am more happy with the fact that my ride home after a full day of work is taking the same amount of time that it does to ride to work fresh in the morning. I have been able to make decent progress in increasing my average speed, now I am consistently under 28 minutes for the ride each way. A cousin just purchased a Segway which would take just over 30 minutes for the same trip so I am feeling good about my current level.

For those who pay attention to my status messages on IM know that I say something along the lines of "biking to work and breathing all those wonderful exhaust fumes" as my somewhat sardonic way of acknowledging the reality of biking in an urban, or at least suburban, area.

My local city at least has provided good sidewalks along the major roadways, and I am able to get from home to work and back without having to share the road with cars. I do use a helmet when I ride and rarely right when it is not fully light. I typically bike by myself, as my wife is not as active as I am. People are friendly when you are on a bike. I am not sure if it is being face to face that brings that out, or if it is just people who are walking are exercising and feeling those endorphins. Cars on the other hand can be a different issue. Every trip I see at least two potential accidents where if I was not careful the driver of a vehicle would cause me a problem. (my wife dislikes my riding for this reason and hates to hear about any incidents on my trips) Most of the time it is just a driver that has no clue how to drive. They think that they only need to look one way before making a turn into traffic. So far I have not had any drivers cause me grief intentionally or seem to be annoyed at me as I am riding along. Many who spot me are courteous about giving me space to use the crosswalks, acting as you are supposed to as a driver.

I also just like the movement of biking. It feels better than walking, and is obviously much better than driving. It makes the day seem to slow down a bit and I can think. Now if I could find a way of capturing those thoughts when they happen before they escape.

It is a nice feeling to ride, I like that I am getting or keeping in decent shape. I like that I can save a small bit of money by not using the truck to ride to work. I do wish that I could modify my schedule a bit to accommodate the ride. Leaving work at 6 pm seems to be right at the time that darkness falls, so I tend to ride only when I can leave work earlier than that.

For November I set my self a personal goal of biking my bike for 50 miles. A friend Cab went on a recent bicycling trip around Hawaii which helped motivate me to set some goals. I figured that 50 miles in a month was a decent first step. It would force me to either use the treadmill more (HAH! only 1 additional mile that way this month so far) or to ride more days to work. I typically ride 3 days or so a month and I wanted to increase that. So to make my 50 miles goal meant 5 days a month. Not a huge number when you look at it that way. I am happy to say that I am at 41 miles for the month and I have at least one more day of work that I can ride my bike. (edit: I did finish my month at 51 miles, rain did me in on anything extra)

So I am setting myself a new goal for January. December may or may not be a mess but I know that in January I can get back into gear. I want to do over 62 miles for the month. That would be an average of 2 miles per day, at least 6 days riding to work and hopefully I can get my times down to closer to 20 minute trips.

I have the beginnings of a new goal starting also.