Missing the idea of the bike commute?

Explosions of color everywhere. 3 Nov 2022 Olympus Pen EES-2/Kodak Portra 160

I’ve hinted at this before, and it still sounds weird, but I miss the idea of a bike commute. I commuted to work by bike from 2001 to 2019. Since then, I’ve mostly worked from home, so the need to get on a bike to get somewhere on a regular basis has almost dropped to zero.

But I don’t miss my last bike commute, which was from my old home in Woodlawn to the now-gone Hawthorne Hostel. The ride was about six miles one way. I am not a morning person, so having to be somewhere by 8 AM was always a chore, and even more of a chore when I liked the job less and less. Over the five years of this commute, I got it down to the quickest, most efficient routing. It wasn’t a bad route, but nothing particularly exciting. I’d always look jealously at those who could get in gravel/off-road riding on their commute, but the only way I’d be able to do that would be by almost doubling the distance. And that wasn’t going to happen–remember how I said I’m not a morning person, and I didn’t like my job anymore? The only way I could mix up the commute was when I worked a PM shift.

The only time I could claim to enjoy my commute to the hostel is when I lived in Montavilla, particularly when I had the apartment at SE Stark and 90th in 2010-11. This allowed me to ride the shoulder of Mount Tabor, which gave me “hill training”, especially for the upcoming Big Tour. And it also gave me a glorious one-mile downhill bomb on SE Belmont from 69th to 49th–even better if the light was green at 60th.

If I didn’t like my last commute, how can I still like the idea of a commute? Simple: It’s what I got out of the commute, the biggest of which was base miles. I’d have an eight to twelve mile round-trip bike ride four to five days a week. This kept my fitness level up, and meant that I could ride longer than that. Nowadays I’m lucky to get in one to two ten mile rides a week, and my fitness suffers. Concepts like going away on a bike tour become more daunting.

I’ve been trying to push myself to get out on the bike more regularly. I always feel better when I ride, but it’s sometimes hard to motivate and find escape velocity. We do meet once a week for work at our co-working space downtown, so that’s a good excuse for a ride. I can also swing by my Post Office to pick up mail and drop off film to be developed. But I often take the MAX light rail home. I’m trying to push myself to ride home, but I don’t always feel like it.

Having a darkroom class is another motivator. It’s about 2 1/2 miles to the class, a nice ride on the Heavy Duti. But I need more than just that. I need to incorporate some loops, here and there. I need to just go somewhere regularly. Now that pandemic has lessened to a degree, I can go back to coffee shops. Riding a few miles and working from a coffee shop for a few hours is something I always liked to do, so to be able to do that again is nice.

There’s another thing about commuting that I liked, but only in retrospect: It got me up early. I have mentioned ad nauseum how I am not a morning person, and now having a fluid “schedule” means I rarely get up before 9 AM. I always looked sideways at those super morning people, the ones who could get up at 5 or 6, or even earlier by their own volition and do things like go for a run, read, meditate, or something before they had to go to work. Me? I was always hitting the snooze button on my alarm until I couldn’t hit it anymore or I’d be late–and towards the end of my hostel days I’d be late anyways. I can like the concept of getting up early, but in practice I’m still a go to bed late type person.

But when I had to roll my sorry ass out of bed early to roll to my sorry ass job, I could see some degree of beauty in the morning. This happened especially during winter commutes, where it could still be dark by the time I left the house. I might actually see a sunrise on the way in. One time I actually encountered a coyote! And things just felt a little more peaceful, especially if it was a bit foggy or maybe a bit snowy.

Maybe the solution is just go somewhere on a regular basis, like a coffee shop, and pretend it’s a commute. But just like my vows to get up earlier, it’s easier said than done…

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4 thoughts on “Missing the idea of the bike commute?

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  1. I hear you! I work from home also and I’m busy early morning or otherwise it would be the best time for a ride. I’m reduced to riding in the dark after work now. I get out every other day and both days on the weekend. It works and I often pick up a few groceries for motivation.

  2. Even during the pandemic, when we were working from home, my wife and I rode our bike commute route, at the regular time, (which for us is leaving the house at 6:00 a.m.). Maybe you could find a nice loop to commute out and back to your house every morning. I feel pretty lucky to live where we do and to have the commute we do. We ride nine miles to work, which involves heading in the opposite direction initially so that we can hit the beginning of the Santa Fe River Trail. It’s a long nice ride up the river trail while the sky lightens, (this time of year), or the sun rises, (in the summer). We ride past the art and sculpture galleries on Canyon Road before the steep climb up Camino de Monte Sol and the somewhat less steep climb up Camino Cruz Blanca. To get home, we take a faster, less scenic downhill route that’s only seven miles – so a sixteen mile daily loop altogether. Doing the loop back to the house in the morning was a literal pain during the pandemic winters, because my hands and toes, which are already a little painfully cold from the ride up when it’s in the teens or single digits, would be really frozen after coming back down the hill to the house. I’m happy that I get to take a break during the day at my work place, especially now I’m using the darkroom here during my lunches. Best, Paul

  3. Maybe a commute buddy would help? I am ALL IN for the fake bike commute, all the time (which as you know I started during COVID and continue to this day), though James only ever musters if I make him come with me, for example–maybe someone else to bike with would help provide some accountability? Maybe someone else who has a flexible schedule so you don’t even have to do it early if neither of you wants?

    (Also, I am happy to be a commute buddy whenever, although my schedule is probably less flexible than yours these days;)

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