How to cycle to work

Someone was quizzing me the other day about my commute to work.  First of all, yes, I cycle all year to work. I missed a few days when it was snowing in January – I wasn’t confident in my tires or the nervous drivers out there. I love cycling to work for the most part. Sometimes I sing on the way, sometimes I mentally compose eloquent and wicked comebacks to conversations long gone. Now, mine is only about 4 or 5km each way and I know lots of other are far more hard-core that I, but these are the choices I make:

1. I follow the bike route – I have no wish to compete for space on a busy road.

2. I ride about a meter from parked cars and I don’t meander in the street – this sometimes annoys drivers who wish I would tuck into the spaces where cars aren’t parked, or ride right next to the parked cars, but I am a big believer in consistency (not popping up back into the lane unexpectedly) and keeping my space from opening doors and individuals who have a elastic definition of “stop” at stop signs. So yeah, I take my space and I ride in a consistent manner.

3. I change at work. It’s not such a long ride that I need to, but I really hate getting my work-appropriate bras (ie, non-sport bars) sweaty, and I’m almost always sweaty when I arrive: either because it’s sunny and warm, or it’s cold and I”m layered up with shirts, sweater or rain jacket.  I change in the bathroom – not ideal, but whatever. I keep work-appropriate clothes in my desk at work (bringing home stuff regularly to launder), along with baby powder (see: sweat) and deoderant. I don’t have  make-up routine, so rinsing my face, putting on mascara and brushing my long hair is all the styling that I do.  I’m not Cycle Chic, but I admire those who are!

4. Changing at work solves some of the rain issues as well (because I do get rained on!), and I have winter/rain appropriate clothes. I have lightly lined cyling pants that keep me dry, and in the winter I wear silk long johns beneath with wool socks. I layer with a long sleeved moisture wicking shirt, a hoody of sweatshirt material and a cycling jacket with reflective tape. The jacket is light enough that without the layers I can continue to wear it long into spring and summer. I’ve got gloves, of course, and only a few times did I curse not having warmer lobster type gloves (but those are something like $50!!).

5. I have battery powered lights for the front and the back of my bike (and extra reflective stickers from Modo Car Coop), and I keep extras in my pannier just in case I forget or lose a light.

6. I wouldn’t commute without my pannier – it cuts down on the sweat and I can fit what I need (lunch, book, maybe some fresh clothes) in the one pannier. I have a cover for when it’s really rainy, but I don’t get that wet, really (it’s only four km, and part of it is under the skytrain line, which cuts down on direct precipitation. mostly). If I don’t want to bring a pannier, I can always bungee cord a purse onto the rack.

7. As for the actual riding, I’ve gotten WAY stronger in the last year + of riding. Hills are easier and I suspect that I”m faster. I stopped timing my rides, because I was getting too competitive with myself. I ride pretty defensively, and am trigger happy with the bell. I always assume that drivers won’t stop completely at the stop signs or when turning right. I’m mostly proved wrong, and drivers see me and are courteous, but every once in a while you get a dingbat who is aggressive or oblivious.

8. Most days I remind myself that it’s not a race and I don’t try and beat the other cyclists off the block and I try and give pedestrians a wide berth on the shared pathway (some times easier than others, depending on what direction they’re walking and how many individuals or groups are sharing the path).

9. I learned basic maintenance for my bike: I change and adjust my own brakes, I can change the tire, I clean the chain (not as often as I should), and I occasionally (every year or year and a half) take it into the shop for a tune-up.

10. I bought a really expensive bike lock.

But mostly, I just do it, and I smile when people say it’s too cold or wet or dangerous for me. I’m at the point where I want to make more mods to to my bike – coloured tire rims?

Things I learned when I moved

I’ve helped a few people move over the years and I learned plenty (mostly what not to do!). For the record, here are ten things that I did (or wish that I’d done) that helped things go smoothly:

1. I packed a suitcase: with a few changes of clothes, my toothbrush, a towel and a roll of toilet paper (the toilet paper is particularly important!). Things I needed for the first couple of days.

2. I rented boxes. I cannot say enough good things about renting boxes (I got mine from Frogbox). They were plastic, big enough for pots and such from the kitchen, and stackable when full or empty (seriously, this has saved SO much room as I unpacked). They dropped them off for me, and they’ll pick them up for me. A huge task off my plate.

3. I wish I had gotten  more boxes than I thought I’d need. I had to pack a few cardboard boxes (one of which fell apart, scattering CDs all over the floor, just reinforcing my belief in my rented boxes).

4. I should have packed some snacks and easily cooked food in an accessible box so that you don’t have to subsist on pizza. When I started unpacking food, the first box had wild rice, cans of artichoke hearts and some chocolate, for example. The chocolate was useful, but I wan’t able to make a meal with the rest.

5. I accepted dinner invitations: Tell your friends to invite you over for dinner in the days before and after moving: it’s a relief to get away from all the boxes, and your kitchen isn’t unpacked anyway, and you still need to eat well.

6. I hired movers! Money well, well, spent. Mine were efficient, and knew what they were doing.

7. I got access to the new place early. I was able to go over and figure out where everything would go in the new place, so that when the  movers were there, I knew exactly where the couch should go. I had also gone over early and set up bookshelves, so that I didn’t have to move boxes from the wall in order to start unpacking them (I have a lot of books).

8. I labeled your boxes with what room they’re going to. I didn’t have to move a single box and I was able to unpack each one in the appropriate room. This saved my back some aches and pains.

9. I purged LOTS of stuff before I moved, and I have a cardboard box in the new place into which I’m throwing more stuff to donate. I’m maintaining my momentum, getting rid of stuff before it finds a home.

10. I should have relaxed more. The move went just fine. On the other hand, the worrying and over-thinking about it all meant that I’d planned well: I had purged, packed wisely, and planned my furniture placement. I think the balance worked out well.

I don’t want to move again anytime soon, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!