The Road to Fitville 9.5: the bike commute challenge

As summer spills into fall in Portland, Oregon, we probably have about six weeks of sunny weather left and everyone knows it. It seems the whole city is both slowing down and trying to pack in a record number of barbecues and yard sales. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance takes advantage of this outside-obsessed time of year to launch its annual Bike Commute Challenge. The challenge offers friendly competition to get people biking instead of driving to work. It pits companies against one another and individuals against their own internal sloths.

When a coworker asked me to join, the timing could not have been better. The bike commute challenge is going to carry me through this critical period right after my big relay race, when all my motivation is threatening to go out the window along with the fear and anxiety that kept me training so faithfully for the Hood to Coast.

So today I began. And it was not just like riding a bike.

I’ve written before about my sometimes comical fear of big downhills, and the bicycle assertiveness training program my husband invented for me. I relied on that old training today when I took my first bike commute of the fall. And so riding the bike was okay, and in fact pretty lovely.

It was the packing that stunk. It took forever. I started getting ready to leave at 9:22am and after pumping up my tires, trying unsuccessfully to get the grease off my hands, looking for my neglected helmet and lock, packing up my laptop, changing a random diaper, saying goodbye to little Binx, and rolling up my pantlegs, it was 10:00am when I hit the road. Forty minutes! Not. Sustainable. If that persists I’ll miss every staff meeting this month (hmm, maybe not such a bad idea?)

To help me out, there are several good web sites about bike commuting. Paul Dorn’s site is particularly thorough and a great resource. A few like MassBike to work and this epinions page have tips about storing clothes at the office and how to respond to changes in your plans. But I haven’t found one that describes a good system for getting ready to go. For example, I already see that I should designate a certain bike bag for commuting and keep key items at the ready in there.

Maybe I’m the only one with this problem. I think I just need to get used to it. If you bike commute, how do you do it? Any tips for a returning biker?

Author by Larissa Brown