If you're like me, you hate putting 50 to 100 dollars of gas into your car every few days. So, about ten years ago, I decided to stop. Filling the tank so much, that is. If I can do this, pretty much anybody can.
New Haven is 21.4 miles by bike from my house. That ride in the morning happens at 4:50 a.m. most every day. There are few cars on the roads. In fact, there are more animals out and about than humans. The air is still and damp and feels wonderful across my sleepy face. Of course, in winter when it's -4 degrees it feels somewhat less wonderful, but if you dress like you're going skiing it's no big deal. This time of year I have a narrow 10 week window when the grey dawn provides enough faint illumination at that early hour to allow me to ditch my lights. I arrive at work an hour later awake, alive, invigorated... and stinky. I have the good fortune to have access to a shower, but for folks that do not, a baby wipe and a change of clothes is just as good.
The day goes by. At ten o'clock, when everyone else is starting to come down from their milk-and-cereal sugar rush, I've settled into a rhythm. Between 1 and 5 p.m. I'll put on my cycling clothes, which have been drying on rack in the bathroom next to the shower. I used to put them on a steam radiator in one of my colleague's offices. They dry out super fast but the sweet odor of baking lycra was overpowering for him and he started locking his door. Perhaps the best thing about biking to work is the way your second workout is automatically built in. There isn't any other way you're getting home, chum.
Most days I anticipate the ride home like a middle schooler aches for his video games. Occasionally, I'll get beat up by my workday. It's all the same to the bike though. From New Haven to home is 25.5 miles since the main roads are busy with cars and trucks and the secondary roads are infinitely more pleasant. I ride under and over Interstate 91 five times in the early part of the ride. Most days I'm moving faster than the traffic on State Street. I ease around buses at stops, trucks double-parked in loading zones, cars upon cars all stuck in traffic; their drivers enclosed in the artificial environment of the glass and steel boxes they pilot tediously over the same gridlocked streets, day after day. For them, it's always the same, always boring. For me, everyday is different. Headwind, tailwind, no wind, rain, snow, frost, brilliant blue skies and summer sun. Sometimes I feel like Superman flying past the stores and houses in an eye-tearing blur. Some days I feel sore and tired and my wheels feel like they're shod with mush. But I always FEEL something, unlike the drivers, who if they feel anything at all, it's usually a sense of frustration.
I ride about 12,000 miles a year. Every year and a half I ride around the globe on my bicycle.
My car gets good gas mileage. It's a Honda Civic. I drive it now and then so the battery doesn't die. A gallon of gas has about 31,000 calories in it. That's enough calories to power me on a bicycle over 900 miles! My car will only go about 30 miles on those 31,000 calories (figures taken from the Howstuffworks website). I love the efficiency of gliding through the quiet pre-dawn hours on a bicycle. I get a workout. I kill my commute. I save the planet! Three great reasons to dust off your bike and get out on the roads. You may not have a Rolex, or a Cris Craft, or a Lamborghini, but you have a body! It's an amazing piece of finely-engineered machinery, and you happen to own one! Get out there and use it!
Editor's Note: Friday is Bike to Work Day, an annual event sponsored by Bike Walk Connecticut which invites bike commuters, novices and veterans alike, to join the celebration. For more information visit the group's website.