Friday, April 10, 2009

The Commuter

Today I joined the diverse fellowship of those who commute by bicycle to work. I plan to do it at least once or twice a week when the days are long enough to do so safely. I had a couple of pretty good rides today in winds pushing up to 20 miles per hour from the east northeast. The morning commute was mostly tailwind and cross tailwind. I mostly held 22-24 mph while barely breaking a sweat. The evening commute was another story, but it provided a solid workout.

Morning commute profile
Evening commute profile

Triathlon and time trial training are the primary motivation. Before I joined Wild Card Cycling and started training and racing with the team toward the end of last summer, almost all of my training miles consisted of solo rides. Since then, I've logged most of my miles with the team. We usually do a long Saturday ride (60-100 miles) and, during daylight savings time, a high-tempo Wednesday evening ride (30-50 miles). I normally do a solo recovery ride and run on Sunday mornings before church, and sometimes several shorter morning low to middle intensity solo rides during the week, but my solo miles have really dropped. High-intensity solo riding is important for building the powerful muscles used in triathlon and time trialing, where there is nowhere to hide from that persistent antagonist, the wind.

So I'm filling the void by commuting on my bike. I can't realistically ride every day, since some days find me shopping, swimming, or tending to kids' activities and other errands after work. My home and office are separated by just over 14 miles, with slightly more than half on quiet, dark, oil-and-chip county roads. I use a rear flasher in twilight and low light conditions, but it doesn't seem very safe after sundown, even with a headlight or helmet light.

It takes about 45 minutes to ride each way, give or take depending on the wind, versus 25 minutes to drive. So I can get 90 minutes of training at a cost of about 40 minutes from my day. As a multisport athlete with work, family, and other obligations, the bicycle commuting math is definitely favorable - not a bad way to squeeze in a few solid 20 km plus time trials every week.

The Research Park where my office is located has an incubator building for start-ups. Tucked away in a corner of the second floor is a shower room. It was built ostensibly to serve workaholic entrepreneurs who don't get out of the office much, but it also suits my needs quite well.

So the big question is "what type of commuter am I?" The Aussie cycling blog Cycling Tips profiled the universe of commuters quite cleverly. I probably fit somewhere on the spectrum between the "Weekday World Champ" and the "PRO".

The Weekday World Champ (quoted from the Cycling Tips Blog):

"Every roadie loves the Weekday World Champ. This keenly competitive species of commuter is doing his own race for the rainbow jersey every morning. Usually wearing a free jersey from last years charity ride, solid black shorts, $6 sunglasses, fenders, rear mirror, and any other optional safety features. He will follow your wheel while you’re slowly rolling along the road or bike path and then attack you at the opportune time of his liking. Then his head will blow off and soon after you’ll come rolling past at the same speed you were doing for the past 20 mins. The World Champ botches a trackstand at red lights then punches it off the gun when it turns green. Again, you’ll catch up to him shortly and pass him once again."

This describes perhaps 25% of my commuting persona. When not wearing my own racing kit, I can usually be spotted in solid black shorts (some fairly plush Nike threads, mind you) and either the Tour of Missouri GC leader's jersey, or a splashy but unadorned Giordana jersey from the late 80s. Though I lack a free jersey from a charity ride, I will never ride in the Tour of Missouri and I won't likely ever lead the GC standings in a cat 4/5 stage race. I can't yet trackstand, but I know better than to attempt it in public, thus avoiding the botch. I don't sport $400 Oakleys, but my $40 sunglasses were purchased from a hardcore running and swimming boutique and my only optional safety feature is the aforementioned flasher. I also know how to ride a time trial (even if I'm not especially fast), and though I may get passed, my head will not blow off until the very end of a truly violent racing effort (or at least not until after T2). Which brings me to the other 75% of my commuting persona...

The PRO:

"That’s right - YOU. You didn’t think you were gonna get out of it so easily, did you? You’re the only one who thinks you’re the coolest kat in town. You’re the guy who gets all kitted up, pins a number on, rides the Zipps, and has an espresso flavored powergel on your way to work. But I’m sure you have good reason to ride in like this... It could be because you have a race after work, you need to take your bike to the shop at lunch, or it could be because you like to show to all your coworkers how PRO you are. Sorry, but we’re the only people on the planet that think spandex, shaved legs, and tiny arms look cool."

As stated above, I actually do race and do wear a full kit (when not sporting all black shorts) - my own kit, thank you. And I do think spandex, shaved legs, and tiny arms look cool - probably because I have no hope of having arms that are anything but tiny. I don't have $2000 Zipps and my bike lacks the full complement of PRO grade components, but it's still way too cool for 95% of the commuting public.

My teammate Rob places himself between the Hardman and the PRO. Like me, he is definitely all PRO on the Wednesday and Saturday team rides, but his usual commuter bike and threads are 100% Hardman. I ride and train in all kinds of temperatures and rain, but I usually avoid icy or slushy roads. I will probably never commute in snow, mostly because of the shortened daylight that usually accompanies it. I will never be worthy of the Hardman.

1 comment:

Wade Wallace said...

Wherever you fit, I'm glad that you're riding!