Bicycle Commuting Mama: Yes, We Can

“I’d like to ride my bike to work, but I just don’t think I can do it,” said my husband this morning.  “I’m not in good enough shape to make it up that big hill.” [that’s the hill up NE 102nd Avenue in Parkrose]

“I ought to ride my bike,” said a co-worker, “but it’s just too far.”  I suggested taking MAX part of the way, but she’s also worried about safety on MAX.

“I should ride my bike,” said another co-worker.  “But I don’t know if I even can any more!”

I know all about this.  I’ve been there.  I bought my bike via a Craigslist ad more than two years ago, but I really didn’t start using it until this year.

Why?  Well, the first few times I tried to ride it, I could barely make it around the block, let alone get to work or to a store or to anyplace I needed to get to.  Raising the seat helped, but I still wasn’t confident that I could really go anywhere.

Then, this past summer, for various reasons I decided to commute by bus.  My summer job was located right on a major bus line, so this was easy.  But then they moved me to a different location (temporarily).  This location was not on a major bus line, and the neighborhood bus didn’t run often enough to make it work.  That was when I decided to pull the bike out.  I rode my bike up to the bus line, put my bike in the rack on the bus, rode the bus down toward work, and then pulled my bike out of the rack and rode the rest of the way.

And lo and behold, it worked.  And since I also lost my bus pass around this time, I ended up riding more and more.  I still didn’t feel ready, but I quickly discovered that I actually could ride all the way home, and then that I could ride all the way round trip.  I just had to do it.  I also had to recognize that it’s not necessary to ride fast.  It’s OK to stay in low gear and go just fast enough to stay upright.

Once I knew I could do it, I just had to transfer the bike commuting experience to my regular job.  I did do a little preparation for this:  I borrowed a child seat for taking our three-year old to day care, got lights, etc., but still nothing very fancy.  I ride in street clothes.  For rain, I have a poncho and an old pair of vinyl pants used for hiking.  I’ve added a front basket for carrying things.

It’s often been frustrating, but I’m still doing it.  Before winter break, I had a flat tire and a broken pump (plus we had a snowpocalypse) so I wasn’t riding, but I’m back now, and my bike has actually behaved itself perfectly for two weeks straight.

“Before Bike Commuting” seems like a whole other life now.  Things have really changed, and I think it’s for the better.