Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The hybrid commute - an interim solution for a transitional period

Since my company moved to the south end of downtown (and I live north) I've given up bike commuting all the way into work. Consequences: more time to read, more trouble maintaining a stable weight (but I seem to be succeeding with a combination of replacement activities), and more commuting options. If I'm short on time I can now drive to a park-and-ride and get to work within 45 minutes of leaving home; if I have time I walk the two miles instead, adding half an hour; a compromise is biking to the park-and-ride. And if I'm feeling energetic I bike 6.5 miles into Edmonds and take the train.

The latter alternative is the most enjoyable, and one I should probably take advantage of more often since my employer-provided Orca card covers both the train and busing. With the plethora of options I've become lazy and will wimp out if I'm just not feeling up to it in the morning, which is most of the time (sadly). Back when I worked in Fremont I had pretty much no other option, so I just hopped on my bike no matter how tired I was. I'm getting soft.

But driving to work still is pretty much out of the question. I've found a $5 parking lot that I can use in a pinch, but I have such an aversion to driving downtown that it's never tempting, and I've only done it maybe three times when circumstances required it.

The bike ride into Edmonds takes me up and over the Shoreline hill (200 feet up, 450 feet down, roughly speaking). It's not like the ultra-flat Burke-Gilman, but if I take it slow I can ride in my work clothes. It doesn't help that my current bike is in its senescence and I haven't found a suitable replacement yet (I've been looking for three years now). It clicks, squeals, and acts generally ornery even though I just spent $200 on a tune-up. At 28,000 miles it's a creaking fossil. If I'm biking with my wife and I'm in front as we head down a steep hill, she has to brake the whole way just to avoid ramming me.

I don't know what to replace it with any more. Do I optimize for my hybrid, fair-weather commute? Do I look at cargo bikes, anticipating (by probably quite a few years) an active, car-free retirement? Do I buy a touring bike, in the hopes that someday I may make that long-dreamed of cross-country ride? Do I, for the first time ever, consider having more than one bike in my garage? I'm stuck in indecision, at a transition point to an unknown future.

For now the solution is to wait and watch. Who knows what things will look like a year from now? And in the meantime I'll take advantage of the good weather and ride into Edmonds as often as I can convince my lazy morning self to buck up and ride.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Month Two of Being a Former Bike Commuter

Since my company moved to a downtown location in December I have stopped biking to work - completely. After two months of this radical change in lifestyle, here are some observations, positive (+) and negative (-):

(+) I have more time to read. I actually finished all my recreational reading before my next book club meeting. To fill in the time I purchased the complete works of H. P. Lovecraft for $1 on my new Kindle (Christmas present!) and have been working my way slowly through.

(-) I've been having a terrible time getting rid of my holiday flab. This is an annual ritual where I weigh myself after Christmas, discover I'm five pounds too heavy, and spend January getting back to my target weight. January came and went and I'm still 3.5 pounds short of my goal. It's hard to replace 1000 calories/day, even with a new on-site health club membership. (Half an hour on an elliptical only consumes 300 calories, and I can't imagine doing that for an hour and a half).

(+) The bus commute (Community Transit, routes 511, 413, or 415) is actually pretty nice, even though I have to walk two miles in the morning to get to the bus stop at the Mountlake Terrace Park & Ride. I never check a schedule - buses come frequently enough that it's unnecessary.

(+) The Community Transit riders are a civilized lot! They line up nice and neat in a row as they wait for the next bus. If the line is particularly long I just wait through two buses - by declining to board the first bus I move up in line and get a primo seat on the next one.

(-) I miss my bike!

(-) I'm less informed. On my bike commute I got a whole lot of good audio input through my iPod Nano (sixth generation): NPR Morning Edition or All Things Considered, podcasts of This American Life, A Prairie Home Companion,  On Being by Krista Tippett, The Vinyl Cafe, the odd audio book, and my son's latest rock music interest (Mutemath! Radiohead! Adele!). All but TAL have pretty much disappeared from my life.

(+) I'm getting familiar with the modern health club scene. I can actually explain what an "elliptical" is and how to use it. Oh, yeah!

(-) I have no more time than I had before. So maybe this should be neutral, rather than negative, but I really expected that commuting to a well-connected downtown core, rather than center-of-the-funky-universe but out-of-the-way-transit-wise Fremont, would save time, especially considering I'd be using a vehicle capable of sustained speeds greater than 15 mph. But no - it still takes typically an hour and twenty minutes door-to-door, not much different than when I was biking. Harrumph.

(+) I don't get sweaty.

(-) I still haven't figured out a suitable replacement exercise. The health club is fine, but I've got no enthusiasm to go there, convenient though it is. It's boring. It's a chore. And I haven't managed to go more than twice a week since the move. I'm not sure this is going to work out.

(-) I've got nothing to write on this blog. OK, so I've never been exactly loquacious, but I think once in a while I find something useful to write. Now I never know whether a post will be my last. And both of my readers will be the worse for it!

So, the final tally is: five pluses and five minuses. As with anything in life, there are tradeoffs; nothing is all good or all bad. (OK, so maybe Josh Powell was all bad - but I'm willing to concede the possibility of a tiny bit of good even in him). But I do know that one way or another I'm going to get back on my bike again, whether it's part of a regular commute or not. So fear not, loyal readers, my pen isn't completely dry yet!