Monday 24 June 2013

Lessons learned at the end of week three

Image of intersection of Caroline and Erb from Google Maps

I started commuting by bike a month before the challenge officially started, actually right after applying for the challenge!  After four weeks of non-challenge and three weeks of official challenge, what have I learned?
  • The right bike helps.  My first month commuting, I was riding my old 15-speed mountain bike.  The commuter bike that we got as part of the challenge is much more suitable (that is faster) for the roads and maintained paths of the city.  I have seen some people on racing bikes, but the traction must be terrible going through the sandy part of the Laurel trail in Waterloo Park.
  • Bike seats are uncomfortable.  They just are.  You get used to it after about 3 weeks, but you do feel it again if you have been off for more than 2 days.  That being said, some are more uncomfortable than others, and I much prefer the new seat.
  • Avoid biking on Victoria near the Tannery.  The traffic is heavy, and feels rushed.  No bike lanes (I love bike lanes) and narrow lanes.  I have finally found a route that gets me off Victoria entirely!  Sure I have to climb an additional hill and cut through some parking lots, but totally worth it!
  • Each street has a different feel and it changes through the day.  I tried working "regular" hours (9-5:30) for a week instead of my early 7-3:30 and found the traffic much heavier both ways.  Not only that, but people are less courteous at rush hour.  The only nice thing, is there is also a lot more bike traffic and pedestrians.  This actually makes the left hand-turn at Caroline and Erb to the Laurel trail more manageable, though I never feel totally comfortable making this turn as there is always oncoming traffic turning right which you need to get past to get onto the path.
  • Garbage trucks always head down Weber at the same time I do!  Weber is to be avoided if possible, at least from Victoria all the way up to Northfield... then it gets bike lanes for some reason.  It is bad enough when cars are passing at 50km/h with no bike lanes but 60km/h is too much.  Even flying downhill at over 30km/h on the bike you are still getting zipped by.  Unfortunately, I can't avoid it completely, but I won't plan on taking it for my whole commute again!  Once is enough! Okay, twice is enough!
  • Wet shoes with socks are no fun.  When it pours you get soaked to the bone and your pedeling gets all squishy.  Yuck.
  • It is about twice as fast to bike as to inline skate.  I did one trip to work by inline skates when I left my bike at the office overnight on a rainy afternoon.  52 minutes vs 28.
  • Biking feels good.  It wakes you up in the morning, you get to see actual people outside (not just cars), and takes about the same amount of time as the bus - minus the worry about catching the bus on time!
  • Graphs are fun and motivating.  I find that I try to beat records of the previous day.

It is more downhill on the way to work.  It feels really good to break 20km/h average.
It feels pretty bad when it takes over a half hour when you usually take no more than 28 minutes.

Keep on riding!
~ Rob H

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