Why I Commute by Bike.
by Elizabeth Traver
I bike to work because it saves gas and wear and tear on my car, decreases my carbon footprint and eliminates the stress of trying to find parking near campus, plus I can save money by not buying a parking pass; it gives me the illusion of getting exercise, at least a little bit, everyday (I live about 2.5 miles from campus), but perhaps what I most like is the feelings it evokes. I get outside and look at the mountains and really feel the sun, I get to start my work day with fresh air and zooming along under my own power. At the end of the day, I pedal home, leaving the work behind me and slowly unwind until I am home and work is not. I even love biking home in the dark, that sense of gliding along nearly silent in the dark, disappearing from the work world and quietly wending my way home.
There are practicalities to my commute as well, especially considering that we live in Laramie. The temperature in a day can go from 90 degrees at mid-day to 55 degrees as a thunderstorm rolls in. Or a wintery day can go from cold and blowing snow to a mild 45. So, I do prepare for the commuting. I use my mountain bike as I prefer the set-up. I don’t like drop handle bars, and I like the good components and shocks of my mountain bike. I have two sets of wheels, one with slick or touring tires for dry streets and one set of good, deep tread, mountain bike tires for snow. I have them set up on wheels already so all I have to do is release the brake cables, undo the wheels and put the other set on, re-attach the brake cables, and I am ready to go. It makes it much easier to quickly adapt for an unexpected snow, or take advantage of dry roads in winter. I also have a simple computer on my bike, with an odometer and a speedometer. The odometer helps me believe that I am doing lots of exercise by seeing all the miles I rack up in a week. The speedometer helps me realize how much slower the heavily treaded mountain tires go and then motivates me to go faster when I have the slicks on.
I also added front fenders as it can be very messy on wet days and the rack on the back both decreases the splashing from the rear and gives me a place to attach a pannier or pack. In summer I always carry an extra layer for that lovely day that goes from 90 degrees to 55 degrees in 30 minutes. I also have a red bike light for the back as well as a Velcro strap to keep my pants out of the chain. The pannier is also great for throwing in those extra things I need to drag to work or for picking up a couple items at the store on the way home. It can hold the extra clothes I had on in the morning when it was cold but the afternoon warmed up.
It is a bit more work to get ready to bike to work then just hopping in the car, but I can park directly in front of my building, no searching for parking and then having to walk blocks and blocks. I do need a spot in my office to put my rain pants and wet jacket or extra layers, plus helmet; however, if I need to get across campus, I have a bike to hop on.
In the end, I love commuting to work on my bike. I get to greet the day by being outside, it can feel like an adventure to pedal through the snow or a joyous trip on a beautiful summer day. I get to see the whole sky and decide what kind of day it will be. There is no muttering or frustration while trying to find a place to park my bike, and the bike home is a wonderful way to separate from work and slowly unwind and decompress. I get home feeling a bit virtuous for my effort and calm and happy from simply enjoying the ride.