This summer will be one year ago that I began commuting by bike. Reflecting on when I made this decision, I can't quite recall when or why I made the leap. However, I do know who my inspiration was and still is.
I had worked with Kate and Victoria for about a year and a half, and during that time they shared and demonstrated their passion for bicycle transit with me twice a week. I watched in awe as they rode to the gym all winter long and always with smiles on their faces. I envied their courage to investigate a route and implement it — no matter where they were going.
Sometime in June of 2016, I decided to stop using my car to get to the gym. I added fenders to my hybrid bike, so I could ride in sloppy conditions and a functional moderate-sized saddle bag to carry my essentials. I quickly found the joy and convenience that Kate and Victoria raved about and found freedom in avoiding traffic lights and road rage.
My first big test was riding to NE Minneapolis for an appointment. It's only about nine miles, but it would be on bike paths that were unfamiliar to me, and though a part of town I have only traversed via car. So, I mapped it out, brought my new bike lock and made it in 45 minutes! And then, while I was at my appointment, my bike was stolen.
Stranded and wondering if my stolen bike suggested I am not meant to commute by bike, (after all, I had just lost the only bike designated for such a task) I called my dad to rescue my sidelined butt. Being the compassionate human being he is, we drove straight to a bike shop, and he replaced my lost wheeled friend with a new Kona; which is WAY better than the Bianchi it replaced. (My favorite thing about my Kona are the words "Be The Engine" printed on the frame.) So I was back in the business of exploration by bicycle.
My Kona has undergone many additions to make it as user-friendly as possible. For instance, I added fenders and a rack, panniers for groceries and waterproofing, and lights in front and back. An indestructible lock, and a saddle that is more comfortable than a favorite chair. A frame pump because I (finally) learned how to change a flat, and backpacks for every occasion. I bought rain jackets and waterproof shoes for a myriad of conditions. And for winter riding, I added studded tires and bought winter pants, boots, jackets, goggles, and a winter helmet to keep me warm.
The first year is certainly an investment in supplies to make bicycle commuting possible, but I am saving money on gas and car maintenance in spades. The most significant improvement for me is the endorphins that come with movement; this improves my quality of life every day (whereas sitting in a box with wheels increases my cortisol, no thank you). Commuting is no longer a drudgery, and I can always find a convenient parking space. I hear the birds and feel the air while I fit in exercise without beating the crap out of myself – check-plus!
There's a camaraderie amongst commuters, excitement to chat when we see each other on the road or trail; shared freely are encouraging words and helpful ideas. There's appreciation for the personality of each other's bike as an extension of the rider. The excitement is not in the name or expense of your bike, but why you love it and how you make it yours; it becomes a reflection of its owner. There is a non-competitive feel to commuters, rather a comity within the bike community. I have met and continue to meet intriguing, authentic folks that are excited to share experiences, ideas, and smiles.
I am proud to say I have officially made the transition to bike commuter. It has become my goal to ALWAYS ride my bike to my previously mentioned appointment in NE Minneapolis, which I have, in snowstorms and sleet, and despite having my bike stolen on my first trek. And now, I'm elated to tell you that I fill up my car's gas tank just once every two months!
Our bike community is rich with love and curiosity, and I thank Kate and Victoria for sharing their prosperity with me. Who knows, maybe reading this will inspire one of you to give bicycle commuting a go? I hope so.