Bicycle Commuting

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28 Year Old Schwinn Hybrid

I started acclimating myself to bicycle commuting at least four years ago.  About two years ago I committed to doing it as my primary means of traveling to and from work. I have two bikes. Not pictured is a Jamis Aurora touring bike I occasionally ride to work, but the Schwinn’s my choice for everyday riding.   I purchased this bike at Walt’s Bike Shop here in Columbia, Missouri around 28 years ago.  I still have the receipt.  It came in right at $400.  Labor is free for servicing any bike you purchase from Walts, and I take it in once a year to get it tuned up and ready for another year.  I would estimate this bike has a good 7,000 miles on it.  I switched the pictured Banjo Brothers saddle bag to one of my  Ortlieb Back Roller Classic bags. By the way, the Ortliebs are worth every single penny you pay for them.

I am lucky in that I have about a mile to ride to the trailhead from my home.  I get on  a nearby recreational trail maintained by the University of Missouri, and then on the MKT trail which is maintained primarily by the City of Columbia.  I get off in downtown Columbia, and have about a half mile ride through downtown until I get to work.  Door to door it takes 33 minutes all things considered, and it is right at five and a half miles.

I will be adding some future posts regarding equipment and experiences, but now I want to talk about something else – how vital, and important it is to me to be able to use a bicycle for transportation. Also why you should consider it. My wife has a car since her job requires her to drive all over town.  So she has a good car. A Toyota Rav.  I have an old beater car I bought for $1,000 late last year, and the air conditioner doesn’t work. Some friends had it, they were willing to sell it, and we knew the car since my daughter we had been borrowing it for three months for our daughter to drive.  Before that I car pooled with my wife. My car is just a backup and I will be giving it to my other daughter when she comes back from New York.

I like not being dependent on an automobile, and spending all the money having a car requires.  My bike seldom has mechanical issues, and when it does I can fix them myself or get it done relatively cheaply at the bike shop.  My most expensive repair so far was for a new back wheel which was just a bit over a hundred dollars.  Remember, this bike is pushing 30 years.  Also, it has never left me stranded. I carry at least two tubes and everything I need to repair or fix a flat to get back on the road.  The most expensive upkeep is tires since I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires.  I have about three years on the current set, and will probably be replacing them sometime this year.  By the way. I have never had a flat on those tires.

A bike helps me stay fit.  Everyday I get over ten miles of aerobic exercise just by riding to work.  I am outside, and ride along some very nice scenery.  I don’t like using a tread mile, and it seems kind of silly for me to drive to a gym to workout when I can just get on my bike and get a fairly decent aerobic workout for nothing while I am actually saving money.  By the way, the drive to work takes fifteen minutes, and riding the bike only adds another eighteen minutes.  I am fortunate in that I have very little road riding to do, and I have some friends that have such bad traffic where they live they are afraid to ride their bike.  This brings me to my last point.

I think staying active, saving money, and doing something environmentally positive such as riding your bike is important enough to actually plan around it.  As my wife and I  downsize, now that the children are basically out of the house, I won’t move someplace where I can’t ride my bike to work, or where I am more than a mile from the trail.  Besides, I like being different, and I like doing it in a meaningful, and positive, way.

I would be remiss if I did not say that safety is an issue. I am very careful as to where I ride. I ride as if every car door will open up into me as I pass, that nobody sees me, that everyone will pull out in front of me. I wear a helmet and a very conspicuous safety vest.

Published by Michael Ray Perkins

Poet, teacher, and writer. I commute by bike to work, the kind you pedal, and love to go backpacking. Section hiking the Appalachian Trail.

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