Friday, October 17, 2008

Park and Ride

After my Great Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge Adventure, I wondered if I could actually commute from the Wabash Trace trailhead to work. Yesterday, I decided to give it a try.

The wife was concerned. "That's a long ride", "You'll have to ride through downtown traffic", "It will be cold", and so on. She worries a lot, but that's just because she loves me :>) Nevertheless, I was determined to try.

There were some logistics to consider. I certainly couldn't ever bicycle commute the entire way from my small rural town. And, in the past, even if I did live close enough there wouldn't have been a way for me to safely cross the Missouri river into Nebraska.

With the new bridge, I can park near the trail system and ride nearly all the way to my work downtown without having to deal with vehicle traffic. After exiting the trail, I would only need to ride a few blocks on city streets and if I timed it right, the traffic would be light. I began to formulate a plan...

My employer provides a workout facility in the building, along with lockers and showers. I could wear my bike clothes, then change and shower at work. Another of the bank parking garages has bike racks inside, nice and dry and security patrolled. Since I have a number of bikes I can choose from, I chose the Quickie Blue Fixie. I wrote about this bike in an earlier post. It's nothing fancy, an old Schwinn frame converted to fixed gear. It looks like a beater, but it's really a good ride. The paint is chipped and scratched, with no expensive wheels or other components that would make it especially attractive to unscrupulous 'free bicycle procurement artists'. I have a decent cable lock as well, nice and thick with a heavy duty combination lock.

I'd already set up this bike as a potential commuter. I added some Planet Bike clip on fenders and a Pletscher rack knock-off. These parts probably set me back about $20...not pretty, but very functional. Again, not real attractive to anyone who'd be looking for expensive components. I needed a bag to carry clothes, bike tools, wallet, security badge, sunglasses, etc, etc. I already own a Carradice Nelson Longflap bag, and a quick release I'd purchased from Rivendell. The quick release consists of a stainless steel bracket which clamps to the seat rails, and a quick release skewer and shaft modified to fit through the bag mounting loops. The skewer fits into slots milled into the bracket, and also acts as a carrying handle for the bag. It's as easy as dropping the skewer 'handle' into the bracket slots and closing the quick release. I just had to move the bracket from my Soma to the Quickie Blue Fixie.

I needed to carry my lunch bag with me as well. Not a problem, the rear rack has a spring loaded clamp that fits perfectly under the handle of the lunch bag. Easy!

My plan: I'd get up and dress in my bike clothes, load the bike in the back of my truck, grab my bike bag and lunch bag and drive to the trailhead. I'd park, then ride the trail to work. Stop at the fitness center, shower, change clothes. When I got off work that evening, I'd just do it all in reverse.

This actually worked out pretty well. It took me a bit longer than I'd anticipated, since it took me awhile to get organized to make sure I had everything I needed for the day. I made it to the trailhead and got on the trail around 7 a.m. It took me about 45 or 50 minutes to get to work from there. It was dark when I started, but I have a headlight and taillight installed on the QBF so it wasn't a problem. It was about 40 degrees so it was a brisk ride when I started. I dressed in my inclement weather gear, jacket and bibs along with skull cap, balaclava, and cold weather cycling gloves. My fingers and exposed parts of my face were a bit cold, but as soon as the sun started coming up they warmed quickly.

There were no other cyclists on the trail with me, but I did see quite a variety of wildlife. A buck deer passed directly in front of me and I saw several others, along with a few squirrels and a fox. And I got to pass over the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian bridge as well, a bonus! Once I left the trail, it was a direct shot to work, a few blocks in light traffic. From there, I parked the bike in the garage and it was a quick walk to the fitness center. After I was done there, I made it into work about 8:30.

I felt great riding to work. I was wide awake and invigorated when I arrived, not groggy, grumpy and half asleep as I usually would be if I'd driven the entire way myself. I was going to do it again today since the wife had to work late this evening and we couldn't ride together. I got up this morning, dressed in my bike clothes, grabbed my stuff and walked out the door...

...and it was raining.

No bike commute today. But I'm definitely going to make this part of my routine, when I'm not carpooling.

Weather permitting, of course :>)


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