|My favorite bicycling outfit.|
During this month, especially leading up to Bike to Work Day on May 18, my friends ask me questions about bicycle commuting and request tips on how to start doing it. While bicycling to work is a routine that I do regularly now, it took me a few years to figure out. And this month provides plenty of opportunities to reflect on that path. When I started, I could barely ride ten miles and now I have bicycle/camped 1,400 miles down the Pacific Coast and rode 600 miles across Turkey.
For better or worse, here are ten milestones from my bicycle commute:
- In 2004, I cried every day after work for a week at my first job in San Diego. I didn't own a car--a new decision at the time--so I arrived every day in spandex, parked my bike in the back office and tried to hide the grease marks on my leg and hands. It sounds silly now, but at the time I shared office space with girls who wore clothes created by people whose names I can't pronounce. They didn't look at bikes, let alone ride them. I felt different. I felt dirty. I felt lame.
- One of my first clients was a high-end hotel in downtown San Diego. I would arrive 15 minutes early to each meeting so that I could lock my bike and change into professional attire. I'll never forget the day my client "caught" me in spandex. Our conversations changed from agenda-driven dialogue to conversations about bikes. My commuting was something he wished he could do. And something he admired.
- In 2005, one of my coworkers asked me to teach her to ride to work. New to biking, she wanted to bicycle commute, but didn't feel comfortable on the road. She also wanted to tips on how to transport her professional clothes as she'd always been impressed with my ability to pull it off.
- 2006--The year I realized that I wore a size 6. I went from a size 12 in Oregon to a size 6 in San Diego because of my 30-minute ride to work and a downhill 30-minute ride home.
- In 2007, I got control of my scheduling so that I could incorporate bicycling commuting into my work day, not just my commute to/from work. I felt empowered by my transportation choice and started carrying my helmet like a badge of honor.
- One hot summer day, I came to understand that baby wipes are freaking phenomenal. A few smell-good disposable wipes can tackle those "problem areas" and help me be fresh as a daisy (or baby powder, depending on the scent you buy) for important meetings.
- In 2009, on my ride down the Pacific Coast with my husband, I met a guy who fashioned a cane holder onto his mountain bike so he could ride from Washington to Arizona. If a dude who can barely walk can ride his bike that far, I think it's OK for able-bodied humans to ride once a week or maybe even a few times a month. Like Nike says--Just Do It.
- On that same ride, in Huntington Beach, I saw a family of six riding bikes to the beach with baby trailer in tow, surfboard / boogie board trailer in tow and one child double riding with the other child. I now had evidence that people with kids bicycle commute, too.
- In 2011, I bought my first pair of black stretchy climbing pants that double as business pants. I learned to dress in fabrics in which I can ride and conduct business.
- In 2012, I rode my bike across Turkey with a girlfriend from Portland. I had hours each day to contemplate the time when I couldn't ride ten miles to work. And to remember the first time I rode 100 miles. And now Turkey. Who woulda thunk?
How will your bicycle story begin this Bike Month?
Jamie Ortiz volunteers with the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. You can learn more about her at www.jocommunications.com.