Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking the bike on the road

In the spirit of this blog and of my comittment to doing things that frighten me, I decided it was finally time today to take my beautiful new bike out on the road. Oh, and, they probably won't let me do my miles for the triathlon sitting on a trainer.

I used to be a bike commuter in Seattle but biking in Southern New Jersey is not for the timid! First of all, there are very few designated bike lanes, none on my route to church today. If you are fortunate enough to be on a road with a shoulder (or "right-hand passing lane" as they seem to be known as here), you will find it riddled with potholes from this winter's madness. These are not your ordinary potholes either, they are more like caverns, many shaped exactly like the imprint of say, a bicycle tire. In the nicer neighborhoods the potholes have been filled but all the loose, spare gravel has been swept into the shoulder. Here is where I would like to point out that road bikes do NOT handle entirely like mountain bikes.

Still, it being Easter, and a time for new beginnings, I strapped on the helmet, shoved my church clothes into a little backpack and took to the roads. I used Google Bike Maps in the hopes of finding a way to avoid Route 70, a monstrosity of a highway that cuts right through a neighborhood, making most streets around it unusable as through streets. Of course there is no bike lane on this road and the sidewalks (Yes, I rode on them. I'll stay off your sidewalks when you make your streets safe for me to ride on!) are covered with broken glass in lots of areas. None of this stopped me.

It took some time to master getting my foot into the toe cage while I was moving, this is much easier on the trainer and I did take a spill that I couldn't avoid because my foot was caught in said toe cage. I was shaken up, wobbly knees and all, but a quick assessment told me that I was just dusty, not injured and only half way there.

On the way home I decided to ignore Google and take a route that would avoid Route 70 the whole way. It meant sharing some narrow but busy neighborhood streets with cars but I guess they were patient given the spirit of the day. I managed to get lost for a bit but the weather was great, I had no place particular to be so I just enjoyed the ride. And when I wasn't cursing at the potholes or panicking over the gravel I felt terrific. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to feel wind on your face as you ride and hear the sounds of the outdoors instead of the morning news.

Tuesday I plan to ride in to work. It's an hour bike ride (will take me more than that) plus a train ride, and includes a pretty healthy incline but I'm looking forward to it and hope to make it a regular part of my commuting at least once a week.

Happy Easter! What new thing will you try today?

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