These are some pictures from my bike commute – in March of 2018. I called it the ‘Viewers Choice Commute’ because I’d posted up the night before and asked my 7-ish Instagram followers to vote on which bike/route I should take. I don’t remember how cold it was that day, but it was a good @winterbiketoworkday – Last night, when I got out of hockey at midnight, it was snowing pretty good – I was surprised at how much had come down and I was still on the fence if I was going to ride today. It was cold so the snow was nice and light – super fluffy like powdered sugar. I knew today was likely to be a great day to be outside – especially on the ride home – as the call was for crystal clear skies and full sun. No doubt would have made for great scenery.
I was still waffling though. I was tired. I didn’t want to risk getting sick – but still having the internal argument (which seems really silly now in retrospect). I checked my Instagram feed before bed. I’ll credit my wise Aunt @lindambourne for bringing it home with her sage comment on my Instagram post, “Seems to me you celebrate this day more than once a year already.” Bam. There it was. Truth. The reminder I needed. The reminder to get out and get some whenever you can, but that those moments aren’t necessarily going to align perfectly with the rest of the Universe. What’s important is that you observe them when possible.
Props to anyone who did ride today, whether in the freezing cold or balmy climes. You are a singular badass. And if you can’t make it tomorrow for some reason or another, you’ll still be a singular badass. I award you each 1,000 Internet Bike Points. They say discretion is the better part of valor – which is my fancy way of of saying ‘it’s old and I’m cold’. I opted out today and am totally at peace with it, thanks Auntie Linda. And thanks to others who offered thoughts and words of encouragement as well.
Tune in to Neurotic Cyclists of Instagram next week when I try to decide if I mount my paniers on the front or the back of the bike and discuss the pros and cons of each in Part 1 of a 6 part series.
Indecision is a funny thing. In my case, once it sets in, it doesn’t leave me alone. Tomorrow is @winterbiketoworkday. I really want to participate, but like so many things worth doing, it’s hard. I’ve got hockey tonight so I won’t get home until midnight – in bed until 12:30. Riding to work tomorrow – really doing it right and riding the WHOLE way on the snow – means getting up and out early. Probably 4:30 or 5 or so. It will be dark then. Weather says temps will be around -15C with the windchill to the -20’s. Then there’s the trail conditions. Probably pretty soft right now (as I write this it’s only 0C) but maybe they’ll freeze and firm up overnight – but if they don’t, likely some walking will be involved.
What’s the point? Seems foolish sometimes to ponder doing these things. Subjecting one’s self to the cold and the effort for a 15k bike ride. Then I think about people who are going to ride 1000km across Alaska in far worse – and I’M hesitating to go out for 15k? I could not do it at all. I could do it part way – drive half the distance to where the trail becomes paved – and plowed – and ride from there. That almost seems more chickenshit than not going at all. I tend to be an ‘all or nothing’ kind of guy. To a fault. I have problems with moderation – with doing things ‘halfway’. Maybe I should work on that. Or maybe I shouldn’t.
Maybe I should just do it. Maybe the problem is I feel like there has to be some ‘reason’ to do it. Some justification for the lunacy it represents. I’m looking for the ‘why’. I don’t know if there is a ‘why’. Maybe I have to get out there to find it. Or maybe it doesn’t exist. So for the rest of the day I’ll be tormented by the question – go or no go – and surrounding all that is the constant buzz of do I wear this or wear that? Do I bring X? Will that be warm enough? Too much? Should I put myself into sleep deficit for a bike ride to work simply because someone somewhere declared it the day to do so? Where are my gloves anyway? Not those – the WARM ones? The answers to all of these questions don’t matter at all. I will either go or not go and that will be that.
Great mail day! Got my @planet_bike Super Commuter swag! A frame pump and a Super Fred Brass Bell for the Disc Trucker, a Lunch Box stem/frame bag, 2 pairs of socks, some grippy bar tape and Jereme at Planet Bike threw in one of their brand new Rojo 100 blinky lights too as a bonus! Thanks again to @ge_willi for the nod and to Jereme and the Planet Bike crew!
Sunday night. Decide to ride to work the next day. Check the weather. -8ºC. Steel your resolve. Sit on the couch staring into space for half an hour trying to decide which bike to ride. The regular commuter? The trail is snow-covered and that means longer in the dark on country roads with commuters who are only half-awake. The fatbike on the trail? Trail is snow-covered but not enough for snowmobiles means not packed yet and you’ll have to break trail. A longer, harder ride. Finally settle on the regular commuter/road option since the unknown trail condition is too much of a variable. Stage kit, lights and other necessary items for the morning. Steel your resolve.
Alarm goes at 4:30. Lay in bed for 10 minutes listing all the reasons not to ride the bike. Crawl out of bed. Check the temperature. It’s actually -12ºC. STEEL YOUR RESOLVE. Do the things. The yoga. The meditation. The coffee. Put on the layers. Take some layers off and exchange them for other layers. Steel your resolve. Get out into the garage to pack the bike. Cold as a tomb. Not to late to back out. Steel your resolve.
Push out the door, it’s cold, but you think you’ve managed to get the layers right. Dark. 2 mins. from home. Shift gears. Drop the chain. Try to upshift and pedal to get it back on like you’ve done 1,000 times before. No dice. Cranks lock. Get off the bike and instinctively lean over to assess the situation. Realize it’s pitch dark and you can’t see a thing. Try to fix it ‘by feel’ with lobster mittens on. Realize you’re an idiot. Take the light off the bars and try to work with one hand – with a lobster mitten. Realize things are far more fouled up than you initially thought. STEEL YOUR – screw it, pull the pin.
Thank you Monday. 5 minute walk home. Realize that taking the other bike is not an option due to time. Unpack the bike. Take off all the layers. Start the car to warm it up. Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ is on CBC Morning and you turn it up to 11 so you can hear it outside as you scrape the ice from your windshield and accept that perhaps this is right where the Universe wanted you all along.
Psyched to say that thanks to a nod from my solid homie, @ge_willi I’ve been named the Planet Bike Fall 2019 Super Commuter! Very cool to be acknowledged as I’m a big fan of both Planet Bike’s products and their overall positive bike mojo ethos. I look forward to repping the Super Commuter title with pride! Point your electronic smart devices to the Planet Bike website to read about just how much of a nut I am when it comes to getting to work by bike. And while you’re there, pick up something for your commute from the shop. Thanks again to GeWilli and Planet Bike!
There are two free mini-libraries on my route to-from work. Today I stopped for the first time to hit one up. This one on Mill Street – hence ‘The Mill Street Free Library’ – only went up a week or two ago. It’s very well constructed, and I noticed as I opened it up and was sticking my face in it to browse how nice the freshly sawn wood smelled. My score? ‘The Odd Sea’ by Frederick Reiken. Once home I got half-way through it before bedtime. It’s very good. I have some books at home to drop here next time I’m by. Then I’ll have to check out the other free library on my route.
I started commuting by bike daily around 2003. I rode from Reston to Falls Church in Virginia along the W&OD. This was pre-smartphones and ride tracking apps. I don’t have many photos from back then. A few though from the archives.  The first was my daily rider for several years – A @gary_fisher HooKooEKoo. It belonged to my Uncle-in-law and i inherited it when he passed away. I put a Surly rigid fork on it, flat bars cut real skinny with bar ends – pretty much to mimic the hoods of a drop bar bike. I eventually rode it into the ground. I stripped the bottom-bracket threads and I thought it was done, so I gave it a hero’s send off  and figured that was it.
I didn’t want to give up though and researching on the internet I found out that you could re-thread stripped BBs the opposite way and use a EuroItalian bottom bracket. So I found a shop in Maryland – College Park Bikes – who said they could do it. The bike lives on now, sitting in my garage. Around 2004 we moved to Annandale and I had the dream commute to Falls Church – we lived literally on the edge of Wakefield Park, so I could get an MTB rip in on my way to AND from work.
[3,4] Here’s a few pictures form those commutes. First, a Schwinn Moab that was actually my wife’s and way too small for me, and second, a nice slice of trail in Wakefield. When the Gary Fisher first died, a buddy of mine sent me a beater MTB frame and fork from Colorado – a Schwinn High Plains. I built it up as a drop bar single speed. 
I rode that to work for years and it was in the stable until just last year when I finally sold it. As with every bike I’ve ever sold, I regret it now, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Never sell bikes, kids. We moved to New Brunswick in October of 2006, and in January of 2007 was one of my first commutes here – on a fixed-gear beater Specialized MTB that I’d bought off Craigslist in DC for $100 .
It was -28ºC in this photo. I’m finding it really hard to believe I’ve been commuting for over 15 years. You’d have thought I might have stopped then. I’m sure my fingers and toes wish I had.
Today is a special day. I got up this morning and did not want to get on the bike. It was dark, cold, raining. I’ve done this hundreds of times before and I have hundreds of dollars worth of technical gear to do it with and I still didn’t want to because I knew, at some point on the ride, I would be cold and uncomfortable – suffering – and it would suck. I knew I would get out there and I would start to doubt. All those things everyone else asks and says about riding a bike to work in this kind of weather would come up in my head and I’d have no good answer. All the usual responses – mental health, fitness, sustainability, adventure – they’d all seem stupid in light of the moment. I’d just be an idiot riding my bike in the rain.
When the moment struck, I thought, “I’m going to take a picture to show how much this sucks. It’ll show people. And when I get to my cush, warm office and I’m drinking my fresh, hot coffee, I’m going to post it to Instagram so everyone knows what a badass I am and then I’ll bask in the glow of validation, community and virtual high fives.” Of course it took a few tries with my high-tech phone to get the photo right. Then as I rode on I felt a little better. Then I thought, “I’m not even half as hard as guys like @elexplore and @rayzahab. Those guys push themselves for DAYS at a time. I’m riding 45 minutes to work.”
Then I thought, well but, they have high tech gear, and sponsors and even after days or weeks, they go home to their friends and family and laugh and share stories. I mean, they share stuff to Instagram too, so how bad could it actually be? Then I was reminded that there’s so many people out there experiencing PROFOUND levels of suffering and discomfort – both internal and external – and they’re not going to be able to post to Instagram about it, and their not gonna get the virtual high-fives and they might not have anyone who wants to hear their stories even when they’re dying to tell them. They’re just going to try and make it through one. More. Day. I’m glad I was able to ride my bike to work today. It was just an ordinary day like any other. Special.
Shortly after leaving the house this morning I realized I’d neglected to throw a @clifbar in my bag to have for breakfast with my coffee so I decided a stop at my local gas-n-sip to procure one was in order. While there I stumbled upon this temporary solution to my stroopwafel interface problems of late.
On the plus side, we see that there is considerable – arguably too much – overhang, but at least there is zero risk of fall-in. From a culinary standpoint, this solution receives high marks. Obviously there are a few downsides.
Sub-optimal consistent heating, producing only a small warm spot in the cookie’s center without even heat distribution to the edges. Even moving the cookie around caused problems as it’s sheer mass made it fall over if not centered on the cup. There’s also the consternation of my team dietician at the lack of any redeemable nutritional value of this solution. Finally, at $1.99 per cookie, this solution could hardly be considered economically viable. In conclusion, a temporary fix only – an expensive, structurally flawed, nutritiously-void-while-at-the-same-time-glorious temporary fix.
Gettin’ weird out there, Fredericton. Last week it was 4ºC and I was wearing the fall/winter gear, today it was 19ºC when I left the house at 6am in a t-shirt and shorts. Was discussing with @isaac_villeneuve one of the great things about riding bikes this time – or any time – of year is getting to take in all the smells. You miss all that in a car. Subtle changes too, like temperature. Really windy today but an alternating wind between hot and humid in spots to cool and dry in the hollows where the trail dips low into the trees. Nice to have a coffee stop where my fingers weren’t numb again – even if only for a little while. Gonna get weirder on the way home – hope all you fellow bike commuters packed yer rain gear!