Friday, March 26, 2010

Bike-to-work Season

So, bike-to-work season is officially here! I calculated that this is the sixth year in which I have biked to work at least some days, essentially spring through fall. The 23-mile round trip does get easier every year, and I hope it is taking some of the stress off my bones and joints that must result from the constant, repetetive motion of running.

A few words about my bike -- I purchased it from a company called "Bike the Sites," which rents bikes to tourists here in DC. They are located at the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Ave. So I wandered in one day, hoping to replace my thirty-year-old brown Raleigh -- which is a truly beautiful bike, but weighs a TON. Their bikes are kept in good condition, since they rent them out regularly, and they often sell off bikes when they get new ones. So in 2005, I bought a Trek hybrid for $100. It has served me well these last five years, and I do get it tuned up regularly (which costs more than the bike did!).

I see a lot of bikers on my commute with sharp-looking racing bikes, with thin wheels, which must be ultra-lite. They regularly zoom right past me. But I like the security of my fat wheels and heavier bike, even if it means more effort and time to get to and from work. I'm lucky to have a route that keeps me out of traffic for the most part as well -- I spend most of the 11.5 miles each way on the Capital Crescent Trail and the Rock Creek trail. And when I get up to the Lincoln Memorial, I cruise down past the Reflecting Pool and the WWII Memorial (a truly hideous memorial, by the way -- the WWII veterans really do deserve better), past the White House and up to the Washington Monument, then over to my office building. It's a really great commute, and makes me so happy to live in the DC area!!

I'll post again about the logistics of biking to work, which are important to make it a smooth commute that doesn't feel burdensome. There are a number of little things I've learned over the last five years of doing this that have really helped make the commute more enjoyable and less like "exercise."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I have to admit, I love running and am definitely a person who can easily settle into a rut. I have been known to eat the same thing for lunch for months at a time (bagel with hummus was the last rut, vegetable soup with tofu croutons -- which I will elaborate on in a later posting -- is the current one). But after having suffered some repetetive-motion-related injuries some years ago, I started bicycling to work in the spring-to-fall season.

We are lucky enough to have a great bike/walk trail system that allows me to do this without having to suffer the terrifying experience of biking on the street with the cars ... I once biked down Constitution Ave and really did not think I would live to tell of it. My workplace also has a fantastic arrangement for bicyclists, allowing us to store our bikes in a secure location during the day, and access to free showers (more about this in a subsequent post)

But the first ride of the season is always a little daunting. So this Sunday, with the 70 degree temps in DC, we rode from our house down to Georgetown to have lunch -- about 8 miles each way, three miles short of my work bike-commute -- and a steady (but not terribly steep) uphill ride most of the way home. I first patted myself on the back for having had my bike tuned up in late February, before it got warm and everyone else had the same thought. So because of that, the gears shifted smoothly, the brakes worked well, and all was good. The Capital Crescent Trail (built along an old railroad line) was packed with bikers, joggers, and walkers, but it was a lovely ride down ... and enjoyed a nice salad from Sweetgreen in Georgetown (with chickpeas, feta, and tofu) sitting on a bench overlooking the Potomac River (we think we saw Marine One go by at one point...).

And then, of course, the ride home. Which I always dread the first time of the season -- five miles of steady uphill, on a relatively heavy hybrid bicycle. But the winter running must be working -- it really wasn't that bad! It does seem to get easier every year. And, more importantly, it does feel good to move one's muscles in a different way for a change. Running is wonderful (did it this morning, in fact) but I truly see the value in cross-training when I ride my bike, even if it is only to make sure I can run for more and more years.

So tomorrow -- 40 degrees in the morning, which is a bit cold for me to ride a bike, although warm for running -- but I'm going to man up and ride in. Will let you know how it goes!