I’ve always been a bicycle mechanic, for a few different “purposes,” teams, tour companies, and recently at a bike shop that’s a 45 minute drive from my house.
I’m only there for a couple months, between some traveling and freelance race work. It’s not an absurd commute by any means, at least not here in Canada where long drives to and from work are quite normal. I do wish however I could ride my bike instead of drive. My excuse is that it’s too far, and the work days are long at this time of year in what is a very seasonal industry here.
I remember the first time I lived in Italy, I was in the Veneto, about an hour east of Venice. Work was unloading, fixing and reloading hundreds of near-identical touring bikes for a tour operator. I had an apartment in the historic centre of town and could ride my old Pinarello Conto ten minutes to and from the workshop.
It was a wonderful way to start and finish the work days, plus I was able to ride home for pasta (what else?) on my Italian-length lunch breaks. I realize now that I probably put on more kilometres that season just by commuting than I will this season driving to work and going on long rides on my days off. That’s part of the beauty of commuting by bike, all those small rides add up, quicker than you might expect.
They add up in many ways too; personally I found my bike handling skills improving, fitness of course, but also more subtle benefits. The blasts of fresh air that surround you, the sights, sounds and smells of the town, all very foreign to me at the time. Even though technically you’re expending energy to turn over those cranks, I found that those short, exhilarating rides actually re-energized me and I looked forward to them every day.
These days I do enjoy my drives to work, it’s a scenic drive and I love to listen to the radio or roll the windows down to feel the breeze if the weather is good. I catch myself most days however, wishing that I was riding to work, instead of driving and then working on bikes all day only to hop in my car to get home again. It has taught me a valuable lesson though, and one that I will take with me next time, and all the following times that I move to a new place with a new job and new routine, whatever routine that may be: I know I’ll be making plans to commute by bike.
Bike commuting varies in popularity all over the world, maybe you get to ride with hundreds of others through cobblestone streets some place like Amsterdam, or maybe you’re the outcast, the only “crazy” person to ride their bike at all. Likely you’re somewhere in between. Even if it’s just to a friend’s house, or the post office, shops, work or school, doesn’t it feel good to get there and get back home again with