Saturday, June 19, 2010

Biking the Capitol

I bike to work, and I run across huge flowing tracts of tourists, guys who look like they're prepared for the Tour de France, secret service SUVs tailgating each other across town, thousands of folding chairs piled on the mall, new traffic stops in new places every day, and occasionally fellow bikers who will chat as they pedal alongside.

I've been biking the ~6 miles each way for a couple of months now, and feel secure enough about the whole business to invest in a few bike accessories. Being pretty abysmal at any form of decision making, this is a slow process, but I'm heading in the right direction. My bike (a er, Raleigh SC30 (specs), approximately 10 years old by now, and dark green [my colour preferences don't change much]) has collected the following things I find
quite necessary to happy cycling:

-A water bottle holder (transferred from my previous bike), which is a bit of a tight fit between the bars of my "girl bike", but holds:

-A small 16 oz water bottle (BPA free, FWIW) from REI, which also comes into work with me and gets hourly refills from the water cooler. Yay hydration.

-A rack over the back wheel (loaned from a friend until I muster up one of my own) upon which I bungee my hulking "purse" which is really more of a satchel and is fairly unique at this point. (see photo). Someday, I might like real saddlebags (panniers) but then there's the issue of carrying something that's clearly a bike bag when I use my bike to go out places. Not terribly fashionable, but socially acceptable.

-Front and back lights, which strobe and are detachable. The back one conveniently clips onto other things, like a belt, or the back of my bag which covers the bracket the light normally sits in. I use at least the rear flasher on overcast days, and the front light going home in the evenings.

-I even went so far as to replace my old helmet, which I had gotten with the bike years ago. A friend who used to work in the REI bike shop told me they should be replaced every three years, and while this may in part be a marketing ploy, 10 years is probably quite enough. I'm self-conscious enough to feel a bit dweeby in a helmet, but heck, even I think the stylish-looking people who don't wear them are incredibly foolish.

-A bike lock (yoinked from a friend) that reaches both wheels and whatever I'm locking on to. I don't leave my bike anywhere sketchy, and most of the time it's right near a police perch, so I don't worry much. Nonetheless, I do want my bike to be there, so I lock it up all the time. It lives in my living room when I'm home, which is a bit awkward, but better than outside.

-I've had a little computer that keeps track of mileage, time and so forth as long as I've had the bike, and it's well worth it. There's nothing like assigning numbers to something to make it more fun! (or to impress coworkers with how far you ride each day)

-And just today I finally found an acceptable pair of shorts to wear. Most bike-specific shorts are rather expensive ($50+) and have schmancy wicking, padding, muscle-supporting technology, all of which is rather more than I really need. So I ended up at American Apparel getting some nice, plain cotton work out shorts.

Despite all the potential for looking like an idiot while biking, I actually feel wonderful about it. I'm not wrecking the environment, I'm getting a decent amount of exercise almost daily, and even if it doesn't make a huge impact on my body, I feel pretty good about myself physically. I don't even feel bad showing up damp and out of breath at work every morning (although I will need to find the shower in my building if I want to continue this summer). Bookending my day with half-hour bike rides makes the 8.5 hours of work more bearable (don't get me wrong here, I like my job, but it's a lot of sitting inside with no window).

View Biking to Georgetown loop in a larger map

<> So yesterday I rode from home to Georgetown, parked, shopped, discovered I had bike grease everywhere, biked the rest of the way across town to the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, listened to jazz until there got to be too many people and not enough picnic to offset the crowd, biked up to Young Chow, biked back down to the Botanic garden and listened to the Army band on the West Front, then biked back home just before dark.
A note for the future: biking at dusk bites because all the bugs come out and form clouds over the trail. ~15 miles, casually. < /brag >