So I headed out this morning around 6:15 to start my quest for 1000 miles in May.  I was eager to get rolling and even though I had a late start I was sticking with my schedule to reach 1000 miles.

Mile 0: The First thing I notice is it is COLD!!  FREEZING COLD!!!  My phone said it was about 32.  I was bundled up and hoping I would eventually build up some body heat.

Mile 3.6: Stray dog on the bike trail.  I've been chased by dogs on a couple occasions, so I am always cautious when I see this.

Mile 10.3:  I final start to sweat and can feel some warmth building up under my layers.

Mile 13.4:  Take a quick break to change gloves (thermals were way too hot now.)  I feel a little sore and remember telling my four year old last night that I could ONLY run 2 miles with him last night because I had to ride 30 miles in the morning.

Mile 16.7:  Finally I feel I have warmed up and I feel great.  This is always the best part of a ride for me.  Anything before 15 miles I feel I have to push to get going.  After this point I feel like I could go for hours.

Mile 24.5: I cross over the lower bridge from West Seattle.  I love this part of the ride.  I don't know what it is, but seeing the cityscape is always an enjoyable experience.

Mile 26.3:  I am riding up East Marginal Way and ahead I see that the road is taped off with two police cars standing as guards.  As I make my way along the sidewalk past the scene I can see that the 100 yard section of road is completely empty except that right in the middle of the road lays a mangled bicycle.  At this moment I am filled with many different emotions.  Grief. Dread. Fear. Cyclists feel a connection with other cyclist and witnessing a scene like this hurts.  The cyclists in front of me pull off to comprehend the scene we just witnessed.  I hear one say "That could have been us."  I'm sure the news cameras I rode past fully captured the look of shock that was on my face.  It was a very somber ride for the next couple of miles at a slower pace as my mind is focused on processing everything and not on how fast I am going.  

I get to work and learn that the cyclist had been struck by a semi and died on the scene.  My condolences go out to the family of the cyclist.  I've ridden along that route many times.  As we come off the bridge we follow a bike path that feeds us on to the sidewalk on the west side of East Marginal.  Most cyclists stay on the side walk for the mile or so it takes to get to the next bike path.  Some will jump off the sidewalk and cross the lanes of traffic to get to the bike lane on the far right.  I don't know what happened in this situation but the position of the bicycle this seems the most probable situation.

As I am finishing my ride I think to my self, "Never sacrifice safety."  Don't sacrifice safety for speed. Don't sacrifice safety for style.

I recall the words I seem to say all the time to my 4 year old son, usually as he is walking along the top of the couch and as he says, "I'll be careful."  My response is always "Sometimes being careful means not doing something"  It means not saying "I can cut across these lanes of traffic, because I'll look first".  It means not riding between cars stopped at an intersection.  Even after riding past the scene of where the cyclist was killed on the route I will take every day this month, I still feel that cycling is safe.  Every caution must be taken.

I know what my mom and mother-in-law will say.  But how often do you drive by a car accident and think, "I need to stop driving my car"?

I know what I am going to do tomorrow morning.  Get up and ride another 30.
 
 
I have been absent fro my blog for a few months, been busy buying a house and moving, etc.  But I'm ready to chronicle my next biking adventure, Bike Month 2013.  Last year my goal was to bike to Seattle every day.  That lasted until bike day when I got a flat on the way home from work.  A series of flat tire followed as I changed tires and had flat after flat after flat.  I finally took those tires back and switched back to the originals.

This month for the Commute Challenge I wanted to take it up a notch.  I've been trying to get a commuting team started at work and spread the joys of bike commuting.  It hasn't gone as well as hoped but better than last year.  I'll again be the team captain for team WaFed.  My personal commute challenge?

1000 miles


I will attempt to ride my bike 1000 miles during the month of May just commuting to and from work.  It's a 30 mile ride from Auburn to Seattle.  I'll be making the trip at least once a day.  You can follow my progress here.  Check back ever now and then for an update.  Some days I think I'm crazy, other days I think I just enjoy riding my bike.
 
 
The time of year has arrived when the number of cyclists on the road has dwindled.  Just a couple of months ago there would have been 3-5 bikes per car on the train to and from Seattle.  Now the only competition for a spot for my bike on the train is someone standing or sitting in the bike area that I have to kick out of the space.  All of the fair weather cyclists have stopped commuting because it is either too cold or too wet.  Only the brave (some may say crazy) few remain.  It's the time of year when people make comments like "You must be cold!" or ask questions like, "How do you stay dry?"  Well, "no, I'm not" and "just wear the right stuff".

Earlier this week it was FREEZING!!  The temp on my phone said it was 28 one day!  When it's not raining I'm reminded that I do live in a northern state.  How do I not get cold?  Layers if thermal cycling gear help along with pedaling hard and building up body heat.  I actually am warmer and dryer than walking to the bus stop with an umbrella.  So I usually look at everyone at the train station and think the same thing about them as they think about me.
Picture
Starting with the top layer:
Bike helmet.  It is surprising that an average helmet can keep the majority of rain out.

Waterproof jacket.  Pretty wind resistant as well, so the cold air can't cut through.


Thermal waterproof cycling gloves.  Hands stay toasty and dry.


AmFib thermal tights.  These are AMAZING!  My legs have never been cold in these.  Not even when I had to wade through 3 feet of water in 40 degree weather.  They're like a wet suit material.

Neoprene shoe covers.  Excellent for protection from the rain, but also add another layer of warmth by blocking the mesh vents in my shoes.

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Next layer:
Cycling cap.  Just a basic polyester cap.  It's not thermal but completely covers my ears.


Thermal bike jersey.  Very warm.  I'll only break it out when temps are below 50 for short rides, for longer rides it is too warm unless it is in the low 40's or below.








Cycling shoes.  Don't add any value for staying warm.


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The last layer:
My hair.  If I was bald I'm sure I would be colder.

Cycling jersey.  Not really needed.  I used to not wear this on really cold mornings, but I put my ORCA card in the back pocket which is conveniently the same height as the card scanner.

Thermal base layer. 

Cycling Shorts.





SmartWool socks.  Very warm socks.  I've heard from other riders they are even warm when wet, though with my new shoe covers I have not had to experience that.

Not counting the basics (helmet, jersey, shorts, and shoes) all this will set you back over $400, so it's not something most people can go out and buy all at once.  I've built up over the few years when I started with just jeans, waterproof rain pants, long sleeve shirts and a water resistant jacket.  I also had no fenders that first winter in Eugene.  Looking back, I WAS crazy.  
 
 
The last couple of months I've been preparing for my first century (100 miles).  I had been riding the 30 miles home from work at least twice a week (which is not anymore than I have been doing since March, although not consistently.)  

About a week before my ride my in-laws and wife and kids were heading out to Whidbey Island.  Since I was planning on taking Friday off to spend with them out there, I figured I would bike out there Thursday evening.

It was about 60 miles starting in downtown Seattle, norht through Seattle, Shoreline, Lynnwood, until I got to Mukelteo, a short ride on the ferry over to Whidbey Island, and then over to Coupeville.  I had never ridden north of Seattle so it was nice to see that part of the area.  I had also never been on ferry before.
Whidbey Island had a lot more hills then I expected.  Up and down, up and down the last 25 miles or so.  I have not done many hilly rides so it was good for me.  Man was I sore the next day.

Having put that behind me, I figured if I could get a couple more 30 mile rides in before my long ride on Saturday I would be good to go.  I didn't fit a ride in until Thursday and figured that would be enough.

I headed out around 8 on Saturday and just took my normal route up to Seattle.  From there I got on to the Burke-Gilman trail and rode that until it ended.  This was only about 49 miles, I figured I would ride a little extra on the way home.  I stopped for a bout 20 minutes for lunch. I took it pretty easy on the way up (about 15-17 mph), not knowing how my body would react to 100 miles.  On the way back, I was feeling good and rode a little harder (18-20).  I slowed down the last few miles as I started to get tired.  It took me a little over 7 hours, with about 5 stops included.  I could definitely make time on my next ride.  It was a great experience and got to see a lot of beautiful sights around Seattle and the surrounding areas.  Check out the slide show below for some pictures I took along the way.

Next year, I'll be taking on the STP's (Seattle to Portland)  200 mile one day ride!  I'll have to get a few more centuries in before then
 
 
During March and April I biked all the way in at least once each week, except one.  May is Bike Month across the country, with May 18 being Bike to Work Day.  I'll be riding the 30 miles from Auburn to Seattle both to and from work that day.  Here in Seattle, as part of bike month,  we have the Group Health Commute Challenge. I recruited a few people at work to join a team in the Challenge. I've been trying to decide what an appropriate commute would be for me during Bike Month. I feel like, since I bike everyday anyway, I should up my game.  I'm thinking ... bike all the way in everyday?  Seems ambitious, but it is bike month.  I'll give it a shot.  I'm off to a slow start, but we had a baby last week so I have a good excuse.

Rack and Panniers

Most people who bike commute need to carry something with them on their bike.  Clothes, computer, repair equipment, etc.  I bring the following items everyday on my commute:

dress shirt
slacks
socks
belt
tie
towel
shampoo and deodorant
lunch
spare tube and repair kit
first aid kit
(I keep my shoes and suit jackets at work.)


There are different options for getting this kind of stuff to your workplace.  The easiest is just throw it all in a backpack.  There are a couple of reasons I don't like this.  One, it can make your back a lot sweatier.  Two, it raises your center of balance and depending on the weight of the pack it can make quick maneuvering more tricky.  If you don't bike everyday, you can just bring what you need the day before you bike and leave it at your desk.

What I prefer is to install a rack and use panniers or bike bags to carry everything you need.  Your back can breath better and you'll be more comfortable if you have a good amount of stuff to carry.  My panniers are waterproof.  No matter how hard it is raining or how long I ride, everything inside will stay dry.  Not that expensive either, only $50 for a pair.  I've used them for trips to the grocery store, running to the mall, or anywhere else I may need to carry some cargo. 

 For example, yesterday was my anniversary.  I've been married six years and got some flowers from Pike Place Market for Heather.  I just set the flowers in one of my bike bags, put everything else in my other bag and off I went (my bags are big enough that everything I carry could fit in one bag, but I like to separate my wet towel and lunch from my work clothes.)
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See they made it just fine.  Heather was quite impressed, not just with the beauty of the flowers, but that I somehow managed to bring them home on my bike.  I didn't tell her how easy it really was.  I'd rather let her stay impressed. 

 As a side note, for a couple of hours before I left work it rained the hardest I'd seen it rain all year.  I was quite worried that they might not make it since I could not seal up my bag.

Anyway OI would like to encourage anyone reading this to participate  in Bike to Work Day.  Even if you do a hybrid commute (bike/bus or train) that day, get out and experience the joy of cutting the car (or the city bus with a bunch of weirdos on it) out of your commute.

 
 
I was sick last week and with the holiday only went into work twice, one of which was a short day because I went to Redmond with Heather for an ultrasound.  They had a lot of bike lanes up there and it made me miss Eugene/Springfield.  I wish there were more bike lanes in Auburn, more routes I could take locally.  Seattle has been fun though.

I didn't bike at all last week and this morning when I did I couldn't breath through my nose.  All this when I was planning on starting to bike to Seattle some mornings.  So I decided I would list my goals for the month.  I figure if it is written down I'll be more likely to do it.

1.) Bike at least 75 miles each week
2.) Bike all the way in to Seattle (25 miles) at least once a week
3.) Get out for at least one longer ride (at least 40 miles) on a weekend (I hope that's OK with you Heather)

Now that it is starting to get light outside I'll try to start taking some pictures when I bike in to Seattle.  Though I'll have to make sure I leave with enough time.  I need to get to work by 7:30, so if I leave by 5:30 I should have plenty of time to bike the 25 miles and stop for a few pictures.

Ultimately, this summer I plan on doing a century (100 miles). It's something I wanted to do when I started cycling a few years ago.  They have a lot of organized centuries around here but he all cost more than I want to pay so I'll map out my own route and go by myself.
 
 
As I mention on the Home page, part of this blog is about giving tips for bike commuting.  Another part describing the adventures I encounter during my commute.  Lastly, it is a medium to share pictures from trails and roads around Seattle.  You can see a slide show of past pictures (from Eugene and Portland) on the Home page.

I'm starting a series of posts that talk about some of the essentials of bike commuting.  My goal is to help you avoid this 
The most essential thing you need to commute by bike is ...... a bike.  If you own a bike you have all that is really necessary.  Everything else the I suggest will just make you safer, more comfortable, quicker, and avoid delays.  So I recommend that if you want to give bike commuting a shot, you be a little more prepared than just having a bike.  That being said, if you do own a bike, I invite you to pick a day next week and try traveling by bike somewhere you would normally drive, whether it be to work, the store, the park, your friends house, church or where ever else you may go during the week.

This is my bike.   It is a 59cm Norco CCX3.  I've been very pleased with it so far.  It's a lot quicker than my old bike.
It is a road bike.  Technically it's a Cyclocross bike.  In my opinion, road bikes are much better than mountain bikes for commuting.  This is mainly due to their thinner, lighter tires that are filled to a much higher air pressure, which means dramatically decreased rolling resistance.  Throw in the fact that road bikes themselves are generally lighter you'll find that you can go a further distance at a significantly higher speed.  Suddenly that commute that you thought was to difficult or would take too long seems reasonable.  A lot of people don't like the drop down handlebars of a road bike, and will purchase a hybrid bike, which is kind of like a road bike with flat bar handlebars.

Most importantly, the best bike to commute on is a bike that you will use for more than commuting.  If you go mountain biking on the weekends, the best bike would be the one you already have.  I bought my bike with commuting in mind, but also the fact that I would like to do some 50-100 mile rides on weekends during the summer.  If you are thinking of buying a bike I'd recommend a road bike or hybrid.  Most likely you will not be riding on dirt or gravel trails, which is where mountain bikes would have the advantage.


 
 
I've been meaning to start a series of posts about some of the essentials of bike commuting.  I had planned to start with the most basic, but I'll start with what proved to be very useful on my commute this morning.  For Christmas I got a pair of Pearl Izumi Am-Fib bike tights.  I love them, they are thermal, highly water resistant, and if the do get wet, they are still very warm because they are made of a wet suit like material.  Yes, I know what your thinking, I bike to the Sounder and ride the train in tights.  When I was in Oregon I just wore my jeans under some rain pants during the winter.  There are many benefits to tights as opposed to jeans or other pants that I talk about later.  They are not essential for commuting, but I'll just say there is no way I would bike the 12 miles to Tukwila in pants.

So this morning I biked up the Interurban Trail to the Tukwila Sounder station.  About a mile from the station a couple people warned my that there was water on the road up ahead.  I said thank you and keep going.  I had a train to catch. With in a half mile of the station there was about an inch of water on the trail and I went through a section that covered my feet as I pedaled.  That wasn't too bad.  When I reached the road that the station is off of, I can see I crew of workers and that the roan is closed.  I pulled up to a worker and asked how bad the sidewalk was ahead (I was about a hundred yards from the station).  He said " You can try to go through if you want."  That was good enough for me!  So I took off down the sidewalk, the water was about a foot deep, some parts were flowing pretty good.  Then it started to get deeper and deeper.  Soon, when pedaling, my feet never left the water. At this point I figured it was best to get off and walk, since I couldn't see what might have been washed on the sidewalk.  So I hopped off, threw my bike on my shoulder and started wading through.  The water came halfway up my thigh. There was a van stuck in the middle of the road.  I made it through and bike the remaining 20 yards to the station.

My tights had gotten soaked.  But were actually quite warm.  My feet were an other story.  So Am-Fib tights, a great addition to bike commuting because you just never know when in your commute you'll have to wade through a small lake.
 
 
Well I've been in Washington for a month now.  I'm living in Auburn, about 25 miles south of Seattle.  New house, new job, new bike, new commute, new blog.  I'll give more details about each in the coming months.  I'll get some pictures on here too.  First a little about my commute.

Most days I bike to the train station from home and then from the train station to work, about 2-3 miles total.  two weeks ago I biked from Auburn to Tukwila (about 13 miles) and caught the train from there.  Last week I decided to bike the whole way up to Seattle to work which is just under 30 miles.

I tried to wake up at 4:45 to get out in time to make it to work on but did not roll out of bed till about 5:10.  Then I took a lot longer to leave than I thought, so I didn't leave till 5:40.  It was cold, about 40 degrees or so.  Luckily I was prepared with all my thermal bike clothes.  I was excited to take my new bike on its first long ride.  The first half went really quick.  It's a straight shot to Tukwila and got there in about 50 minutes.  The last half took a lot longer.  Why?  I got lost.  The Green River Trail winds along the Green River.  Sometimes it cuts out on to a street for a little and then back to a path.  Sometimes it will cut from the main path to a street.  The only way to tell the difference is if the main path is pretty obvious or if there are signs.  But when the main path takes a weird sharp turn over a bridge that can't be seen in the dark and another part of the path cuts on to a road, you don't realize that you are off the main path.  Especially when just a couple block away on the road is another part of the path.  I thought that that was to continuation of the path I was on, but it was really another part of the path that was going in the opposite direction that I was.  But that part of the path was closed so I followed along roads until I could find where the path open again.  Finally I decided that I could not go that way so I asked someone what the heck was going on.  So I turned around and headed back the way I came.  Found a map, talked to some old guys about the way the path went and headed back down the path again.  This time it was a little light out and could see where the path took a weird turn an over a bridge.  Apparently there was a sign there, but it was small and brown and can't be seen in the dark.  Finally I was on the right path but still had a ways to go.  It was nice rid into Seattle and when I went on the bridge from West Seattle to Seattle there were a lot more cyclists.  There where five or more of us following each other through the streets of Seattle until we went our separate ways.  And I was only an hour late to work.  Not to bad for biking through an area I had never been in at all in the pitch black of the early morning.  Next time will go a lot better.
 

    Pictures

    Click on the Home link to see a slideshow of some pictures I've taken around some of the bike paths in Eugene and a few from Portland.  I'll add some of Seattle when the weather is a little nicer. 

    Essentials in Bike Commuting

    Getting AroundStaying Dry
    Staying Warm

    Keeping Cool

    Ryan

    I began cycling in Eugene, OR where I got a Master's in Economics.  I now live in Washington with my wife and one and a half kids. My commute, which I split between cycling and train, is about 30 miles one way.

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