Even the endless Sacramento summer is grudgingly retreating as the northern hemisphere tilts away from the sun. We’re still dry-roasting in the afternoons, but the longer nights cool things off more quickly, and when I set out for the morning train, the sun isn’t yet over the horizon. Last fall I was a much more occasional bike commuter, still adjusting to my new home and schedule, and still making my first tentative forays back into exercise of any kind. When the days got shorter, I bought a headlight and an extra blinky red light for my stern, but I think I only braved the darkness once.
This year I’m pretty committed - so far. I could tell you how the crisp morning air wakes me up and the ride gets my blood flowing, and how the rising sun lights up the trees along the river, and those things are true. I’m even coming to enjoy the late afternoon warmth as I roll the bike off the over-air-conditioned train and back to the bike path.
But the real reasons that I’m a pretty regular rider now are my dislike of the walk from the station to the office and the cost of parking the car at the Sacramento station. The overflow lot is a very reasonable $4/day as long as you’re in by 7:30 and out after 5:30, but it adds up. I suck at saving money, but this one seems like a no-brainer. And the walk to the office on the other end, through a mixture of warehouses, some cool modern offices, and a bunch of dilapidated South Berkeley housing, is not the kind of walk one would particularly savor. Sure, there are some fun businesses to think about - the sake factory by the station, a number of specialty photo processing and printing shops, an organic sauerkraut joint, and Mork’s sheet metal and fabrication, which boasts its own gargoyles (of sheet metal) over the shop entrance. But mostly it’s a dull walk, and there’s only one route that makes sense from an efficiency standpoint.
So we'll see if, as the darkness creeps in, I'll be able to keep my bike groove going. I think that part of the problem last year was that I wasn't sure what to wear in the early mornings when it was cold. Full cycling tights seemed extreme, not to mention a struggle to pull on fresh from the shower. Cycling shorts - too cold, definitely, but pulling my winter jeans on over the shorts felt constricting to ride in.
I know some people just jump on their bikes in their street clothes and ride to work, but I'm afraid I find that extremely uncomfortable. I have to have some padding in the nether regions. Maybe I'll add some stretchy track pants to my ensemble, over the bike shorts, and then carry my work jeans in my ever-expanding backpack. Laptop, power supply, reading material, thin hoodie for the cold train and the cold fog of Berkeley, and now my PitBull bike lock system (U-lock and cable). My train was an hour late the other day and without a lock I couldn't go anywhere. So even though I bring my bike up to the office, I carry around what feels like 15 pounds worth of lock against the predations of Berkeley bike thieves.
Yeah, I could attach my lock to my frame with the bracket, but I don't want to clutter up my frame with a bunch of commuter hardware. I'm hanging on to my vision of my bike as a workout and racing machine rather than a pack horse. So instead I load my back down with the weight and keep my bike streamlined. (Chapter 11 - Outfit Yourself Judiciously)
The Path of the Bike is a twisted path.