Monday, September 13, 2010

The Pain and Profit of Commuting

OK, so the BTA has the Bike Commute Challenge going on right now and several of my coworkers and I are committed to riding to work as often as we can during September. For me, that's about once or twice a week, at about 22 miles round trip.Part of my commute takes me across the I-205 bridge. It's the fastest way to get to work, even if the multi-use path down the center of the span requires ear plugs to prevent madness.

According to my sensibility the path has another flaw. It has a terrible washboard profile that limits my speed to a little over 20mph. Over 28mph, I fear for the integrity of my bike frame as the ride is barely controllable. At around 25 the rhythm is solid but manageable. At 20 the porpoising just makes me wish the bridge were not 2 miles long.

I'm sure suspension would help, and there is always the possibility that the 'flaw' was carefully designed to limit bike speeds to save pedestrian lives, but to me it's just annoying. Last week as I let my speed approach 30mph, I heard a solid ping from the front wheel. I continued on to work uneventfully. For the last week or so I had been nursing a slow leak in my front wheel, so during my lunch break, I pulled the tire to patch the tube and fix it for good. It was then that I discovered two broken spokes in my front rim. Hmmph. Dang bridge. I had no choice but to ride home gently and swap out the wheel with a backup garage sale special. Somehow I made it without collapsing the wheel.

Today I set to replacing my broken spokes to put the good wheel back on, since the spare wheel really isn't designed for rim brakes (!). While truing the wheel I noticed that I could see light through the seam opposite the valve stem. Nice - scratch one wheel - no fixing that one. So I carefully conjugated the f word into a phrase that appropriately describes my feelings for the bridge to hell, and tossed it in the junk parts bucket. Thankfully the wheel came with a matching rear wheel with the same number of spokes, so I can swap the hub over and be back in business.

On a positive note, though my ride home from work is long and tiresome, I try to take different routes and smell the roses along the way to make it more interesting. It's a great way of mentally separating myself from work. The long up hill path becomes a great focus object. "Slow and steady wins the race," I tell myself, "slow and steady."

Jack

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