Complexity of Riding a Bike - part 1

blog_post_photo.jpgI am beginning a series about the complexity of riding a bike. I am interested in the many elements that go into a bike ride, and as I use a bike as my primary form of transportation, I've given these elements a lot of thought.


Every morning, before I get dressed, I check the Weather Channel. It is usually pretty accurate, although there have been times when rain was not predicted, but it rained anyway. Sometimes the weather does not read the weather report! The hour by hour forecast is the most useful. In April and May there is often a big temperature difference between when I leave the house in the morning and when I return in the afternoon. It can be the forties in the morning and in the seventies by the afternoon. This means I wear warmer clothing when I start my day and bring along something lighter to change into for the afternoon. Even when the forecast is accurate, I sometimes make miscalculations. In mid-May, rain was predicted for 7:30am. I left my house around that time, but it was not raining. I brought along some rain pants just in case. I was halfway up the Riverside Avenue hill when there was a sudden hard downpour. I looked around for some shelter so I could stop and put on my rain pants but no shelter was available so I just kept on riding. I was wearing a rain jacket but the rest of me got soaked. I thought I had a pair of pants at work, but when I got there I discovered that all I had was a pair of wool sweatpants. I changed into them while I dried off my pants, socks, hat and gloves. Luckily we have  a dryer at work.

Many years ago, when I was a student in England, I went on a walking tour of the Lake District. I met a guy who spent half of the year working so he could spend the rest of his time hiking. We stayed in the same youth hostel for one night and walked together the next day. It rained intermittently during our walk. Every time it started raining he put on his rain pants, and when it stopped he took them off. He told me that his hiking mentor had told him that if you are too tire to adjust to weather conditions, you are too tired to hike. I often think of my hiking companion when I am riding and have to make clothing adjustments. I try not to be lazy about it. If it gets too warm, I remove clothing, too cold I put something warmer on. If it starts to rain, I put on rain gear, and take it off when it stops raining. All those adjustments are contingent on having brought along the right clothing.

Recently, I met a friend while I was walking on Church Street. She complained about the rain. I asked her why she did not have a rain coat or umbrella, and she said she had not expected rain. It surprised me that she had not checked the weather. I can't imagine leaving the house not knowing what to expect weather-wise.

When I take longer rides, I take wind speed and direction into account. I had a free day in May and I saw that the wind was about 10 miles an hr from the southwest. Generally speaking, I want the wind at my back. I had planned to ride to Saint Albans on the bus and return by way of Fairfax. Instead, after taking the winding into consideration, I took the commuter but to Vergennes and came back to Winooski with the wind more or less behind me.


I live in Winooski and ride into Burlington for work or appointments. Over the years, I have developed a pretty good sense of how long it takes me to do my most common trips. I factor in weather when necessary. There are some clocks along many of my routes, but they are not always accurate. The clock in the apartment building that overlooks the traffic circle in Winooski does not change for daylight savings time, so sometimes is an hour behind. When I am riding on N. Winooski Avenue and crossing Pearl Street, I can catch a glimpse of the clock on the Unitarian Church. there is also a clock tower on the College Street Congregational Church, City Hall and on the corner of College Street and Saint Paul. When I do my ride into work from Colchester, and take North Avenue instead of the bike path, I see two clocks, one at the shopping plaza near Leddy Park and the other one in front of the high school.

Time flows different depending on what kind of ride I am doing. On long rides, I barely notice the passage of time. On rides to work or to appointments, I am more conscious of time slipping away.