Oh the Joys (and Injuries) of Commuting bike, that is :-P

When I started out on this path a year ago, I thought, "Is it even possible to work biking 30 miles to/from work into my schedule?"  Now I'm up to biking up to 3 days a week to work and loving it!  It's a very rewarding experience, and it gives me an opportunity to enjoy the sights, sounds, and yes smells of San Jose.  As I always say, biking through a city always helps you truely learn the lay of the land.  But commuting does come at a price...

When I first dreamed up this plan of biking accross flat old SJ, I thought it would be a walk in the park.  After all, I've biked up and down hills for miles and miles, so what's the big deal with a short city ride?  Turns out the biking part is easy; it's the gear (and apparently my health) that's the hard part.

Since starting to bike to work, my 1983 Bianchi racing bike has been retrofitted to go through a war zone, and it definitely looks the part.  Here's a shot of my blue steel beauty hanging out with it's friends:

I write this part partially as a future shopping list in case I get a new commuter (heaven forbid).  I've amassed an arsenal of equipment to outfit my sweet ride:
  • Really bright LED lights (hell I'd buy the $800 ones if I could) - gives stupid drivers somewhat of a clue that you're there.
  • Reflector stickers all over - might make you look dorky, but hey, we need to give those drivers all the help they can get!
  • Kevlar tires - you hit EVERYTHING driving through the city, and these suckers get through it!  I've gone through glass, nails, leaf piles, and God-knows-what without a flat yet!
  • An "anatomically correct" gel seat w/ a deep center groove - trust me on this one haha
  • Campus pedals - use clips when you got 'em, ride like normal when you forget (it's happened)
  • Panniers - ahhh, saved my back!  These things can fit all my emergency gear and clothes in one full swoop.  Of course, my Timbuk2 bag is on my back at all times just in case I have a larger load (aka my laptop)
  • Fenders - if you don't want your "Freshman stripe" as they call it at Davis, then grab a pair of these bad boys, they're a lifesaver in the rain.
  • Tools - multitools, allen wrenches, tire levers, the works...anything and everything in case of a flat, a loose bolt, what-have-you occurs.
  • Tubes and (if you have the space) hit a lot of funky stuff on roads, lemme tell ya!
  • Handlebar tape and (possibly handlebar gel pads) - to give you comfort and to protect your hands; the gel adds extra cushion on bumpy rides, but gloves dampen most of that...
Now that you got the bike all decked out, time to turn yourself into the ultimate mailman, inpenetrable to all Mother Nature can throw at you.  I've gathered quite a hefty collection of gear after freezing my hands off or being unable to bend my toes:

  • The basics: lycra shorts, short sleeve and long sleeve jerseys, and a good helmet
  • A base layer shirt for those really cold mornings.  Don't use undershirts, cotton will get soaked through if you ride hard.
  • Arm and Leg Warmers - super cheap and makes it easy to go from short to long sleeve in a flash
  • A couple pairs of light socks
  • A couple pairs of Smartwool socks - so your toes don't freeze off on cold days
  • Touring Bike Shoes - so you can click in while you ride and walk around at work
  • High-visibility wind breaker - makes you a shining yellow beacon to others, and it keeps out the cold and wind
  • Gloves - many types: fingerless for warm days, full finger windstopper gloves for cool days, and the waterproof lobster gloves for those cold, wet days
  • Thermal Skull Cap - good for keeping your ears warm and your hair from flying out the top of your helmet, plus it makes you look like a swimmer!
  • Rain Jacket - stops the wind, rain and cold, great for the winter
  • Rain Pants - you get the idea...
  • Helmet Cover - prevents you from getting rain on the noggin
  • Baraclava - on those really cold mornings, covers your whole face like a ski mask
  • Shoe covers - good for keeping the rain out and the warmth in
What does it look like when you're fully decked out?  Kinda like this:

Scary, huh?

It's interesting to look at the huge list above and think about what life was like riding before some of these things.  (I'll make a detailed list of my gear one of these days if interested lol)  Half of this stuff I bought after learning the hard way...

When it dropped below 50 in the mornings, in came the warmer gear like the warmers, skull cap, full finger gloves, and wool socks.  When it dropped into the 30s, well then there came the lobster gloves, etc..  And the rain?  Shoot, that required quite a few trips to Nashbar, Performance, Wheel Away and REI to pile up the goods to ride :-)

Oh, and of course the injuries.  The baraclava came in response to the doc telling me I'm not getting sinus infections, I just and breathing in too much damn cold air (thanks doc!)  The seat came after I injured my...well, yea let's not go there.  Needless to say the "mystery illness" happened twice before I figured out I needed a new seat.  And now what?  Carpal tunnel syndrome.  Seriously?  As a computer geek, I recognized the tingling numb feeling and weakness in my hands after a day or so.  Took me a lot long to peg biking instead of typing 129082532359 hours a day, but usually I've found that the cause of all my illnesses recently is biking lol.  Turns out that holding you hands on the bars in the same possition as well as not taping the bars (oops, been meaning to redo that) and the resulting vibrations can cause CTS or handlebar palsy.  Thus my sexy splints I'm wearing at the top of the post lol.

At first, it kind of bugged me getting injured all the time, but I now see it more as a learning experience about my body and commuting.  I'm curious to see what will go wrong next when I start biking again Wednesday :-P  I've come to realize that it's not tough biking to work, it's just the constant biking day to day that causes the strain.  However, if you protect yourself and get the right gear, it's a blast!  I gotta tell ya, the other day it started raining and I was having SO much fun in the rain!

Happy riding everyone, I'm sure there's going to be some new problems (and new equipment to buy :-).  I'll keep y'all posted on my next little "adventure"!


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