When I decided to move into my new place at the beginning of this month, I also decided that I would start riding my bike to work. The decision seemed logical since I would be saving money while actively improving my health at the same time (as opposed to inactively improving my health??). It’s been about 3 weeks now since I started and what I’ve come to discover is that October probably isn’t the best time of the year to start the whole biking-to-work thing. I don’t recommend it. But cold and rainy days aside, I’ve actually been enjoying it.

The pros: 

1.) There’s something inherently satisfying about riding my bike to work. Unlike driving my car, or taking public transit, biking to work gives me the unique experience of knowing that I used my own energy to displace myself. It’s a great feeling. Not only that, it’s hard not to feel a little smug when I’m passing all of those helpless cars on the road that are stuck in traffic. I get to say, “ha ha! I outsmarted all of you!” while shaking a victorious fist in their direction. Of course, the smugness tends to dissipate a bit when it rains, but that’s besides the point.

2.) Biking to work saves me money. A bus pass in my corner of the jungle costs about $90 a month. Since it takes me an hour to ride to and from work, and there are 21 working days this month, it means I’ve been paying myself nearly $4.30 an hour to bike my body to work ($90 / 21 days * 1 hour). Not exactly minimum wage, but it’s still money I get to keep in my piggy bank. This also doesn’t include the gas that I’m saving, since I used to do the whole park and ride thing. So it’s probably more like $5-6 an hour. Obviously this will make a huge difference in terms of my becoming financially independent. Obviously.

3.) The health benefits — do I really need to explain this?

The cons:

1.) The weather sucks — especially in October. And it’s not even winter yet! Thankfully I’ve only been caught in the rain twice so far, and both times were on my way back from work. I don’t mind the rain, however, so much as the cold. And it’s going to be all downhill from here. Canadian winters are famously notorious, for good reason, but I’m going to try regardless. The real test will be when the snow starts to accumulate on the ground — if it’s as bad as I think it’ll be, I’ll likely revert to public transit for the rest of the hibernating season. But I’m determined to try.

2.a) I’m more likely going to die (knock on wood). Bike paths are great, and where I live there are a lot of them — really beautiful ones in fact. I’d say 80% of my trip takes place on lovely segregated bike paths, which means I get to ride my bike away from all of the murderous cars and absent minded pedestrians. It’s when I get into town that things get a little sketchy. Since inner city bike lanes are a more recent phenomenon, they often function how you would expect an afterthought to function — which is not very well. Consequently, I have to be super vigilant in the city, since most vehicles (and people) seem to forget that bikes even exist. Why is there always someone just standing in the middle of the bike lane?

2.b) Worse yet, my ride is a death trap: the chain always falls off, the brakes don’t grip very well, the rubber on the tires is cracking and the handle bar moves on its own. I half expect the front wheel to fall off while I’m going downhill. So as you can see my bike isn’t exactly fit for the Tour de France — it’s actually not fit for anything. I have another bike of course, which doesn’t have any of these problems, but it also cost a pretty penny more (my work bike was free). Given that bike thievery is pretty much on par with gonorrhoea in terms of epidemic-ness, I thought I wouldn’t take any chances. But in this case, someone stealing my work bike would probably be doing me a favour. But I digress. I’ll likely upgrade once I figure out if I want to continue this whole biking-into-work thing.

3.) I’m sweaty when I get to work. I’ll be honest, this is probably the most worrisome thing on this list, since smelling bad is literally a fate worse than death. I was the smelly kid in elementary school, so this particular point is very dear to my heart. I’ve asked around, however, and everybody tells me that I smell fine. I’m not sure what will happen once it’s -30 outside (Celsius) and I have to wear a parka to prevent hypothermia. Unfortunately, there are no showers at work.

So there you have it, a brief synopsis of my first month of biking to work. Despite the obvious risks involved, I’m actually enjoying the whole endeavour. I’m not sure what’s going to happen during the winter, but like I already said, I’m determined to try. At worst, I’ll bus it for a couple months and restart in the spring. On the health front, if you’re the weight conscious type, biking to work provides a great work out. I’ve already lost around 2 kilos/5 pounds this month.

André