Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Biking to work

I recently got myself a fancy a new job. This new job is awesome in many ways, but near the top of the list is the fact that it's only a mile from my apartment. When you take into account the bike-friendliness of Santa Monica, the weather-friendliness of Southern California, and the hippie boyfriend who'd make me feel really bad about myself if I didn't, I decided to bike to work. Every day.

This has been something of an adjustment.

Driving is not just a time saver: the fact that your car goes fast is nice, but we take for granted the ability to carry around large amounts of stuff, climate control, and a soundtrack. And the ability to see that a light is about to turn red (or--safety first, guys--yellow) and actually do something about it.

Oh yeah, and the fact that it keeps you dry.

Driving in the rain is unpleasant for a whole host of other reasons (namely, all the other jerks on the road who can't drive and really turn out in force when it rains), but at least you're dry. And warm. And so is your purse/coat/mail/groceries. None of this is the case on a bike. Now, it is gratifying to just cut around all the people stuck in traffic, but you're still the one who looks like a drowned rat, and let's not forget that jackasses on the road are a danger to cyclists even more than they are to other cars, so there's still a significant downside to your ability to weave through traffic.

My daily commute thus far has been fine. Not great, but not bad, either, and when you take into account the fact that my previous job entailed an 80-mile roundtrip commute each day, it's friggin' stellar. Throughout, I've just tackled this with the conviction that, while it may not be perfect, I'll learn and figure out ways to improve it (you know, like putting the U-lock bar on the right way every time, not just half the time) and eventually this'll all be second nature. I just have to deal with the unpleasantness of learning these lessons the hard way now, and figuring out solutions.

I knew rain was an inevitability--it's been threatening me in the forecast for about a week, and until today I've gotten lucky, but on Sunday I took it upon myself to go procure a poncho for my eventual ride through the rain. I mean, sure I'll look like an idiot, but I'll be a dry idiot, so there. Well, this was one of those lessons I had to learn the hard way. I thought a poncho would solve all my rain-related bicycle-riding problems, but it turns out that's not the case. The reason why I never see other people riding around in ponchos is not because they're dumb and haven't thought of it, it's because it turns out there's a whole host of things that a poncho will not do.

Things a poncho will not do:
  • Keep your head dry (the wind on a bike blows the hood right back)
  • Keep your forearms dry
  • Keep your legs dry
Things a poncho will do:
  • Keep your torso dry
  • Obscure your ability to look behind you for things like cars when you want to turn left
  • Flap gaily in the breeze
  • Make you look like a hobo
This is not quite the list of pros and cons I had in mind when I purchased my (admittedly very cheap) poncho. Next time I have to ride through the rain (in all probability, tomorrow morning), I'm going the "suck it up and just deal with it" route, and just bringing a change of clothes to work with me.

Excuse me, I have to go change out of these wet clothes.

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