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The bicycle diaries: five more things learned from biking to work

Me riding on the B.C. Parkway on Monday. Hello! [1]

Me riding on the B.C. Parkway on Monday. Hello!

I’ve been biking to work for three days now! Here’s a few more lessons I’m learning while out there. (I wrote about five other lessons [2] on Monday.)

1. Biking home in the dark isn’t scary, but it is really easy to get lost.

The trail I follow in the morning (the B.C. Parkway [3]) can be very confusing to navigate backward in the dark.

I was lucky to have an experienced cyclist friend bike back with me on the first day, which gave me a strong idea of where to go. But as I ride to work now, I find I’m trying to memorize landmarks on the route so I can better orient myself on the ride back. (“Was that playground on my left when I rode to work? Then it should be on my right now.”)

I’m not sure what other strategies you could use to get around this one, besides asking all the municipalities to post a huge amount of obvious signage. Biking your route over and over seems to be the only way to know the twists and turns so you can stay on the right path at night.

2. Rain sucks, but it doesn’t have to stop you from riding.

While it’s quite unpleasant to start cycling in rain, once you’re out and about, it stops bothering you so much.

It’s all in the attitude, really. If you’re terrified of being wet and you can’t let go of that, it will make your whole rainy ride totally painful. But if you’re willing to accept that it’s raining and that being wet isn’t going to ruin everything, your ride can be just fine.

Not to say that I’m going to start cycling in downpours willy nilly. But a light drizzle or a medium amount of rain doesn’t have to be a setback, unless you let it. This changes how you look at the forecast, too. You don’t necessarily look for whether it’s raining, but how hard it’s going to rain and whether you feel adequately prepared to ride in it.

3. Observation: it feels just horrible to climb a steep hill while another cyclist speeds downhill past you.

The corollary to this: It’s awesome to coast down a hill while everybody else is trying to climb it!

4. Riding the same route over and over again really makes you start to think hard about optimizing your experience.

My particular concern right now is speed and efficiency. I’m trying to avoid all the obvious bumps and head for the straightaways to keep my speed up with the minimum of energy expenditure. But I’m curious about other ways to optimize. Should I keep pedaling as I come down a hill or is that just wasted energy? Is there something out there like hypermiling [4] for cyclists?

5. I am biking the farthest out of anyone at TransLink.

Seriously! I’m way ahead. In three days I’ll have done 87 kilometres. And I feel much less paranoid about catching H1N1, since my bike doesn’t have anyone else but me on it :)