(that’s me above in my new Anchor Steam jersey)
I love riding a bike to work. In a city of sky-rocketing rents, questionable folks on MUNI, and a constant IPO measuring contest, the fact that it takes less time and two less buses to ride in to work astonishes / delights me.
I’m a cautious bike rider, with a relative fear of speed that’s evolved from my 11 year-old ski racing days (you see, you’re not a very good racer if you don’t particularly care to go fast – but that’s another story for another time). I tend to stop at stoplights, signal when I turn, and stay in the bike line as much as I can. My caution, however, doesn’t preempt reckless behavior of others, whether they be drivers, pedestrians, or other cyclists.
The first time I rode to work 3 years ago, I took Ben’s Mountain Bike, not knowing at the time that the tires were nearly empty. The bike didn’t fit me, so I was hunched over, with no shoes for the clips, just huffing and puffing and trying not to fall down. On the Embarcadero, a car turned into the bike lane and nearly hit me. I was spooked to all hell.
After that, I purchased the cadillac of cruiser bicycles – a beheamoth more suited to the boardwalks of Santa Cruz than to the quick roads of San Francisco, but I didn’t care. I sat higher than most cars, could wear a skirt to work, and kind of looked cute and stylish (got a couple of whistles from messengers, no joke.) Problem was, I tended to huff and puff as much as the under-pumped mountain bike, got just as sweaty (and boy howdy, I sweat), and my 3 speeds were no match for even the slightest San Francisco hill. Which is, as you know, 95% of them. Also, I lacked a quick response time, so when a car door nearly opened into me, I had to swerve into traffic.
When I got my road bike recently, I was so skittish and afraid of the damn thing, I thought I’d never ride it. It was small, stupidly light. I had to clip my feet into it, and I had flashbacks of tumbling down the mountain on a snowboard firmly attached to my feet. Cyclists were tough, fast, intimidating. “I’m not a road cyclist” I’d think, “everyone’s going to look at me and know I’m an interloper. A fraud”. The first ride was shaky, as I figured out the rhythms and balance and power and OH MY GOD I’M GOING SO FAST. After that, I gave my brakes a crazy workout on the epic downhill in the Headlands, after falling and scraping my knee on the way up. I had cried like a baby, but I was addicted.
I love my road bike. She’s zippy and responsive and I feel powerful when I’m on it. For someone who never thought she could be a cyclist, I’m the one getting the shakes if I’m not on the road by 9 AM on a Saturday. I’ve seen so much more of Northern California as a result (Santa Cruz, Wine Country, Marin, East Bay) and I’ve been outside more. Which, as you know, is the freaking point of living in this part of the world.
I lost a friend in a hit and run in 2005. She wasn’t on a bike, the guy was drunk, it pretty much has nothing to do with Bike to Work Day, but I have been thinking about her today for some reason. With everything that’s happened recently, it’s just a reminder that we share the road, and it’s on everyone including cyclists to ride safely.
Protect yourself, respect the road, and get in to work safely today. I sold the bike Cadillac, so I’ll be riding my road bike in for the first time. I’ve been looking forward to it all week.