The long commute

Kennedy Center and a pretty sunrise

Today I did my first bike commute. I’ve been thinking about bike commuting for awhile, but for some reason, biking across DC to Virginia was intimidating to me. And I already have a routine set up for getting to my job in Virginia from my house. But this weekend I’m house sitting for a friend who lives in Friendship Heights, which is on the northern side of DC, as opposed to my house which is on the Eastern side of DC. As they live a few short miles from the Capital Crescent Trail which will drop me off pretty close to my work, I thought I’d finally try this whole bike commuting thing. And man! Is it a lot of work, or what?!

Not only do I have to pack an entire outfit, there’s the bra, the underwear, the shoes, the deodorant, the brush, the hair straightener. Then I have to get my lunch together and make sure not to forget any keys, phones, chargers for said phones. I think if I’m going to keep doing this, I need a bigger bag. All of the stuff, plus my work laptop, makes the straps really dig into my arms.

I had not done an official recon of the route, but I felt okay because I had ridden parts of the route on other adventures. However, I had not taken into account the fact that I got lost the first time I rode the route and my embarrassing lack of direction (which is normally not a problem!). So it was like I had never ridden it before. This meant I spent a lot of time stopping to look at my phone, turning around, and retracing my steps, both to get on the trail then once I got off. Felt a little foolish.

It’s about 35 minutes on the trail itself and going to work is awesome! The grade is small, but consistent. The way to work is all downhill and it’s a snap! Felt fabulous to go so fast with so little effort! However. Coming home was another matter. It was uphill. The whole way home. No relief. Then once I got off the trail, there was a KILLER hill that I had avoided the first time I took that route because I had taken a wrong turn. Oh god it was bad. I thought I could make it, but then I got to what I thought was the top and saw that it was not, in fact, the top. I had to stop. I hate stopping. It feels like failure. I tried to hide it by looking at my phone: “I’m not stopping because I can’t make it, I’m stopping because I have something very important to look at on my phone.” Didn’t work. This lady who came out of the house of the driveway I was stopped in looked concern and asked if I was okay. In her defense, I was draped over the handlebars, gasping for breath. I assured her I was okay, and continued on my way.

The first commute wasn’t super comfortable, but I’m not interested in throwing in the towel just yet. I can’t ride tomorrow, but will be giving it another go Thursday and Friday.  It was great to get home at 5 and already be done with my afternoon ride! And I guess technically I rode for 2 hours today, when normally I only get in about an hour. In other news, I REALLY need to get my saddle adjusted. The lady bits are not happy and makes even an hour ride pretty painful.


I tried my hand at bike commuting again yesterday. To improve the experience, I made some changes. I got a new haircut which can withstand a sweat attack (less maintenance required). I lightened my load. I  didn’t overdress (so hard!). AND, most importantly, I decided to tackle the slight uphill grade of the Capital Crescent Trail in a small gear. I decided that even if it felt too easy, I was going to stick to a small gear the whole way. This might not be the best way to ride for training, but I was miserable last time. And I’m happy to report it was a less torturous ride home. However, the detour I took to avoid the Killer Hill not only had a big hill of its own, but this hill was even more Killer than the original one. So that’s a fail. But otherwise it was a success and I’m looking forward to more commuting!


7 thoughts on “The long commute

  1. Pingback: Five O’clock Forecast: Weather outlook for the commute home | Consumer Debt

  2. Yay for your first commute. It does get easier. I do a multi-modal commute some days, where I ride to the train station, and a full commute other days, when it’s super nice out, or if I just feel like riding. You figure out what works for you over time.

  3. Chris Turner

    Might be worth considering getting some duplicates of your stuff so that you don’t need to carry so much stuff. Things like chargers can be picked up quite cheaply, and taking a second brush to keep in your desk might be a good idea anyway.

  4. Richard

    Panniers are generally a better way of carrying gear than a rucksack, as the lower centre of gravity helps with stability on your bike. So it might be worth looking for a rear rack and some panniers. Or you could go for a big saddlebag to hold your stuff.

    I commute on my Brompton every day, and have a Carradice Pendle saddlebag which holds enough for me. Though I’m only going about a mile, so don’t need to carry a change of clothes.

    Climbing a steep hill is often best done by picking a low gear and spinning the pedals fast, rather than a higher gear and pedalling slowly. It’s often easier to sustain a rapid spin, than to sustain the muscular force required to push a high gear up a long climb.

    1. TheBloomingCyclist

      couple of people have mentioned panniers. not sure how i feel about them yet…

      and i’m definitely learning that a small gear with lots of spinning makes makes small grades bearable. i don’t have enough gearing for spinning on the killer climbs, tho…

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