Thursday, May 3, 2012

Back in the saddle

Tuesday was Bike to Work Day in Champaign-Urbana and I decided it was a good opportunity to start my cycling season. Monday night I dusted off my bike (untouched since last summer), pumped up the tires, and located my helmet in the garage (never an easy task), so that everything was set to go Tuesday morning. I left the house just after 7am and headed towards Savoy. It's a little out of the way, but this way I got to avoid the dangerously narrow freeway overpasses.

Very quickly, my muscles started complaining about being used in an unfamiliar way, so I had to use my granny gear when heading up a grade, but for the most part I was having a great time. I stopped by a bike station and picked up a free T-shirt, water bottle, and a sticker, and continued on my way. They did not have the promised coffee, so I was glad I had fueled up at home. I ended up using bike lanes or bike paths for most of the ride, except on campus things get confusing as bike paths are not very well labeled and end abruptly. At one point, I was dumped onto a one-way street facing the wrong way, so I ended up just riding on the sidewalk.

I finally arrived at my office just before 8 and ended up being a couple of minutes late to my (last!) lecture. After the lecture, I walked up the stairs to my office very slowly, as my legs seemed not to have much energy left in them. Somehow, by the end of the summer, I'm going to have to run a 10K after a bike ride 2.5 times as long (not to mention a long swim, too). No problem!

Just after 4pm, a rainstorm started rolling through campus. Lenore emailed me and offered to come rescue me in the minivan, so I checked the weather radar, and it looked like the storm would pass in a short while. Just after I told her not to worry about me, the tornado siren started going off. Everyone in the office filed down to the basement, except for a few students who were standing outside peering at what looked like a funnel cloud in the distance. I think they eventually came to their senses and went inside; I myself tried to watch the storm on our new building webcam, but could only see rain. Lenore emailed me that she was hiding in our basement at home with the dogs and the twins.

Fortunately, the tornado warning expired at 4:45 and the weather cleared up nicely. My ride home ended up being sunny and pleasant for most of the ride, except in the beginning, when my seat was super-wet. The last few miles were biking on mostly open roads into a strong headwind, so my average heart rate for that part was about 10bpm higher than on the outbound trip and I was hot and out of breath when I arrived home. But overall, I think I can declare my commuting experiment a success. The only major downside is that it takes about a half-hour longer than driving, but I think in the summer, I should be able to find the time to do this again.

I've also started dreaming of buying a new bike to replace my 10+ old bottom-of-the-line hybrid. Last summer, I was very close to buying a CAAD10 5 105, but eventually I decided that I couldn't fit it into my budget. It was a good thing, too, since I only made it out bicycling a half-dozen times the whole summer. This summer, I was planning to do a bit of a splurge to get a tenure gift for myself, and a nice road bike may be just the thing. To make sure that I don't end up with something I don't use, I've decided to make my budget equal to the number of minutes I have spent bicycling. I figure this way, by the time I have banked enough minutes for a new bike, I will have established a pretty regular cycling pattern that the money will be well spent. And it might even encourage me to bike to work more often, which is almost certainly a good thing.

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