Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Victory Lap

Just a quickie post to report back on Day One of Cycle Commuting. It went successfully... there's still room for improvement, but I'm learning and have determined that this is definitely feasible.

The morning ride took me almost 50 minutes, about on track with my Saturday dry run. I was surprised by how little cycle traffic I saw; plenty of joggers, but only three or so riders the whole time, most of them kids. It was somewhat chilly, I had a fleece on over a long-sleeve shirt and jeans but still felt the cold. I made the approach to work the same as Saturday, turning left on Highway 9, but it was actually more pleasant this time than over the weekend, which really surprised me. When I got to the light there were two cars waiting and nobody behind me so it was a cinch to scoot over to the proper lane. When we got the arrow, rapid shifting allowed me to keep up with the turning drivers. I'd left my apartment a few minutes after 7 and pulled into the parking lot a bit before 8.

I was kind of expecting to be exhausted the first part of the morning, but I wasn't at all. I took a quick shower (hooray for decent facilities!) and then sat at my desk feeling more alert than ever before. I think it's the combination of extra oxygen in my brain and some nice endorphin action. Aw yeah, gotta love the drugs. I didn't crash after, either; took my customary walk around lunch and felt fine the whole day.

For the ride home I tagged along with Chris, who had promised to show me an alternate path onto the trail. For this we crossed over Highway 17, including several freeway ramps, then walked our bikes through a really narrow dirt trail. It puts you on the trail a ways up from the other two spots I've gotten off before, and the shorter total distance combined with the very slight downward slope between Los Gatos and San Jose combined with me staying in high gear most of the way home all meant that I astonished myself by making it home in just over half an hour. I also noticed far more bike traffic on the return trip, passing and being passed by many cyclists going in both directions, and generally more "serious"-looking than the ones I had seen in the morning. Just a hunch, but I'm guessing I was just on the trail before most of them came along in the morning; it isn't that unusual for people around here to work 9-5 or similar hours.

Overall I feel really good about this experiment. I think I picked the perfect time to start doing this since the lighting seems perfect. It's getting light in the morning when I head out, and is downright bright by the time I make it to Los Gatos. Similarly, it's bright when I left work a bit after 5, and was still fairly light when I arrived home after 5:30. The temperature is fine, I don't sweat a whole lot in either direction (I take off the fleece for my return ride).

There are a couple of things I need to decide. First, how often to do this. I think my goal will be to eventually do it every day that it isn't raining, but I may need to work up to that. Still haven't decided if I will ride tomorrow, I'll wait until the morning and see what my body says. I'd like to ride a minimum of 2 days a week for the next month, and if I can do more, hey, bonus!

Secondly, I still haven't decided on the best entrances and exits to the trail. There are three options for each. For getting on in the morning:
  1. The shortest total distance is to go down Southwest and then take the entrance on Basom; but this is on the wrong side of the road, which means I would most likely do it on the sidewalk;
  2. The simplest is to take Stokes all the way to the trailhead, just waiting for a light change on Leigh; but this increases my total distance;
  3. My approach this morning, which I think I like, is to ride down Stokes, then hop on the sidewalk on Leigh for the short distance to the entrance. I dislike the idea of sidewalk riding, but even though traffic wasn't that heavy this morning the combination of parked cars and a curvy road make me nervous about riding that.
Coming back, the easiest and shortest exit is Bascom. But where to get off in Los Gatos?
  1. What is probably the "right" way, which I did this morning: get off in Old Town then take Los Gatos Boulevard to Highway 9. Kind of hilly, quite a few stop signs and one traffic signal that still makes me a little nervous.
  2. What may be the most pleasant option traffic-wise, which I discovered on my walk last fall: exit at Los Gatos High School and follow some residential streets, then take Kennedy to Los Gatos Boulevard, then make a RIGHT turn on Highway 9. You aren't doing anything funky with traffic here, the streets are quieter (though more severely hilly), and you get to use a bike lane.
  3. Take the same exit Chris showed me. Definitely the shortest option of the three, though it involves the trifecta of riding against traffic, riding on the sidewalk and dealing with freeway ramps. I get the feeling I'll end up doing this; none of my three approaches are all that pleasant, so it makes sense to do the shortest of the three.
Of course, I may be putting too much emphasis on distance. I know some options are shorter or longer than others, but compared with the total distance involved it might not be that great.

Logistics aside, there are a couple of skills I want to work on. The first, embarassing as it is to admit, is riding in a straight line. I think I was better at this today than I was on Saturday; I never cross lanes or anything, but I'd like my position to be more consistent. The second is improving my shifting. I tend to find something I like and then stick with it until I see a hill; I could probably get more benefit out of making finer distinctions regarding the terrain I'm encountering. Finally (for now) I want to improve my rear-view vision. This isn't very important on the trail, when I just need to make sure nobody's coming up behind me before I pass someone; it's much more critical on roads, where I need to make the glances short so I can look back at the cars in front of me, and complete enough so I know whether it's safe to move out into the lane.

I think I spoke thrice as much today as I typically do. Sadly, almost all of my conversation consisted of five words: "On," "Your," "Left," "Thank," and "You."


  1. Wow, I'm not even sure I could ride for that long. I'm having to refuse to give children piggy back rides lately because it makes me achey after. I think my body just can't take the abuse it used to. Anyway, you must be in better shape than me. Kudos!

  2. Eh, it's also much colder there than here, so I'm sure you haven't been able to get outside as much lately. I have the benefit of being able to do outdoor activities pretty much year round, which, while not directly applicable to cycling, gives me an unfair edge in endurance. Anyways, thanks, and we'll see how long I can keep this up for.