Saturday, August 05, 2006


I've been an infrequent bike commuter for several years. I first started biking to work around 2003 from my home in Evanston to my office in the Loop; about a 13 mile one-way trip. I figured I could combine my meagre attempts at staying fit with my daily commute. I now live in Winnetka and my office moved to the Medical District/UIC area. So now I face a 23 mile one-way trip.

I was inspired to bike commute after seeing a Bushwacker pannier garment bag at Rapid Transit Cycles in the Wicker Park area of Chicago. It looked like a great way to transport my suit, shirt, shoes, tie and the other white collar accessories I'd need for the day at the office. Judging from the price, it wasn't a top of the line pannier. But it wasn't cheap either. My bike, a 1997 Bianchi Advantage hybrid, had served me well in the 2002 Wild Scallion adventure race (AR) but had been gathering dust due to the demands of parenthood. Being a bit tight with a buck and not usually around Wicker Park, it took me a few months to take the plunge both with the purchase and biking to work.

My wife Christine wasn't and remains less than enthusiastic about biking to work. Her worry has always been my being at the mercy of careless or reckless drivers; a valid concern. But my route choices minimize vehicle traffic as much as possible.

Biking to work and business attire are a difficult mix. The night before I have to set out EVERYTHING I need to wear at work so I can quickly pack them in the morning. A nightmare scenario is getting to work and not having socks or a shirt to go with my carefully packed suit. Packing the night before isn't workable because the clothes get all wrinkled whereas a morning pack only leaves everything bundled up for a few hours. I also have to transfer everything from my briefcase (Pocket PC, wallet, keys, lunch, and other work specific junk that I won't go into) to my pannier. Packing always seems to take longer than planned which always prevents me from leaving as early as I'd like.

Despite avoiding the heavy vehicle traffic, biking still takes longer than driving. Biking from Evanston to the Loop usually took about an hour. Winnetka to the Med District takes about an hour and forty minutes. Locking the bike, showering and getting dressed usually adds another half hour. My old office had a dingy locker-room in the basement with no place to store stuff. My new office is like a palace. It has a big locker-room where I can actually store my towel and toiletries rather than hauling them in my pannier. Plus there are closets nearby where I can leave a suit or two. Sure it is farther but I don't have to pack as much and the extra ten miles helps keep my expanding gut in check.

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