05 July, 2008

Bike Commuting While Working At Home?

So I ride up and the neighbor girl, who happens to be five, takes one look at me, gives me the once over and asks, "When you are going to get a real bike?"

Okay, so I got punked by a five-year-old. Luckily, I have thick skin. I tried to convince her of my bikes unique and savage coolness, but she didn't buy it.

So I have always loved bikes. I raced BMX for a while when I was younger, but racing was never my thing. I just love to ride. It can really be any kind of bike. Cruiser, racer, road, dirt, cross, tour, and yes, small wheel folder, just about anything will do.

I've been using my bike to run errands for some time, but over the past few months I realized I wanted to take it a step further. My bike, at the time, was setup more as a road bike as my primary use was 10-50 mile road rides, both riding solo and also with a friend or two here and there.

Equipped as a road bike I found that running errands, picking up, dropping off, shopping, etc, was doable but not easy. And, when you consider that this area, Orange County, is not really designed a bike-friendly zone, it made me start to wonder what I could do to enhance my "commuting" experience.

Oh, wait, I forgot to mention, I work out of my house. So, I'm not really "commuting" anyway, I'm just pretending to commute.

Days start like this:

1-coffee(the best and most important part of the day)
2-work,(mainly business, emails, maybe some editing, etc.)
3-Shoot (If I have something booked.)
4-Think back to how great my coffee was.
5-Make list of all errands I need to undertake(bank, lab, grocery, library,meetings)
6-Run errands in car.
7-work(more computer, emails, promos, etc)
8-shoot(If I have a shoot)
9-yell at my computer or other failed technology
10-Realize that coffee might help and reflect on morning cup.
11-dinner and stunned amazement that another day has passed.
12-sleep, dream of owning coffee plantation.

Okay, so this is pretty routine. Now, imagine replacing the 6th step with "run errands on bike," and now you have an updated version of my daily battleplan.

The attached photos are of my trusty steed and the new upgrades which have allowed me to turn this peaceful commuter in an errand running super machine.

Yes, it isn't a "normal" bike. Don't laugh. Yes, it has small wheels. Don't laugh.

This bike might look funny, but it rides just like a normal bike, better in some ways. I've owned this thing for about three years, and for much of this time, this has been my only bike. I now have a used mountain bike, which I got in a trade, but I still ride this bike the majority of the time.

And now, it is a really practical bike for my needs.

So, what is it? It's a New World Tourist, folding bike, made by Bike Friday out of Oregon, and is without a doubt, the best bike I have ever had.

Drop bars, cycle computer, triple chain ring, Terry saddle, etc, just normal stuff, but this baby happens to fold up into a small, black case and can be checked at the airport with no baggage or bike fees. Then, once at your destination, unpacked and ridden away to your favorite hideaway, or coffee plantation.

I've also got fenders on the way, so it will even be BETTER looking. Oh, and the bright yellow bags on the rear, the , Ortlieb Back Rollers.

So now I am "commuting" to my home office. In a way. I guess. But more importantly, running the bulk of my errands on this, instead of the car.

Now, most people think I'm doing this because of gas prices, which would be a good reason, but it was not what prompted me to do this in the first place. What prompted me was the computer, and the excessive amount of time I have to spend in front of the thing. I think many of us photographers have voluntarily donated our lives to these machines, and came to the realization I no longer wanted to do this. You can see the physical shape of many photographers begin to take on the look of someone who sits in front of the monitor for days at a time. Whithered arms, rounded backs, bloodshot eyes with failing vision, rapidly expanding girth lines, etc. It ain't pretty!

So, now I break up the day by doing my errands on the bike, and in the process spend less time on the computer, and when I AM on the computer, I am far more focused. I do what I need to do and thats it. I'm gone.

Now, funny things have happened. And let me remind those who don't live in Orange County that this place is not a great place to bike commute. There are a few bike lanes, but things are really spread out, cars are okay with riders, not great, and the air quality is sub-par to put it lightly.

At first, I wasn't sure how my clients or other people would respond. In short, people seem to love the fact I'm using my bike to get around, even when I show up at their house soaked in sweat and dripping on their new wood floors. This is, of course, after their kids stop laughing at my bike.

And speaking of gas prices...it is great to put gas in the car roughly twice a month, at the most. So I drive a Prius, you know, the Toyota Hybrid car that Americans are rapidly learning to love. It costs about $40 to fill up, if the tank is really empty. So, $40.

The bike I had, so I'm not counting that cost. The new 1.5 inch tires were about $40, so there goes one tank, and the panniers, after my gift card at REI, were about $75, so there goes two more tanks.

What I'm getting at is ROI, return on investment and how quickly I will be saving money using this system.

On a sidenote, the reason I'm writing this post is only because I'm sick, a cold/flu/sickness, that is neither a cold nor flu, but the condition I get from getting sick from ocean water. Since living in California I have probably had this five times, so I know the specific feeling I get from polluted ocean water. What a great feeling. The only time I don't feel terrible is during and shortly after my morning coffee.

Okay, back to the numbers. So, let's say I get 400 miles per tank in the city. So, after 1200 miles I'm saving money by riding this bike, after this initial investment.

The bike also doesn't need insurance, tune-ups, oil, etc, so the cost is even greater.

I would love nothing more than to not have to have a car, but with my current job, I'm stuck. And, we are hopelessly behind in terms of public transportation, and the sad fact is that I will never get to enjoy mass transit in the US, in my lifetime. It's too late.

Geez, I'm sounding really old and perhaps a little crotchety. I kinda like it.

So, if you want to be ultra-cool like me, pick up the phone and call the helpful folks up Oregon way and get yourself a funny looking bike.

Oh, and just to keep this post about photography, to stay on theme here, these are really putrid photos. I took them myself. The PERFECT use for digital photography.
I love slightly blurry, noisy frames with bad color. Can someone help me? Isn't there a pill I can take? Or, another new software to cure my problems?


Anonymous said...

when you gonna get a bike with a quadrophonic blaupunkt?

Anonymous said...

hey dude, wanna play wife swap?!

Tim said...

That is a pretty cool little device. I've got a mountain bike and a hybride, but one of those might round out the stable!