Since the beginnings of bicycle ownership, I have made it a point to commute via bike, leading to a slew of experiences to be told from a nomadic jill-of-all-trades.
I was born and raised in central IL: flat, cornfields, with agricultural smells wafting through the air. During college (I opted for staying in hometown territory vs spending a fortune on the BS at CU), I bought my first real bicycle that would spawn forth ideas of participating in a triathlon; enter the Giant FCR3 fitness bike. Route to an internship was through cornfields, over railroad tracks, and did I mention, flat?
Hong Kong '06
If one were ever to bicycle the island, they'd be a helluva athlete... this terrain promotes the use of escalators and "lifts" to ascend through endless highrises, and stairs are avoided at all costs. In fact I saw the shortest escalator in a mall somewhere, seven stairs tall. I studied abroad in HK for a semester, and yearned for my Giant collecting dust back in the States. It was a goal to lose the "freshman fifteen" I had gained over the past few years of college, and the gym up the road from my dorm was quite a hike. There I discovered the spin bikes, and wondered where all the cyclists were. Turns out the mainland had rentals: back pedal brake cruisers, which I rode with my dormmates one day, but otherwise I stuck to spinning at the gym. I attribute the majority of my fat burn to scaling thirteen floors up an empty stairwell every day for five months.
Joy trip from HK during Reading Week, probably the reason I failed a class. Can you believe students get an entire week to study for exams? Tired of the strip of beach we were on in Boracay, listening to echos of solicitation for "DVD? Massagie?" and the like, my friends and I rented mountain bikes and took them across the island. Boracay is 7km long and 1km wide at its narrowest, making for an easy trek. Riding by shacks upon shacks these people called homes, it was a real eye opener to the impoverished conditions in which they lived. On the white sand beaches on the other side of the island I could build sandcastles in the peace and quiet, but not quite in peace.
I was fed up driving in bottleneck traffic to get to and from the Medical College of Georgia. This job had nothing to do with my engineering degree... well a little, if you want to tie in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance with the fact I was using a two million dollar small animal MRI to study drug treatments on mice for cardiovascular research. Anyway, I had just picked up my first lifeguarding job and would wake up at 4:30 in the morning to pedal through the dark and open the Augusta aquatics center, and leave for downtown at 9:30 to run experiments until 6, all on very bicycle unfriendly roads. Not a day passed that I could travel without hearing at least two whistles directed at what I was hoping was the sexy curves of my Giant. So even though you might be sweaty and smelly upon arriving at work, only to look forward to an uphill ride at the end of the day, it is ever so satisfying to beat a mile of traffic in a foot of shoulder space.
I moved to Sumter to be a fire fighter. Sumter is a rural town an hour east of Columbia that boasts an Air Force base, and plenty of mobile home and brush fires to extinguish. While the on-call nature of substitute teaching and emergencies was not conducive to bicycle transport, I was in the practice of riding five miles to the YMCA for another lifeguard job. The whistlage was significantly less, but I barely saw other cyclists on the road. SC was actually in the process of implementing the law where any roads built or reconstructed had to include enough room for a bike lane. Good for them.
Turks and Caicos '09
Very touristy activity, designated for local tourist destinations, and heaven forbid you bring the beach cruiser onto the beach. I also wouldn't recommend riding rental bikes off the resort area sidewalks onto busy streets to eat at a restaurant 3 miles away just to try conch when you are allergic to shellfish.
Two lifeguard jobs kept me busy commuting on the hybrid through 100 degree weeks throughout the summer I lived in Austin. I was quite happy at how biker friendly the city was.
Scuba certification excursion. Bikinis on bikes, beverages in baskets, need I say more...
We are fortunate to have a trail system in the Denver-metro area that includes an extensive network of 850 miles of paved, off-road trails. I have recently discovered this fact, apparently having biked under a rock for the last two and a half years. Commuting for training purposes might not be in your agenda, for time is money, of course. If you can incorporate it, you might only want to do the four mile straight shot on the road, rather than a 14 mile trail route. Either way, allow yourself time for trails, or find a safe route on the roads.
A word about Bike to Work Day. The funny thing is I have never actually had a chance to bike to work on this day, but then you figure years of adventurous commutes more than make up for that. Just so you know, May is National Bike to Work month, and Denver's Bike to Work Day is June 27th this year. That is two and a half weeks after the Denver Triathlon, and I know it is only April, but mark your calendars for both! How can you go wrong getting infinite miles to the gallon, health benefits, as well as training mileage?
-Lynsa Nguyen is a massage therapist, swim instructor, fitness instructor, and lifeguard for the City of Lakewood, who has since moved on to racing with a Trek road bike. Don't judge your sweaty massage therapist who still bikes to work on her beloved Giant, I promise I don't smell.