Friday, August 27, 2010

Cool August Mornings

It's that time of year when I leave for school in the morning just before seven o'clock and the temperature is just a little below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is cool enough to warrant a jacket. Yesterday, I thought I might as well start wearing my gloves too. It's just at that temperature when it's too cool to go without a jacket, but one quickly becomes almost too warm from wearing it on a ride.
Of course after school it's around 95 degrees and there's no way I want to wear a jacket. So, I fold it, sort of, and stuff it into my backpack, which I carry in my right side collapsible metal wire basket. I cram it into the same compartment where I keep my rain gear stored. My gloves are unnecessary after school as well, so they go in there as well.
My students have enjoyed diverting me away from the lesson and plans for the day by asking me about cycling and my experiences, equipment, etc. Of course, I'm all too willing to talk about it.
Last night, I returned to school from 6:30-8:30 for our open house. I met many parents and a few of them were curious about what their children had related to them about my commuting by bicycle. One big dad, looked like he might have worked the parts counter at the local implement dealer, he was genuinely curious about the type of bicycle I used. I was impressed that he knew to suggest "Is it like a commuter?" I probably am being unfair to the poor guy for being impressed. But, for the town I live in, I think it's kind of impressive. His build didn't fit that of a cyclist: big, 250 or more pounds, big gut, goatee, camo cap. But, I'll give him credit, he acted like it was the most natural thing in the world to commute by bike.
Another mom commented that not many people in this area ride their bikes to work. Yes, there are more and more riding for recreation, but very few of us are commuting daily to work by bike.
A student had commented he'd ride his bike if I would fix his tires for him. That reminded me of my experience when I first moved here four years ago and began to try commuting by bike. I purchased new tires and tubes from Wal-Mart (unfortunately, this is our local bicycle shop) and I even installed some of that Slime puncture seal product they sell. I had the most difficult time keeping those tires inflated. I was averaging about two (2) flats a week just riding to and from school; a distance of roughly three miles one way, all of it on paved surface. When I didn't have trouble getting punctures, I had trouble with keeping the tire seated on the rim. The tube had a tendency to push its way out between the rim and tire. I was frustrated with a capital F! This went on for a few weeks. Finally, the cheapskate I am took the plunge and ordered some Schwalbe touring tires off the internet. Problem solved. Since that time two years ago, I've had only one flat tire. I repaired it, and have had no trouble since. Now, if you are one to beleive in jinxes, I can expect to go out to the garage to hop on my bike this morning and find a flat tire waiting for me since I spoke so highly of my good fortune with those tires.
If I could recommend something to anyone out there wanting to know how to get started and keep going commuting by bike, my advice would be this: buy a high quality USED bicycle (because it will be less expensive) and make your investment in your tires (spend the good money for the ones customer reviews label as bomb proof). Virtually eliminating the worry of a flat tire will be a liberating experience. That's one big thing I ride unprepared for, is a flat. I don't carry an air pump with me or a patch kit. I don't even carry an adjustable wrench with me to remove the wheels (yes, my bike is old enough it doesn't have quick release wheels).
Anyway, get out there and make it happen. You and I can be the trendsetters and show people it can be done. Have a great weekend and happy riding.

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