My office commute saga.
When I started thinking about driving to office - the number of cons were overwhelming. How can this ever be a cheery thought?
- I didn’t see how sitting in traffic for 1-2 hrs a day, at your peak concentration levels do any good.
- The parking rates are atrocious in Seattle ($220 a month or $15 a day!).
- There is the cost of gas + insurance + loan payments and maintenance for the extra car.
- The car gets used only twice in a 12 hour period.
So the master plan was to commute by bus.
There was another catch with this - my house is 1 mile away from the bus stop. Now I could leave my car in the park and ride, but most of the above issues still apply. I could walk the mile or I could take the local bus for the mile. I will still have to walk 5 blocks from my bus stop and add some wait times at the bus stop.
Time taken for walk & bus = 14 minutes (1 mile walk) + 5 minutes (at bus stop) + 15 minutes (actual travel)+ 7 minutes (final bit of walk) = 41 minutes.
Time for local bus & main bus = 5 minutes (wait at first stop) + 6 minutes (local ride) instead of the mile walk. We save 3 minutes and a bunch of weather beating!
As always yet another catch with this fabulous plan: The last local bus left at 6:40 - meaning I have to leave at 6 from office too. Due to bus scheduling, I reach home only by 7.00 pm - meaning I actually spend 100 minutes every day commuting. The worst part is, the commutes themselves are short, and the weather is usually foul, meaning my kindle / iPad can’t be engaged fully.
You would think it is something like,
but in Seattle it’s more like,
So I bought a cycle recently. Also, I used to run / hit the gym for about an hour almost everyday - which I can now forego, considering this is a 1000 calorie work out - so worst case, instead of spending 100+60 minutes on commute and workout, I can spend 2 hrs riding my bike. A 40 minute per day saving is nothing to sneeze at - Brilliant!
A quick aside: The cycle might cost only $450, But the accessories (lights, rain wear, shoes, modifications, bell, pump etc.) total came up to $1000! So don’t low ball the cost like I did, if you are planning to do this.
Another mistake I did was in the estimation of my biking prowess. After all, I run 6 miles almost every day - Boy I was wrong. The muscles involved are completely different. Also, Mercer Island to Seattle route is quite punishing for the beginner with steep hills and a 8.2 mile commute. Initially it took me around 1 hour to do one way.
Yet another mistake was my estimation of time for the prep and cool down: after parking the bike in office, I lost another 15 minutes in the locker room - so I was actually spending 150 minutes - the savings don’t look so good no more, with the added cost around cooling down from the workout - I was tired, twice a day!
This was the point I seriously considered giving up. The nice guys at my bike store www.hellobicycle.com was willing to take back my bike for $350 too, so I could always come out with my ego and wallet only slightly bruised. But, quitting while ahead has never been my strong suite. So now on to what any self respecting engineer would do: profiling and optimization!
I started measuring time taken using mapmyride and noticed I do 8mph - only 1.5 mph over my running speed! I have been spending most of my riding time gawking around! Also, The initial setup I had purchased, had a ton of unnecessary stuff. This is where the real worth of REI membership and 60 day returns shines through. I had also bought a commuter bike instead of racing bike - means that added 10 odd pounds and a wind-resisting posture. Identified a few steps to solve this:
- reduce the weight. I returned my bike rear rack, panniers.
- Stop carrying so much stuff! I carried rain clothes + a change of clothes + fruits + my 2 meals. (Yeah I eat 5 small meals a day).
- Leave a pair of shoes at office.
- Commute by bus 1 day of the week. On this day I hit the gym instead, and I carry 2 pairs of jeans and fruits for the week - that I left in the office. Now I have to carry only a laptop+tshirt+underpants+meals+rain clothes in a backpack.
- Changed my bike pedals to lighter clipless models.
- Net: I lost about 15 pounds in carrying weight. I will hopefully lose a couple more when I exchange my t410 for an x201.
- I also seriously considered switching to a racing bike to add more speed. On the flip-side, this required an investment of another $1000 for a reasonable bike of my height and there was the probability of more punctures. I also had a strong feeling that the issue was on above the seat rather than below the seat. So for now, this will be a toy of tomorrow.
I have implemented this for the past month now and end results are very cool indeed. I bike at more than 12 mph now and reach office in less than 40 minutes and I am not as tired! The changing time also reduced to 10 minutes since i change in our Men’s room instead of locker - so the awesome time saver plan is back on track!
Also interestingly, according to the helpful pro-bikers at office - this is not apparently the peak speed I can do - Those guys average 22 mph! That means back to what I do most - Tweaking and more optimization:
- I suspect my 200+ pound weight is a huge drag (I blame you B&J and CanAm pizza!)- so onto a reasonable diet plan again after 6 months of American style eating.
- More leg workouts - I have the common Indian body builder syndrome: Heavy upper body and chicken legs. Finally a reason to solve that.
- More biking - Am looking at doing more weekend rides.
- harder biking - I guess it is time to include the family now that spring is here. So thinking about a Trike for the girl and another bike for the wife! Weekends are going to be more involved!