Biking and Working

I haven’t mentioned biking lately. When I started at Tamarac, I worried about fitting biking in with a full time job and time with my family.

Biking helps keep me calm and grounded, as well as healthy and fit; it’s where I have friendships forged by shared (self-inflicted, to be sure) suffering, and I push myself mentally and physically. It brings me a deep satisfaction that I don’t find anywhere else and is one of the foundations of how I think of myself.

In short, biking is very important to me. Before I took the job, Ian and I spent a good amount of time strategizing how to allow me to get in the biking I need while balancing Ian’s mental health time and my family time.

It’s been two and a half months, and I think we’re finding a balance that works for now: During the week, I commute home by bike three days. I follow a training plan I put together to do intervals or other targeted riding, so it’s not just the same slogging along every time. On the weekend, I ride on Saturday, making sure to get home before Benji gets up from nap at 3:30 pm.

When I commute, I normally ride my pink bike. I built it up as a commuter bike almost 10 years ago (disc brakes before it was cool!) and it continues to serve me beautifully in that capacity.
Snowy Pink Bike

Now, some of my biking buddies assert that bike weight doesn’t matter. They say it’s all about the motor (how strong your legs are), and that a slightly lighter bike doesn’t make much difference in how fast you go, especially over flats. I’ve ridden my pink commuter bike 20+ times on this route now, and I set myself a goal of averaging 18 mph on my commute consistently. When I started riding, I averaged 15 to 15.5 mph when riding steadily, a heart rate of in the 150s.

I’ve been following my training plan, including taking rest or cross-training days and riding in heart rate zones that feel pretty easy, and working hard on my Saturday rides.

Last Monday, riding alone on my pink bike with probably a bit of a tailwind, I averaged 16.6 mph.


I had a kind of side-wind that may have at times been a tailwind or other times been more of a headwind. It’s a little hard to say if that helped or hindered me. But that seems pretty indicative of my commuting pace at the moment. On the long, flat Burke Gilman/Sammamish River Trail section, I averaged about 17.2 mph.

But on Friday, I took the fast bike to work (this is my view as I approach the bus stop by my office; that’s my fast bike on the front of the bus).
Fast Bike, Slow Bus
I normally don’t even ride on Fridays, resting my legs for a big Saturday ride. But the weather got to over 55 degrees and not raining — how could I resist? For the first time I tried taking my fast bike on a commute. I left all nonessentials at work, including a set of clothes I now have to bring back home, and carried the essentials in a small backpack.

While I’m sure it’s true that slight differences in weight may not matter, what I can say is that I averaged 18 mph on my fast bike, keeping my heart rate in the same zones as I normally on my steady commuting days. On the flat section, I averaged 19.1 mph, almost 2 mph faster than my regular commuter bike. And that was with some notable wind, most of it not in my favor.

That bike is faster in so many ways, it’s hard to say if weight definitively made a difference. Whatever the case, I’m willing to keep calling my Cannondale “the fast bike.”

I hoped to ride it this weekend, but yet again, nasty weather precluded that. My pink bike has gotten a lot of miles this winter, what with having the rainiest winter ever. On Saturday I had to be home in time to go to a friend’s wedding, so Dad kindly started our ride an hour earlier than usual. With that start time, we spent the first hour riding in rain. My feet soaked through and I couldn’t feel my toes. You’d think I’d be better at this whole thing after all the practice I’ve had this year…

Anyway, despite the rain, three other people besides me and Dad showed up.

I embarrassed myself by being a complete wimp, and I wasn’t able to hold the pace when everyone started riding into the mid-20 mph range. The very things that make that pink bike a wonderful commuter — the weight, the rack, the fenders, the heavy-duty tires and wheels, its very frame durability — all drag me down on a ride like that.

Plus, later that day, I also found out that it’s not my favorite time of month… and that seems to always make it harder to ride. I read in my Bicycling for Women book that blood doesn’t transport oxygen as well at some times of a woman’s cycle. One of the things I struggled with yesterday was just feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath, or that I was breathing really hard for my level of effort. Perhaps that’s partly the deal.

Anyway, that’s biking right now. I think it’s going well; we’ll just keep figuring things out as our needs evolve.