Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scouting a new route: The 5/30 commute

I woke up this morning exactly at 4 a.m.; however, I dawdled for about 10 minutes before getting up and committing myself to riding to work today. I also did something I normally do not do on a bicycle commute day. I showered before leaving. Although I have good shower facilities at work there's just something about cleaning up in one's own bathroom. Plus, a good shower is one fine way of waking up. Also, instead of launching from the garage as I normally do I brought my bike in and launched from the front room and went out the front door. I did so for two reasons For starters, I could keep better control of my dog and opening the front door does not cause my electric meter to go crazy from the garage door opener sucking a couple kilowatts.
















At first, it looked like it was going to be one of those days as I was already 10 minutes late to start with; however, it really looked like it was going to be a bad day as I got outside and started turning on all my lights. A couple days ago I had discovered that I had an over sized Niterider headlight mount on the Monitor Pass which would've been a better fit on the Sirrus hybrid. so I decided to go ahead and pull off this oversized mount and replace it with an older one designed for standard diameter bars. What I didn't realize was that I had over tightened it which had caused a pin to dislodge. So when I began adjusting where the beam fell the mount came apart on me. On top of that, I discovered that both my lighting extension cables had become disconnected so the light was getting no power. So when all was said and done and I had everything repaired I wound up 15 minutes behind schedule; however, the first leg of the ride from my house to the other end of Westview went quite well. I was averaging somewhere around 13 to 14 miles an hour and I was actually starting to make up some of the lost time. I also had a bit of a surprise when I made it to Antoine. I had just made my right hand turn than just over my shoulder comes another commuter! It wasn't Brian horterculturalist, but somebody completely new and like me was riding a high quality mountain bike. His was newer and had suspension forks and he was riding with a messenger bag as opposed to panniers. As he passed by he asked me if I work downtown and I was able to reply no that I work at Texas Southern University. That was about the extent of the conversation as this guy could really move he was averaging somewhere between 15 and 17 miles an hour. He left me behind before I could really interview him. the remainder of the morning commute was fairly routine.

The real excitement came for the afternoon run as I did not get out of work on time. in fact, here's a shot of my cubicle as I was getting ready to leave.

This picture was taken right as I was starting to fold and roll my clothes. And yes, that is an army cot that I'm using for a clothes folding table. (Sometimes it's good to be me!)







so running through the park was rather exciting as the traffic was heavier than what I prefer or what I'm accustomed to, but luckily it was a Friday so it wasn't as bad as it would've been on say a Monday. I also changed my homeward route a little bit. Instead of taking Elgin/Westheimer down to Shepherd I went down Alabama/West Alabama at the suggestion of Peter Wang (Hat tip). Road conditions were little rougher and made me very glad that I was not riding a road bike or a hybrid, but the lack of traffic more than made up for it. It also was about is about two tenths of a mile shorter than my traditional route. It also gave me a realization of how hard-core a rider I really am that for nearly 2 years I've been running up and down Elgin/Westheimer without having the traffic bother me.

Anyhow, once I had gotten through Memorial Park the rest of the ride was downright delightful especially once I got onto Westview near the very end I just about had the entire road to myself.
About 3 miles away from home I even saw yet another commuter who was eastbound. She was on a road bike and what looked like a new rack and panniers Right about the time I saw her she was almost out of my field of view so I was unable to say anything to her, but when I did notice was she did a double take when she saw me. All I could manage to do though is nod at her as I passed by. When all was said and done I had shaved off five minutes off my best time for a work commute.

11 comments:

Peter said...

Glad the changes were an improvment... HEY, I need your help on something, can you look at biketrain.blogspot.com and get TSU to send a letter to METRO concerning the issue of bikes on light rail? UH's Renu Khator has already written to METRO CEO Frank Wilson. Thank you!

Peter

Jeff Stevenson said...

Hi. Please join the Bicycle to Work! LinkedIn networking group. Members pledge that they will try to ride their bicycle to work or on an errand at least once a week. Although the benefits should be obvious, let me outline them here.

Right now people in the industrialized world are facing two very grave problems: obesity and a growing scarcity of oil. Compounding this problem is the new food shortage brought about, in part, by the conversion of food cropland to bio-fuel crop production. Most people feel powerless to help, but there is one thing that we can do. Ride our bicycles to work.

If everyone would agree to ride their bikes to work one day per week we could cut oil consumption by as much as 10-15%. No one would argue that riding a bike burns more calories than driving the car. Although popular politically right now, most bio-fuels consume more energy than they produce. We would be much better to eat those bio-crops then use our own energy to transport us around.

So spread the word. Make it a movement! Bicycle to work one day a week and do your part to cut back obesity and the overuse of oil and precious cropland.

Just go to my profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreylstevenson and you can click on the group to be included. While you are there, don't forget to ask to link to my network of more than 9,000,000 like-minded professionals. I accept all invitations and look forward to meeting you.

Jeff

Elissa said...

Can you help me? I am very interested in biking to work, but I have never done it before and have some complications. I live near Montrose, but I work in Greenspoint. I blieve my commut is 18 miles. I also got to school at UH four nights a week from about 6 to about 8. I am nervous about the feasibility of riding to work every day as well as the safety of riding around Greenspoint and UH at night. (I am a young female.) Do you think it's possible? Do you know of any resources in Houston that could help?

Sirrus Rider said...

Hi Elissa!


Just based on what I know of both the areas in question. I believe it's possible. I've been doing this now for two years and absolutely no one has bothered me as I've come and gone in and around the third ward and I've arrived as early as 6am and have left as late as 10:30pm. AS for being female I would shade my bet by carrying a can of mace. As for getting to Greenspoint I would run Alabama/W. Alabama to avoid the more intense traffic.

I would also recommend a good light set like a Niterider Digital Evolution with an extra battery or two to start out with. If you decide that you can hack it for the duration I would then retire the battery based lights make the jump to generator lighting.

As for resources. This is one although I admit I don't write here as often as I like. Another would be www.bikeforums.net. You might want to go the the commuter forum on there to ask additional questions. You might even find a wingman for your ride there.

Peter said...

Elissa, I completely do not recommend a newbie commuting from Montrose to Greenspoint. What you need to do is catch to #102 Bush IAH airport bus downtown and it will drop you off at Greenspoint! Most METRO buses have bike racks, except for the old articulated buses. Only $1, and you have a totally car-free commute, safe and green at the same time. See http://www.ridemetro.org/SchedulesMaps/Pdfs/102-iah.pdf

Sirrus Rider can commute on the UH/TSU area, but you can always take METRO back to Montrose to avoid riding in the dark.

You need bright front & rear lights when you ride at night, don't just rely on the reflectors.

Peter said...

Please feel free to email me at education@bikehouston.org if you want to ask questions directly on commuting. I have a commuting class on 6/28/08.

christopher.lopez said...

Elissa, below in one link is a bikeways map of all Houston.

There's also a fantastic article from Chicago on riding.

http://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/bikeways/docs/bikeways_map_network.pdf

http://www.timeout.com/chicago/articles/sports/29601/the-passion-of-the-bike

Sirrus Rider said...

Oops!

I thought she was headed to Greenway plaza. Not Gunspoint :-S

Peter said...

Greenspoint vs. Greenway... easy to confuse, but that confusion could be fatal!

Sirrus Rider said...

Yeah Gunspoint on a bike would be bordering on the insane. (Or Relying too much on one's higher power to protect a fool in a foolish maneuver.)

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what you're exact route was - I live at Hammerly and Wirt, attend UH and work downtown - so i think you're route might be good for me. Thanks