18 September 2012

Biking Is Back

Sunday morning, as I left for work, I experienced a setback to my day. As I pulled out of my subdivision, my car signaled to me that my coolant level needed to be checked and the Check Engine light quickly followed. Last year, around this time, I also had an experience with CEL so not wanting to repeat, I quickly returned home and parked the car. With the car safely secured back at the house, I proceeded to mount my bicycle for a quick trip over. My car forced me to do what I'd planned to do but had just been too lazy to do: bike to work.

I've taken up biking to work sometimes under certain conditions. I would love to do it daily, but I can't (or won't, if you will) for various reasons. First, my start times at one of my jobs have up to 14 hours of possible variance, with some being as early as 04:00 and some as late as 18:00. At both extremes, I do not feel as if pedaling my way around town at late at night and into the wee hours of the morning is a very prudent move, so I drive. I also do not want to show up all sweaty and tousled at any of my school sites, so I drive then as well. So for the last couple weeks, I've had all morning, later evenings, or both a sub position and work at the hospital so I've been unable to bike.

In those instances, time is of greater concern than the cost, even though my car's cost per mile is above the IRS mileage allowance. Although I'm not a business (yet) and thus cannot deduct my mileage, it is in my best interest to get that number below the allowance so I'm at least theoretically breaking even. Part of the remedy might be to take a couple more long trips and use it in less stop-and-go. I'm not so sure on when I can get another round of cross-country driving in, but I do know how to reduce my stop-and-go exposure. That's where the biking comes in.

When I'm able to do it, biking to work saves my car from another round of sitting at stoplights. I could also ride the bus, but the times aren't always convenient or conducive for its use and it literally takes longer than biking. I also use my bike for getting groceries and stuffs from Wal-Mart, two stores that are within 1.5 miles of my house. I've literally had people pass me on the way to Wally World only to pass them back 3 minutes later as they circle around waiting for the spot by the front door to open up. Meanwhile, I go ahead and secure my bike to the rack then head inside for some shopping.

While I'm well aware that maybe I'm not 'brave' or 'hardcore' enough to bike anytime, I can still get noticeable benefits from using my bike on the routes that I do. Using my bike for points, especially those near, means I don't have to use the car when it is usually at its least efficient operating state. Starting from a stoplight and accelerating to 40 25 only to hit a stop sign 1000' down the street is a big waste of gas (or whatever you fuel up with). I routinely demonstrate this to myself by roughly keeping pace with cars through a series of traffic control devices, even in areas with speed limits of 45 mph (for comparison, my max speed on my bike seems to be about 25 mph).

Much like I have done, one of the best moves you can make is to get a bike to at least cover your close-range transportation needs. Just that change alone will save you hundreds of dollars a year in everything related to your car. If you happen to not have a bike, acquire one just like I did: craigslist. I paid $80 for my Schwinn Prelude, an old road bike from the 1980s. After some new tires and accessories (you can never have enough lights), I probably have put about $300 into the bike. Yet the paint is still faded, there're a few spots of rust, and the wheels feel ever so slightly out of round. That's the perfect machine to ride around and leave places without giving much thought to being able to find it again. Speaking of bike locking, learn how to lock it up properly BEFORE it gets stolen:

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