Monday, May 16, 2011

A Thousand Miles

I purchased a new bicycle, a Jamis Commuter 3, in mid-march. Shortly afterwards, I took my car off the road (not for any eco-ethical reasons, it was a financial decision based on my current income vs the cost of needed repairs, fuel and insurance). I don't have an odometer on the bike, but based on my typical weekly trips, I'm estimating I've put in around 1,000 miles of transportation cycling since then, mostly in trips of under 10 miles (although one of my regular destinations, which I visit once or twice a week, is about 20 miles from home).

So far the bike is holding up well. I give it a basic cleaning and tune-up about once a week, and have replaced a few parts (some due to wear and damage, some for the sake of better comfort/performance). I'm also holding up well, having gone from about the heaviest I've ever been at 324 lbs down to about 303 and still dropping (yes, I'm that big).

I've learned a few things over all those miles as well, such as how to pick clothing that's comfortable to ride in yet lets me look presentable when I arrive (I tend to have a default “khaki shorts and collared shirt” look unless the situation demands otherwise, also, patterned shirts hide sweat better than solids), and how to load stuff I need to carry. I've learned what stuff I need to have all the time, and what I can live without.

I've also gotten to know a bit more about my local area. I've had the chance to see a lot of wildlife that I didn't even know lived around here, gotten a better feel for weather and topography and generally spend a lot more time getting close-up knowledge of where I live.

One of the things I've been figuring out about Central NJ is that it has the potential to be one of the most bicycle-friendly areas in the US. The terrain and climate (rolling hills and damp, respectively) are not ideal, but aren't extreme, however the real selling point is density. New Jersey is a small place with a lot going on, and population centers are fairly close together. It was settled and developed pretty early in America's history, and because of that has fairly extensive infrastructure. The only challenge is making enough of that infrastructure safe and comfortable for transportation cycling. It's certainly possible, but it would take a real political push and, of course, money.

I've also learned that most NJ folks, whether they're on a bike or in a car, are a lot friendly and more courteous than they get credit for. There are certainly obnoxious people out there, but most folks are willing to share the road with minimal fuss. It's not perfect, but I find unpleasant encounters while cycling aren't any more common than they are when driving, and are even more quickly forgotten for the most part.

All in all, not bad so far, and I'm looking forward to the next thousand miles!

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