Your bike commute stories: The good, the bad, and the opossum
Photo: Eke Miedaner
Back in May, we asked you on our Facebook page to tell us your best and worst commuting stories. One lucky fan who responded got a gift card for $500 to her local bike shop (Ariel Pinchot, hope you’re enjoying the ride!).
A lot of the stories were so good, we just had to share them. So here are a few choice anecdotes from the world of bike commuting — from epic failure (going commando can be hazardous to your dignity) to epic bliss. Read on and ride on!
Don’t let the nasty drivers get you down
Worst commute — a guy threw a lit cigarette at me from his car because I was stopped at the red light and he wanted to turn right but couldn’t because I was there.
Best commute — every time I ride, whether it’s to work or for errands or just for fun, I am 8-years-old again, without a care in the world. So take that, cigarette-throwing a**holes.
— Anne E. Collier
I was riding home from my workplace in La Jolla, Calif., to my apartment in Uptown San Diego (about 12 miles). Most drivers in San Diego will not yield to cyclists if it can save them 30 seconds on their commute home. There is this one particular two-lane stretch of road under construction where, without fail, piles of cars are lined up to get on the 5. While riding in the bike lane I make my way past them about 99 percent of the time.
This one day I encountered shards of glass in the bike lane, so I veered over to avoid them. Well, this fella in an ’80s Cadillac decided to raise some hell about me not staying in my lane by honking his horn, turning his car into the bike lane so I couldn’t pass, and telling me what for. This is still in gridlocked traffic.
Once he was finished throwing his tantrum, I reached into my jersey back pocket, pedaled around his back end, and as I passed his driver’s side window I tossed a single-serving piece of Dove chocolate in his window. The message on the outside saying, “Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.”
— Dan Forsberg
Bike commuting is a great way to see the world — and maybe meet that special someone
I’ve been riding my recycled Schwinn racing bike (a Premis) for the past five years. I’ve taken it apart, put it back together, learned how to use a chain tool, cleaned the chain, and used a local shop called Boise Bicycle Project to fix it up. When I don’t ride it the six miles each way to work, I take the bus.
One of the best stories I have is the story I can share from almost every day: I pass nice people, all of whom say, “Good morning.” I see people on the Greenbelt bringing their dogs to work. I can watch the mink cross my path as they dart from the river to their homes. I watch elk graze along the river within the city limits. I’ve seen bald eagles and kingfishers swoop along the water collecting meals. This past winter I’ve seen coyotes hanging around. Right now, it’s all about the baby mallards, the baby geese, and the increase in the number of friendly people.
Yesterday, when the sun was rising and the mist was coming up from the pond, I was gazing towards the sun and the snowcapped mountains — and my chain fell off. A wonderful gentleman stopped to help me and offered me a tissue for my hands. We rode on together, talking about how much we love our bikes, and riding, and how we’ll never go back to cars.
— Amy Vecchione
As a college student, I rode my roller skates or my bike everywhere I went. My skates made me taller and happy. My bike was bright and blue and got me there with more speed. I met my husband during this time, and he said that the first time he saw me he knew he had was looking at the best-looking legs he had ever seen. My commute gave me those legs, and my children thank me!
— Sally Haglund Schwitters
When the bike fails
I bought a bike a while ago, and I was going to use it to ride to campus, my parents’ house, work, etc. I got it from a place with no warranty and no return policy (a pawnshop … I was trying to be thrifty and follow the “reuse” part of reduce, reuse, recycle). So I was pretty sad when I stood up to start pedaling and the handlebars fell completely off. As soon as I put any weight on them, I just heard this *KERCHUNK* … they’d snapped off right where the handlebars connect to the bike! I didn’t even know that could happen.
I tried many things to reconnect the handlebars, but after electrical tape, duct tape, super glue, and twine all failed, I figured I was just out of luck. I suppose this really isn’t even a commuting story, because the commute never actually happened, but hey … it’s kind of hilarious, and I could really use a new bike!
— Carrie Lacy
Photo: helter-skelterOh, the humiliation
After having lunch with some colleagues, I hopped on my Mongoose mountain bike and was ready to make the five-minute bike ride back to my office in Madison, Wisc. I put on my helmet, slung on my messenger bag, and unlocked my bike from the bike rack at Arby’s. My colleagues took off in their car. I came up to a gutter in between the parking lot and the bike path and decided to try to hop it rather than steer around it.
My front tire slammed down on the gutter as I missed, and I flipped over the front of the bike into some grass. I got up to see about five cars sitting and waiting in the drive-thru. I tried not to look at them because I was so embarrassed. The rim of my front tire was completely bent and the tire wouldn’t revolve. I carried my bike back to the office with my head down in humiliation and defeat. I still don’t have a working bicycle, because I moved to Chicago and decided not to buy a new one. The embarrassment hasn’t worn off.
— Mike Nemeth
I’ve been commuting by bicycle for more than two years in Chicago. I’m a schoolteacher, and my income is paltry at best, but I take pride in biking to work each day. Still, my bike is in poor shape, and often during my six-mile commute, my chain will fall off. I get my hands greasy putting the darn thing back on.
Once, during morning meeting I was asked by a second grader, “Mr. Derek, why are you wearing makeup?” I looked in the mirror and saw that I had rubbed a greasy finger near my eye and it looked like mascara. Oops.
— Derek Layes
You ever have one of those dreams where you’re naked?
Here’s my story: I decided to “go commando” one morning when I was getting dressed for my bike commute to university. It was only a couple of miles, but my route ran adjacent to a busy street. As I was coolly cruising down the path, this car passes and a gal yells out, “Nice a**!” “Thanks!” I yelled back, and kept cruising, ego swelling slightly.
I got to school, locked up the bike, and headed through the quad into tech building. On my way, I get the feeling that this group of dudes behind me was laughing at me, which was confirmed when one guy says, “You forgot your tools.” Now somewhat confused, I make it to class, whereupon a friend of mine who’d followed me in says, “John. Do you realize you have a gaping hole in your shorts? And your @$$ is like, right there.”
Yep. Tore a wicked hole and was evidently mooning people all over town. Thank god for paperclips.
y, I look back on it now and have to laugh because in a way, it was just like a dream come true!
— John Lavey
Xtracycle to the rescue
Rode to work last winter on my Xtracycle and my cell rang. My wife asked if I’d bought the snack for preschool the next day. I needed to purchase 100 individual packs of goldfish crackers. So I rode back to the store, lashed 13 boxes of goldfish crackers to the X and covered them in a big garbage bag, rode back to the office. Taught class and exited the building to find that not only was I to ride home in the dark, but in two inches plus of fresh snow. It was a long six miles home in the dark, uphill, in the snow. I never felt so proud of bringing a snack to preschool, though. Check out Xtracycle — they rock!
— Rob Cooley
Photo: Carlos Felipe PardoLet it snow — if you’re on a bike, that is
My best commute: Portland, Ore. Surprise snowstorm at 3 p.m. Worst traffic snarl I have ever seen. I left work at 5:30. That night, it took people up to eight hours to get home. Buses were caught off guard without chains and were stuck behind abandoned automobiles.
It took me one hour. I biked the whole way, uphill six miles in the snow. Dodging stray youth-lobbed snowballs and unpredictable autos. It was a beautiful night. People who were not in cars were happy and having a blast. Riding down tree-lined street with snow lit up by streetlights, with that hush of quiet a snow brings … on my bike … bliss.
— Kristi Falkowski
Where the wild things are
My bike commuting began during a cold and wet Seattle autumn, and continued through the colder and wetter winter … but then springtime came! The neighborhoods and parks that I had driven through much of my adult life were suddenly new and exciting and full of flora and fauna I had never noticed before.
I got off of work early one day and my commute took me along the Duwamish trail and through the Duwamish Public Access Park in the early afternoon. I was on my bike, the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and I was singing my heart out to the Grateful Dead’s version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” All of a sudden a barn swallow began circling my bike. A few seconds later, another barn swallow joined and started circling me in the opposite direction. I rode the length of the park and they stayed with me.
Exhilarated, I turned around and rode the length of the park again, and they stayed with me. When I’d stop singing, they would fly with me a few more yards, then start to venture off. So I’d belt out another line, and there they were again, circling my bike as I rode along. I stayed in the park riding back and forth for an hour with the two birds circling me and my bike. Each time I’d get back toward the trail, my little feathery friends would practically dive-bomb me. It was the most magical ride I’ve ever had, and it was something that could never, ever happen in a car.
Now, many folks that I tell this story to (who have also heard my dreadful singing voice) swear that the birds were trying to eat bugs that I was kicking up with my bike. I prefer my niece’s explanation: Auntie Andrea is Snow White!
— Andrea Desimone
Photo: SearchNetMediaI live in Prescott, Ariz., home of the javelina. If you are unaware of their existence, imagine a wild boar — just a bit smaller and a bit cuter, but quite capable of taking on your 80-pound dog and winning.
I used to live seven highway miles outside of town with a wacky landlady who insisted on feeding the javelinas by hand, something I would not recommend. At the time, I waitressed at a bar and rode my bike home along the highway at one in the morning — a scary enough experience in itself.
But nothing topped surviving drunk drivers only to round the bend to my house and be approached by six javelinas standing between me and my bed, dead certain I have late-night snacks. Cursing my landlady, I shielded myself from the converging beasts and edged my way to the front door. I slipped in unscathed, but soon thereafter moved into town.
— Julie Spear
I left work after dark and was picking up mondo speed downhill heading home. An opossum decided to cross the street in front of me but I was going so fast it lunged at my leg instead. Fortunately, its beady eyes misjudged, and its needle teeth hit the chain instead. Saved by the chain!
— Michelle Miller
Photo: lukexmartinBike Pakistan
I have just moved from suburban upstate New York to “suburban” Pakistan, where I will live for at least the next six months. Bikes are common modes of transport here. I have inherited an old, ancient, heavy bike, and get more than my share of stares as I wobble along on it, trying my best to keep up with the hair-raising traffic. Bikes have to dodge other bikes, huge trucks, horn-blowing cars, even animal carts … not to mention potholes the size of meteor craters and a variety of strange things found along the roads.
Bikes here are not just one-person vehicles. Often you see entire families balanced on their bike … father, mother, several children … AND the day’s shopping. Many people’s living depends on their bikes, which are often heavily laden with work supplies, or pull attached carts.
The old bike is fine, for me. But I can imagine how many bikes that $500 would buy for a few of the hard-working people who live around me, who cannot afford a bike.
— Lori Pinzer