Sunday, June 28, 2009

Commuter's Notebook

It is no secret that I like to ride my motorcycle. This is not to say that I always want to ride. I put many more miles on my car in the last 12 months than I did on my bike (not quite twice as many – about 22,000 and 12,000, respectively). There are a number of situations when I prefer to drive. The obvious include inclement weather, storage or passenger capacity, but there are others. Although I don’t mind putting on all of my leather and other cold weather gear, when the temperature dips below about 50 degrees I prefer to drive. On the other end of the spectrum, when it gets very hot, a short ride can be enjoyable while a longer one might be intolerable. But there are other factors, too.

For the most part, I am not a motorcycle commuter. The vast majority of the miles I travel between my home in Fair Oaks, CA and California State University, Sacramento are logged in my car. There are number of advantages to riding to school/work, but the negatives usually outweigh the positives. I can strap my computer bag and all the associated books and binders stuffed in it to my bike, but it takes enough time that loading and unloading is noticeable. Although parking my bike on campus is painless as far as space availability and proximity are concerned, locking all the necessary locks and securing my permit to the bike are tasks that are replaced by simply closing the door and pushing a button with my car.

Those are, however, minor details that I would gladly undertake if the ride was worth it. Mine is not. Most of my commute takes place on US 50 – a multi-lane freeway that has little in the way of aesthetic value between Folsom and Sacramento. Add to the equation the number of cars, many with operators who are eating, adjusting their appearance, reading and/or talking on their cell phones, and the 15 to 20 minute commute becomes everything but relaxing. The wind in my face is littered with debris as the wall-to-wall cars pick it up with their tires and fling it into the air, too small to notice behind four doors and a windshield, but painfully apparent when it hits my face.

This might sound almost blasphemous to my hard-core brethren, but my bike, for me, is an escape. Riding on the freeway, especially during commute hours, requires such heightened awareness just to stay alive that the peace I find is relegated to the point of pointlessness. Give me a beautiful mountain road or an uncrowded stretch of highway and I’m all over it. Even the multi-lane highways can paradoxically lend the peace I seek when riding in a pack – a presence drivers cannot easily ignore. But to fight all those cars on my bike by myself just to commute? I’ll take the comfort and safety of my car and save my bike for more enjoyable rides.


David Edward said...

i miss my bike, even tho my commute was in SF (in the eighties) it did allow better visibility and parking was great. It beat the hell out of riding Bart and walking

Thumper said...

I prefer the fun rides, and the rides where I HAVE to be someplace. I'll never be hard core (who can be on a scooter with 2 front wheels? LOL) but I'm still a rider. Just a picky rider ;)

Michael K. Althouse said...

My Harley is far less utility than it is pastime. Mixing business and pleasure is okay on occasion, but as a rule - no.