7 Things I Learned When I Started Bicycle Commuting in Portland

7 things I learned both good and bad when I started riding my bike to work in Portland.

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After a move which made public transportation less convenient, I started riding my bike to work. Here’s some mostly good things and a few bad about the new mode of transportation.

1.😊 I lost two inches off my waist! I went from a 31″ to a 29″, this has required me to sinch up my belt a bit and buy smaller sized pants and undies.

2.😊 My immune system improved. Not sure if it was the mild winter this year, but I haven’t had a typical annual cold and cough (knock on wood).

3.😊 My commute is faster, and more consistent. On a bike, I don’t need to worry about catching a bus or streetcar. Bikes also don’t get stuck in traffic. My commute is now a consistent 20ish minutes. Public transit takes 25 – 45 depending on traffic and when I get on.

4.☚ī¸ Biking is perilous. Though I haven’t had any accidents yet (again knock on wood), there have been some close calls:

Several times folks have opened their car doors into my bike lane. Drivers have turned through my lane so I’ve had to slow significantly. I’ve also almost been rear-ended by a speeding cyclist with bad brakes when I stopped to let a pedestrian cross the bike lane after they exited a bus.

I try to be super vigilant and so far have been okay. Other hazards I look out for are trolly/train tracks, whose rails can cause a spill. Pedestrians crossing intersections without looking, construction debris and barriers.

😛 On the other hand, Portland has a lot of great resources for cyclists, and they try hard to inact laws and maintain special bike lanes to keep cyclists safe. I always wear a helmet, and use two front lights and two tail lights. I also keep my bike maintained, especially the brakes.

5.😊 Again, maybe because it was a mild winter, but commuting in the rain and staying warm on cold days has been fine. Here’s my essential gear from head to toe:

  • Helmet
  • Wool headband (to keep my ears toasty)
  • Clear safety glasses for rainy days
  • A bright green Nike running jacket for rainy days that I got at Goodwill for $15.
  • In general I tend to wear lots of wool sweaters, as they continue to insulate even when damp and have anitmicrobial properties which keep stink down. Wool is also very breathable.
  • On rainy days I wear waterproof/breathable golf pants I got at Ross for $20. For non rainy days, normal pants work fine for me.
  • Wool socks have been huge through the winter, but on dry days I can get away with cotton.
  • For shoes, my normal tennishoes, and tom’s all work. I can even wear loafers when needed. On rainy days I wear an old pair of full grain leather Timberland’s.
  • Bike fenders – on the front of the bike I have a removable sks fender. On the rear of the bike I made a rear bike rack mounted fender out a 2-liter soda bottle.

6.😊 Cycling keeps the costs of commuting low. Over the last 8 months I’ve probably spent $250 on maintenance, and accessories, like fenders and lights. My brotherinlaw gave me an awesome Thule Pannier for Christmas. All in all, though I’ve had some expense from biking to work, costs have been much lower than the $10/day parking my office charges for cars, let alone the other expenses of car commuting.

Cycling is however more expensive than public transit, which my company covers, but I make up for it for the aforementioned mentioned smiley faced marked reasons.

7.😊 Cycling just makes me feel better. There are myriad reasons for this, cycling has a profoundly low carbon footprint, it gives an endorphin lift from the excercise, the independence of not having to wait for a bus, sit in traffic or find parking, being part of a tribe of cyclists who shares humble but proud and knowing glances on the rainy days. The wind on your face, and the smell of the air, these are things that are lost in a vehicle.

Picture of Nathan Corliss standing behind his bike which is a silver Marin bike. He's in front of a pick wall and the light is orange from a sunset.

Here’s me with my commuter bike setup, on a lovely May evening in, Portland, OR.

I highly recommend cycling to commute to work. If you’re in bike friendly Portland Oregon, check out these resources for cyclists by the city of Portland: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/627621

😊😊😊 https://twitter.com/oakfive/status/1031914712055799810?s=09

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