Bike to work day


I have been cycling to work more or less forever. Most times, I ride to Ericsson by road in the morning (14 miles, about) and go home by way of the shoreline trails (about 15 miles). To my mind, that’s a fairly long commute. I consider 15 miles about the outer limit of what’s feasible for a bicycle commute, for reasons of time, if nothing more.

I have consistently participated in the bike to work day, but have never come close to winning the longest-commute prize. Some guy always rides in from South San Francisco, a distance that Google maps puts at 38 miles. Clearly something he doesn’t do every day…

Well, if that’s how the game is played, I can play it, too. Got up at 4 this morning, out the door just a few minutes before 5 into a 50-degree overcast night. The radio said there was fog in the area, but not here. I wore a light long-sleeved shell over my cycling jersey, thinking I would take it off when the day turned sunny, but the day didn’t turn sunny, not until long after I was at work.

The old generation incandescent lights just would not have been enough, full stop. I have LED headlamps, one on the bike, another on my helmet, and the combination does pretty well. I could see well enough to avoid the broken pavement on the east approach road from the Dumbarton bridge, broken pavement that could easily have blown a tire.

Passed a dredge along the levees, lit up like a small casino. Do I stop for a photo? No, not today.

I met several cyclists going the other way; their headlights were blindingly bright, and I suppose mine blinded them as well. Good. By the time I got to the Ardenwood farm trail, the dawn was gray, and as I continued out Decoto road and reached the Alameda Creek trail, I switched my lights to flashing mode.

At Mission boulevard was a freight train, moving slowly into Niles Canyon. I rode beside it for a while, almost keeping pace with it, until it disappeared into a tunnel. By the time I had followed the road around the hill to the emergence of the rail tunnel, the train had picked up speed and disappeared.

Without motor vehicles, Niles Canyon would be a terrific bike route, easy grades through pretty country. With traffic, this is the stressful part of the ride, stretches of road, several bridges and undercrossings with narrow lanes and no shoulder. By the time we reach Sunol, the road is wider and there’s less traffic, and beyond I-680 on Calaveras road, it’s not a problem. Even though they are rebuilding the Calaveras dam, the on-road construction traffic was minimal, mostly just guys on their way to work. Not many; from their viewpoint, I am a latecomer.

The climb through the hills and around the lake is the only real work of the day. I would be happy to have one more low gear, but the bike is okay with what I have. Passed two other cyclists on the way up the hill, maybe doing the same thing as I am, cycling to work.

Pretty country still, but by the time I reached the steep drop into Milpitas, I was ready for a change. It was still another 10 miles, a different kind of riding, jamming through the morning’s traffic.

Just after 8, I checked in at the bike-to-work table in front of Ericsson, 47.88 miles (and 1860 feet of climb), only to learn that the guy who always commutes in from South San Francisco now works at Dell, presumably next door. There’s room at the top, as my colleague Mark said. I heard later that someone had ridden in 30 miles from Pleasanton, maybe also via Calaveras road, so had I just done the ordinary 14-mile ride, I still would have been far out of the running.

Well? Well? Did I win the longest commute award? Doubtless I’ll find out tomorrow.

Late-breaking news: Yes, I did. The 30-mile Pleasanton rider came in second. Woo-hoo!


One Response to “Bike to work day”

  1. Mark Hlady Says:

    Great story. Can’t wait for next year to see what battle emerges. The bar has been set!


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