39 minutes FTW!

A tale of bicycles and traffic


Last year I used to cycle to the beach every week before work. At 06:55 I would wake up, put my clothes on, and at 7:00 I would leave. The first minutes I'm still so sleepy I have no idea what's going on, but the first 20 minutes I cycle on a straight safe road without too much traffic, so I have time to wake up. After that I enter the city and it becomes a daring game of obstacle avoiding, which only becomes worse as time progresses and people wake up and travel to work or school.

People walk in the narrow sidewalks with almost no space to overtake them. Cyclist swerve left and right for no reason at all, exactly at a time when you're trying to overtake them, even though they could cycle perfectly straight when I was still far away. Cars suddenly turn without checking if there is a bicycle coming. The most troublesome part by far are the cars that are trying to join the main road from a side street or parking lot. Every time, without exception, they stand still on the sidewalk, waiting for traffic on the main road to clear until they can finally join the main road. Sometimes they completely block every path and you have to wait until they disappear. Sometimes they are trying to be nice by reversing and going back a couple of meters. Usually they start doing this after I've decided that I will pass behind them, so they end up bothering me even more. And sometimes they move forward even though there is no way for them to join the main road at that time, and they end up bothering the other cars too.

But if's fun. It's a challenge to do urban cycling without hitting old ladies with shopping bags, or young guys on motorcycles who don't look where they're going. I must have done the beach run dozens of times already, and I never hit anyone, nor was I hit by anyone. Not even today, when I finally decided I should pick up my old good habit again.

I have to admit there was a motorcycle that I nearly hit, and I'm not sure if it was my fault. The guy came from a side street, but didn't enter the main road and instead drove on the sidewalk. There he slowed down a lot, and he seemed to get ready to enter the main road as I approached him (quite fast). As he was almost standing still it seemed safe for me to pass him, and I chose to pass him on the left side (the road was on the right side). But at the last second he picked up speed and turned left as well, into a parking lot! I managed by some creative braking and steering to avoid hitting him, but it was close. The guy didn't even look behind him or say anything to me. He didn't use his indicators either...

Well, thanks to that I know that my front brakes are terrible. I asked the bike shop guy to fix it two times already, and two times he told me it was fixed, but they're still way too weak. Next time I fix it I'll go to a different shop, cause this guy is just no good.

Another funny thing happened to me on the way back: my saddle came loose! o_0. As I was cycling it suddenly started moving left and right, and up and down too. Sitting upright seemed to worsen the situation, so I changed my position and somehow managed to reach home without my saddle falling off -___-. I fixed it in 2 minutes when I was back, but I had to drive back 10km on a crappy saddle first..

Admittedly, I did not enjoy this year's cycling at all, so far. Because of my lack of stamina I become exhausted easily and I barely have enough focus to avoid people in time. Even today, going to the beach was extremely difficult. But when going back I finally got my motivation back, and everything went superbly smooth. Once in the right rhythm it's just so easy to go fast. My body adjusted to the pace and I was able to go faster and faster, without taxing myself too much, so I had enough focus left to avoid people in time. After a while you start noticing patterns and you know in which situations to brake, and in which situations to zig-zag through :D

The beach is about 13 kilometers away from here, and it takes me about 40 minutes to get there, depending on the traffic lights and my stamina. I did the run once before this year, and it took me nearly 50 minutes because my stamina was so poor. This time it took me 42 minutes going there, and 39 minutes going back on a crappy saddle :D I'm content. My fastest time last year was 37 minutes. I can catch up and train for the golden week holidays. I'm planning to cycle through Shikoku. Training is required for a great trip! ^_^

Posted in Cycling , Travel