My Surly Disk Trucker up in Colorado recently…
Cruising to work in the dark early morning hours is like sailing at night. The road seems to be my exclusive domain most of the time, and I have often ridden Austin’s major streets for miles without being passed by a motor vehicle. Deer are startled and run in front of my lights sometimes, ad the new Serfas True 500 seems as bright as many motorcycle headlamps. I have a backup headlight, a trustworthy Planet Bike Blaze, loaded with recharged AA batteries. When getting close to downtown I flip that one on flash mode and all the cross traffic – where it exists – get a head’s up because the lights reflect so well off street signs. My backside is lit up even more, with a Planet Bike rear flasher, a Serfas USB charged Thunderbolt tail light, a Tail Fazer, and a unique Austin product, the Flashbak which I will talk about separately, in the best terms.
I have always believed you can not have too many lights, – meaning “bright” lights, flashing on your rear when cycling at night. At the very least, one steady and two or three flashing.
Riding more and more, this summer found me not only bike commuting, sometimes two to three days a week. I also use a modified Extrawheel bicycle trailer to promote local businesses or my website, known as adbirds. One of my mini-goals is to bike commute five work days in a row; and although there are many demands for my time between office and home, I am planning to take the full-time business plunge in around 2 years.
My current “office” is the flight-line at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where I work for an airline as an aircraft maintenance crew chief / mechanic. My wife fears the bicycle commuting, especially in darkness as with the evening shift. Since the drunks were very active when I got off work and rode home arriving around midnight; my wife couldn’t get to sleep and be rested for work, so I had to abandon bike commuting for a while.
This summer after waiting for the wheel of time and an elder employee to retire, I could again become a “greenie” bike commuter on day shift. So now I’m the resident bike geek / commuter, occasional bicycle tourist, and whatever else time allows between job, business and home responsibilities.
At Austin – Bergstrom International Airport my crew starts work at 06:30 and I leave the house at 03:30 for the two-hour commute. Yes, we have a shower at work. Austin also has a first-generation commuter train line with a station three miles from my home in far NW Austin. On the commute home I ride about 5 miles to a station at 5th & Comal on Austin’s East side, and ride a train to the Lakeline commuter station.
In Austin, Texas our summer temps are around 100F and there’s a lot of climbing to get home. The train is air conditioned, clean, and only $2.75 for a one way pass. Cycling saves me around $10 per day in fuel, and spares the rest of us around 20 lbs of airborne carbon. I enjoy that aspect as much as the ride.
One might ask why I don’t ride the train to work. The train doesn’t run all night, nor to the airport, and may not in my lifetime. My home is about 350 feet higher than the airport, and though that gain is miniscule over a 28 mile route, every inch is felt in our 100 degree heat, so I have no regrets when riding the rails home at 3:30 PM in the Texas summer.
Getting to the airport has been fun, and fraught at times. Once, my prime headlamp gave out on Speedway Blvd near the University of Texas, just as I caught a groove in the center of the street while preparing for a curve. Luckily my muscles reacted correctly even though in my mind I was sure pain was about to begin. The good folks at AJs Cyclery got me a warranty replacement for the headlamp so I’m real happy with Serfas and AJs.
There are even some street-walkers who proposition fat, middle-aged cyclists whizzing by at 20 MPH at 05:00. Perhaps it’s because the state legislature was in session and lots of lobbyists are in town. Perhaps because it’s getting close to sunup and a new shift of APD is coming on duty.
A serious problem isn’t something to joke about but at 05:00 I just laugh quietly, keep on pressing the pedals, and in time the wheels take me all the way.