Thursday, August 07, 2008

Commuting

I had the fortune of riding with Grant Petersen back in 1993, after an introduction by Eric House, whom Rivendell sponsored. We met him for one of his commute rides, and I was jealous. He got to ride Pinehurst road, a beauty, take a zig zag through the regional parks near Berkeley, and then emerge into San Leandro for a 20 mile ride, of which 10 miles was off road.

I now have a commute to be jealous of, with even more terrain variety. On my commute I have about 5km of dirt, 30m of cobbles, 3 bridge crossings, 1 long tunnel, and 2km (if that) of city riding. Most of it is along the Isar river, so there are no traffic lights, or any traffic whatsoever. There's even a major descent and climb (of about 50-100m or so), of reasonable steepness to keep me in shape. In the evening on good weather days, the bike path fills with people --- picnics along the river, informal parties, or people just out riding, enjoying the weather. Once in a while, I even get the sound of a clanking clunker being pedaled like a maniac by a strong German woman trying to get somewhere in a hurry, passing me at speed despite her bike's constant protests. It is very funny to watch, and always puts a big grin on my face. You can't make this stuff up!

There is a penalty for this --- my first 2 weeks, I had 4 flat tires. To show that it wasn't just because I run thinner tires than most Germans would, there was one day when 3 mountain bikers and I were by the side of the bike path fixing flats. One even had to beg a couple of patches from me. It turns out that a favored past-time of Germans is sitting under the overhead crossings on the bike paths at night, drinking beer from beer bottles, and then smashing the bottles onto the bike path. One bridge, the Thaikirche bridge, is particularly bad in this regard, and I've learned to either bypass it, or to stop, and carry my bike 10 meters before riding it again (it's faster than fixing a flat tire) --- it's good for cycle-cross training.

But all in all, I'm happy with this commute --- even in the rain, there's not a day when riding next to the river doesn't make me feel like I'm touring, rather than commuting to work. I could take the train to work if it rains, but these memories are going to stay with me long after I leave Munich. Cycling is such an essential part of life here (even the intern at the office who hates cycling cycles to work), I don't know how Americans who live here without participating in the sport can consider that they've experienced the culture.
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