My first official Bike-to-Work Day, on May 20, was mildly disastrous.
Considering the vast amount of cycling I had done in the past week, one would think that biking 20 miles into work wasn’t on my schedule. Nonetheless, I was determined to participate in Bike to Work Day for the first time. I’ve wanted to participate ever since I lived in New York and worked for the Department of Environmental Conservation. That year, I couldn’t because I was off-site at an Earth Day event. In the years since then, I’ve had Bike to Work Day off because of my alternative work schedule. No matter what the principle of the thing, I wasn’t biking in on a day that I didn’t even need to be there. Although I biked into work a number of times as part of my training, I wanted to participate as part of a movement. The more people attend Bike to Work Day, the more governments and businesses appreciate cycling as a form of transportation and improve their employee facilities.
Being on a Friday, I was able to wake up a little later than usual. But it wasn’t too bad until I realized I couldn’t find my wedding ring. After frantically searching for it for 10 minutes, I gave up and crossed my fingers that it was under our bed (it was). Then, just as I was about to leave, I realized that my handlebar bag was ripping. Digging through our office supplies, I stuck on a couple of pieces of duct tape, hoping that they would adequately patch the hole.
Everything was fairly bucolic until I reached the narrow sidewalk along Old Georgetown Road. About half-way down, the duct tape began to give way. As the hole quickly expanded, items began falling out! Struggling to steer with one hand, I grabbed my sunscreen and little tripod. Juggling the items, I switched hands and shoved them in my jersey’s back pocket. Honestly, I have no idea why I didn’t just stop my bike to deal with this issue. But apparently, I was in so much of a rush that this clown act seemed like the best idea.
Once I was in Bethesda, I realized that I didn’t know where the official Bike to Work Day stop was. Figuring it was in this pedestrianized area, I turned off my usual route. Just a minute or so after turning down the street, it was very hard to pedal – my tire was completely and utterly flat. It was so flat that the rim was rubbing against the road. But I was right near the Bike to Work location, right? They would be able to fix it! Dragging my bike the last few feet to the pedestrian area, I saw…..nothing. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. After blinking a few times in confusion, I set to work, figuring that I’d just have to fix it myself. I put my bike in the highest gear, flipped it over, and took the tire off. I started to put the new tube in, attached my pump, and started pushing. But no air was going in! So I took the CO2 cartridge out, and tried to attach it to my valve. Except it wouldn’t attach either – argh!
Mild panic started to set in. Thankfully, I realized I could look up the real location of the Bike to Work Day stop on my phone. As it turned out, it was right around the corner. I slung my new and old tires over my shoulder and picked up the back-end of my bike. It’s incredible how difficult it is to drag a tire-less bike just a few blocks.
Arriving there, my efforts paid off. There was a mechanic from REI who was able to change my tire in a jiffy, even finding the piece of metal that gave me the flat. According to the fellow biker next to me, the road I detoured down is always littered with glass and broken metal. So if I had originally known where the official stop was, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the flat! Just shows me the importance of following directions.
After picking up my water bottle and free t-shirt, I was on my way to work – more than 45 minutes late. Ugh. On my way through D.C., I was almost surprised at how few fellow bike commuters I saw, considering the day. I saw two guys in suits on bikes, said, “Happy Bike to Work Day!” and only got a confused look in response.
My ride on the way back was much more peaceful. I left work too late to bike the whole way home, so I hopped on the Metro in Bethesda and hopped off before I got home to drop my bike off at REI. I got it back a few days later with a new chain and cassette. Shifting gears – as smooth as butter. Ready for the next time I want to bike to work, official or not.