At one point in your life, you’re going to have to commute to work. It’s going to happen. You can try to control travel time and the miles, but you are going to have to wake up one morning, slug down a cup of coffee, run out of the house and, well, here’s the interesting point:
International Ride to Work Day is tomorrow, June 15, always the third Monday in June, and it’s time to reminisce on what many people feel is one of their least favorite things: Commuting to and from work.
The commute to work these days is usually a solitary time people spend getting themselves in the right frame of mind to do their job. There are people who carpool, but most don’t. Here in eastern Iowa, there are rolling hills, farms and very little traffic. Roads are uncongested and wide enough to pass large farm equipment.
It’s easy to go out for a ride and enjoy the scenery. Maybe it’s that I am new to the area, but when American artists like Grant Wood make a place their home, there is usually something, a sense of comfort and ease they find in their surroundings.
I bring this up because the commute to work can be mindless and monotonous—it just doesn’t have to be. The saying around the office here is “Great morning to ride.” What makes it a great morning to ride is the weather and the scenery. It’s usually cool, about 60 to 65 degrees in the morning this time of year, dry and perfect weather for starting the day. Maybe a jacket, maybe not, depends on how far you have to go.
That is the big thing about commuting to work on a bike. You have to think about what you wear to work. The gear you travel in might not be the same gear you want to spend the day in.
Take the everyday job: a shirt and jeans, standard working clothes. That’s fine for most jobs and most days of riding. Throw on a jacket if it’s little bit cold. It’s all good.
What happens in the rain? After spending five years in Daytona Beach, you know it’s going to rain when you go to leave for work. It’s like clockwork—long day, early day—it rains in the afternoon. And it’s not a rain you can wait out sometimes. You are going to get wet.
Yes, you’re on the way home so no biggie, but what if you were going to go out for a bit, grab a bite to eat, and have an errand to run? Most people and places in the Daytona area understand this and are accustomed to people showing up soaking wet. It’s an interesting weather pattern there. One minute it’s sunny, the next the Atlantic Ocean decides to drop a few gallons of rain on one spot, and nothing two miles down the road.
When you’re on the road for a day of riding, you can pull over under a bridge, put on some rain gear, or keep going and know it’ll stop a little farther down the road. This is not the case when going to work—you are on someone else’s schedule. Many ease into their car and don’t think twice. “Man, it’s raining. I’ll take the car to work.”
Not all of us take the easy way though. Florida is one of those havens for year round riding, and a few lucky individuals can get by with having only their bike, and really lucky ones have “bikes” plural.
Consciously giving up any protection from the elements is a freeing experience. Maybe that’s the root of this whole motorcycle phenomena.
Stripped down to the core, why ride? Most locations have a riding season, be it snow or too cold, all the way to the other extreme of too hot or too wet. The perfect day is hard to find. Throw in the commute to work, and your time in the saddle just got cut.
Daily errands, shopping on a bike? It takes some planning, and most people just don’t want to be bothered. The car and truck have made life really easy. Get in, turn on the radio and tune the world out. Solitary confinement with the world a cruise-controlled ride away. Again I ask, why ride?
I ask this knowing my answer. I like being in touch with my surroundings and find it’s freeing to not be confined. It’s freeing to experience all the sensations of the road. The smells as you ride closer to the ocean. That field you’re coming up on that has fresh cut hay. The smell of a pine forest.
Most people miss these things in a car. They might catch them but the scent is distant, muffled. Visually the things you see seem sharper. I’m always on the lookout for the next obstacle. Scanning the road surface for imperfections, grooves or debris that I need to avoid. This consciousness of what’s on the road has me looking to what’s on the side, keeping my eyes out for the random animal that wants to come leaping across the road.
Too many times I’ve had a buddy riding home and a deer or some other wild animal has jumped out and taken them out. This is only what nature has in store for riders.
Those pesky four-wheel vehicles take little consideration to us two-wheeled folks. Thank God for the “Watch out for Motorcycles” campaign; where would we be without it? All I can say is ride like everyone is out to hit you and you’ll be better off.
So, besides the weather, the roads and the people that congest them, people still ride. To work, to play, to adventure. Maybe it’s the real thought behind the slogan “Screw it, let’s ride!” It’s a great big middle finger to everything that wants people to toe the line, get in check, to stand or sit when told. It’s that mindset that I can be a little different, maybe a little off my rocker, but still be a contributing member to the community.
Sorry it seems I was on a rant, and I might not be able to get away from it. I have been fortunate enough to know the value of relying only on motorcycles, and it has changed the way I look at things.
A motorcycle is more than just a mode of transportation. For many, there is an identity attached to their bike—there is a culture. For some lucky enough, it is their livelihood. I say thank you.
So these are the things I think about when I get asked what it means to ride to work. I ride to work because that’s me. It’s not a far ride right now, and who knows what it will be in the future, but I’ll ride. I’ll ride because I don’t want to be confined. I’ll ride because it feels good. I’ll ride because it gives me peace of mind.
For all those who ride to work on Monday, I say thank you. Just don’t forget to ride Tuesday.