Tuesday, May 24, 2011


For as long as I have been riding I have had excuses reasons for not desiring to commute on the bike.

  1. 10 miles isn't enough distance to justify the time cost of donning ATGATT
  2. A 10 miles commute that has 14 stop lights is painful
  3. 10 miles that generally take 35 minutes to traverse meant too much clutch action sitting at said lights through multiple cycles.
 All of it combined to make it a fairly miserable commute.  The benefits were never realized with all of the detractors.

Recently my commute doubled in length.  And you might think my excuses reasons no longer held water.  You would think that, wouldn't you?

Maybe.  But doubling those miles also doubled the stoplights and quadrupled the traffic that I encounter.  The new area is more business oriented and daily becomes mecca for a large portion of the North Georgia business people.

I held out hope that I would eventually be able to ride to work.  I spend my first week scouting out every conceivable route between home and work.  Things were not looking good as my 18.1-19.5 mile commute lasted anywhere between 60 - 85 minutes.  I spoke with a few other people that lived near where I did and they confirmed their commutes were also in that range.  I spoke with a couple of riders and they also confirmed the diagnosis.  The only cure was changing arrival/departure time.

I realize I constantly remind you of my Atlanta location.  But it really is relevant.  There isn't one street that is straight for a distance longer than 300 years.  To state another way, city streets are not laid out in a grid pattern.  It is not reasonable to expect to be traveling in the same direction if you turn right at the next street, then turn left at the following.  I does not happen here.  Here, two roads can run parallel, then cross each other a mile down the way.

What does this mean in a commute?  It means that if traffic is heavy on the street that I am currently on, I can't just turn at the next one and expect that I will be able to regain my heading at the next street.  That first street I turned on could actually spin around and weave itself to travel in a direction exactly opposite the direction I was initially heading.

Than you have to add the river.  The river that bisects from the Northeast to the Southwest and has all of its meanderings.  Not many streets cross that river.  So you are bound to certain paths in long lines with everyone else.

I have been informed, and confirmed, that traffic patterns are fairly reasonable if I planned on arriving at 7:00 AM.  Yeehaw.  At that time I could leave home about 6:20 and have a "decent" commute.  To boot, traffic isn't too bad in the afternoon with a 4 PM departure.  Some intersections can get sticky, sometimes, on some days.  I haven't discovered any patterns.

Conversely, I could leave my house after 9 AM and generally make good time.  However, I haven't discovered when evening rush hour ends yet.  At any time between 4:30 and 7:00 I'm still seeing bad backups.  And I really don't like working late.  I am a morning work type person.

All that being said I have commuted on the bike frequently so far.

And I can say that I FINALLY understand why people enjoy it!!  My current route has quite a few miles with few lights.  And some sections actually go against traffic flow a ways.  When I get a few opportunities to get up to speed and can get the wind to blow the cobwebs away I am all smiles.


But what I really enjoy is the necessity to stop thinking about work.  Riding requires so much concentration and focus you can't be thinking about work too.  So coming in in the morning I am not thinking about what I have to do that day.  And leaving for home means I stop thinking about anything that happened during the day.  What a win!  My mind is clear to start the day and focus on upcoming challenges.  And it is clear when I get home, allowing me to focus on family and relaxing.  Wow.

Trite but the saying is true: you never see a motorcycle outside a psychiatrists office.

Not everything has worked itself out yet, though.  I have a distinct aversion to wearing "proper" clothing.  In many other activities you dress to how warm you will get.  Not necessarily to the current temps.  I know this isn't applicable to motorbike commuting since I am not performing anything physical to warm my internal temps.  So I find that I way underdress for morning temps of 44F (7C) when I know the afternoon temps will reach 80+F (27C).  I don't want to layer or get the heated gear out knowing that I won't need it in the afternoon.  So a couple mornings I have really frozen.  :)  My palms are warm against the heated grips but my thighs have stuck to the gas tank like a wet tongue to a metal flagpole in the frozen school yard.

Another issue that I am still trying to work through is just the expectations of being a girl in a business environment.  How do you dress nicely and manage long hair AND ride a motorcycle???  I don't agree with wearing one set of clothes on the motorbike and changing into a different set in the office.  That may be the ultimate solution...but I don't like it.  My current solution is to wear jeans to the office.  I'm not supposed to, but nothing has been said yet.  As for the top, I will either wear what I want under my armored jacket or wear an undershirt and shrug the nicer top over that when I arrive.

Unfortunately I still have a problem with my hair.  I have long, curly, dry, unmanageable hair.  I would cut if off, but would look even worse in short hair than I currently do.  I can't wash my hair in the evening because it takes forever to dry.  Which is also why I can't wash it in the morning if I plan to ride.  My wet hair would freeze or completely saturate the padding of my helmet and jacket.  And I would still freeze.

So what do I do with my hair?  I normally wash, or get it wet, and let it air dry to maintain the natural curls.  If I attempt to brush it after it has dried it separates every single strand and frizzes out.  My hair is so thick that when this happens I look like the combed out pompoms of a show poodle.

I haven't solved this issue yet, but it will probably mean obtaining hair brushes and spray bottles that stay at work.  A blow dryer might be pushing it since the bathrooms are utilitarian, without much space.

Thank goodness I don't wear makeup!  I couldn't even imagine the havoc caused by sweating in my helmet as I get ready to depart, followed by freezing temps that chill the beads of sweat into place.


  1. Too much to think about. I thought it was challenging to ride a cab in Atlanta due to all the traffic and crazy roads. I'm impressed. I think I'll stick with my commute that violates rule #1 and happy that we don't have any dress code.

    Nice that you discovered a reasonable route...

  2. You carnt beat riding to work. I agree with you 100%.

    I like the pic by the way!

  3. Lori

    Wonderful post that echos many of my feelings about that four letter word known as "commuting".

    I can now work from home with only occasional visits to an office about 60 miles away that is actually quite a reasonable ride on motorways and twisty country roads 50/50 - 3 sets of traffic lights and 5 roundabouts! It would be nice if the motorway did not have wall to wall trucks and high speed moronic white van man drivers intent on driving flat out.

    I can't advise on hair but with regards to clothing I bought a one piece oversuit with armour that is designed to be worn over normal clothes - it would be very good if the ****** zip did not keep breaking (I hope this has now been sorted out now by a nice seamstress who knows about these things).

    Best wishes from windy England, N

  4. I recommend a multi-layer jacket, if you haven't already got one. I have a mesh riding jacket and will ride some mornings with the liner in place and take it out in the afternoon. The liner is a bit tedious (if you bother to install it correctly) but it fits in your pocket for the trip home. It's usually a bit warm in the afternoon, but I like the protection.

    As for changing clothes, well, I commute by motorbike and change out of my jeans most days - unless I'm willing to sweat it out. I do save a lot of time by riding the moto (I can park next to the building, not in the garage) so I make my presence known, and pop off to the bathroom to 'slip into something more comfortable.'

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  5. Cool photo of you :-)
    I have been commuting by bike when the weather is good, 35 miles that usually take 1 hour to drive by car and a little less by bike (I go a little faster) I'm doing it to save money, by car I spend about $90 a week in gas :-0 By bike about a third or less. Unfortunately I have to wear long sleeve shirt and no jeans, I ride in my armored jeans and carry a pair of slacks in the trunk. I have a pair of shoes at work. A quick change of clothes and I'm set :-)

  6. I am very grateful to not have to use the clutch on my commute. Sonja has pointed out how much more she commutes now that she has a Vespa. The starts and stops lose some of there sting when you don't have constantly work that clutch.

    About clothing, oy vay! I wear overpants. This keeps my slacks clean and dry. Of coarse, heat and humidity is a problem with this plan. That's probably why I complain less about cold than hot on my commutes. I don't have to ware a sports jacket or suit at work, so the jacket goes over the dress shirt. I keep shoes under my desk to change into after I get to work. It seems my female co-workers all do this anyway. I have a great backpack to carry extra layers in and my rain gear, plus the top box. Another advantage a scooter is the added storage for gear.

    I'm glad you are commuting and hope you find the balance. I really look forward to the ride to work, but even more to the ride home.
    ps-I have no hair on the top of my head, so got no advice there :)

  7. lori:

    I'm glad you're commuting. There's nothing like it but our traffic is very heavy too. There is no escaping the many signal lights which are not synchronized, causing you to stop frequently. The commute is more suited for an automatic CVT scooter.

    Like George, I keep extra clothes and shoes at work, and socks, just in case the other pair gets too wet. Cold is not a problem, but Ice is

    Riding the Wet Coast

  8. Keith summed it up for me...

    Vespa commuting rules!

    I keep extra stuff at work, such as shoes or a blouse, but often I can just wear jeans & tees plus crocs ;-) and warm or not, it is always ATGATT (hopefully changing to my mesh jacket and armoured jeans soon).

  9. Dear Steel Cupcake:

    Leave for the office at 6am, and take a 20- minute detour to EXTEND your saddle time in the morning. Can you find an expressway where riding 20 minutes in the opposite direction actually enhances your ride in the morning, while by-passing 20 blocks of congested city traffic?

    Stash 2 pairs of dress slacks in the office with a blazer and some jewelry. One day wear the gray slacks and the gold necklace over the blouse. The next day, wear the same slacks with a pink blouse and the blazer with no jewlery. All you'll be doing is changing your pants when you get to the office and no one will be any the wiser. With two pair of slacks and the blazer, you can pull this off forever, changing the pattern only on the days when it is pissing rain, and you take the car.

    Your hair is a different story. My suggestion is to wear a low-cut blouse that shows tons of cleavage. If your boss is a guy, he won't give a shit what your hair looks like.

    No problem is that unsolveable.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  10. Congrats on the commute!
    I wouldn't get to ride much if I didn't commute. You hit the nail on the head about commuting - clears the head of the days hassles, and when you get home, everything is cleared out and faded away. Gotta love it! Fortunately, I commute from small town to the outskirts of a small city (Really just a bigger town), so I have few traffic hassles. Oh, and if I drive the car, I take the freeway. With the bike, I take back roads and don't touch the freeway. I don't look for the shortest route home on the bike! ;)

    I have short hair, so no help there, but I've heard some women where a silky scarf/buff over their hair. Don't know if something like that would help.

    Clothes and gear can be troublesome. I carry a bag in my topcase that carries whatever I'll need (backpack would work). Our office is casual, so I'm usually in jeans but wrinkle free skirts work well too. All I have to change is riding pants to skirt and boots to shoes. In the afternoon I swap back, throw the heated jacket in my bag if I won't be needing it, and off I go. All my clothes are of the wrinkle-free/wad it up variety...or in the case of a couple skirts, the wrinkles are designed to be part of the look! :)

    My jacket and pants are textile that converts to mesh/or has large mesh panels, and has waterproof liners. I can stay warm enough in freezing weather, dry in the rain, and ride in 80 degree weather with the same set, just by adding or subtracting liners/panels. Usually it's subtract stuff at work, throw the unused parts in my bag, and that evening at home I put it all back together for the next morning.

  11. Congrats on commuting to work now. My commute is only 3 miles so I don't gear up for such a short ride. Or at least that is my excuse/reason. I think I'm just lazy and I need to run errands and get groceries after work a lot.

    I don't really have a suggestion on commuting gear since I am lucky enough to be able to wear jeans at the law office so can wear them under the overpants.

    Sounds like we deal with the same type of hair. Naturally curly, dry, etc. I too have the same thing and don't dare blow dry it or run a comb through it after it is dry. I find damp hair isn't too bad in a helmet and actually helps to straighten it a bit. If it is too crazy after the helmet it is into a pony tail it goes, no other options I've found yet.

    Let me know if you find a solution.

  12. Everybody here "armors up" before riding out, but that's 'cause the weather is so unkind.

    As to the poodle curls: try epsom salts in a spritzer. It apparenty cuts the curls right down. ;)

  13. Dear Steel Cupcake:

    So? Where Are You?

    Twisted Roads

  14. Thank You guys! I'm sorry! Yes, I am alive. I've gotten some damn cold that seems to be circulating in the office and stresses at home (traveling Oilburner and geriatric dog on meds) has me foiled and exhausted.

    I had actually started a new blog to thank you for the great ideas! And let you in on a few secrets and a couple search thoughts I've had. However...I haven't had the energy to complete it.

    Thanks for reaching out! I really appreciate it and it helped my day drastically.

    -Lori/Steel Cupcake

  15. With a big grin he says,

    "The cold isn't the only bug she's caught!"

    Sorry for the first one. Delighted about the second one.