From A to B: A Commuter’s Manifesto

With the spring racing season upon us, there is a lot of talk about the pros– what it means to be pro, how to look pro, and so on.  There are two things that distinguish the professional cyclist.  The first is talent, which is a mysterious thing and best left for another discussion.  The second thing is that the pros ride every day.  This is so simple that we forget its importance.  We also forget that it is ours for the taking.

To be a commuter is also to ride every day. To do something every day is to experience it from all sides.  Rules are broken, rides are fast, rides are slow, the bike is filthy– and we keeping riding.  We ride to get somewhere, and then we ride to get back. We ride without a computer, without matching kit, without a training goal.  We ride because it is simply a way to get from A to B.  There is no glorious finish line and no support team, yet we share something with the cycling elite: every morning, we wake up, look outside, shrug at the weather, and get on the bike.  The gesture is small but when accumulated over years it becomes sublime.

For those who are toying with the idea of commuting, some simple advice: go all in and do it for a full two weeks.  At first, it will seem complicated and annoying.  The logistics of your work clothes and your bike gear outweigh the enjoyment of the ride.  You will think about how much simpler your weekend training rides are without all this stuff to cart around.  You will find reasons not to ride – just for today, you will tell yourself.  Doing it everyday, however, will breed efficiency, and after two weeks your routine (and the amount of gear) will become streamlined.  With a set of habits in place (my wallet goes here, I leave me shoes under my desk, etc), things will seem easier.  With enough time, the details of your commute will fade to the background and you will enjoy the ride itself.

Then your bike will not just be your tool to get from A to B, it will be your freedom…just like the weekends, except every day.

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74 Replies to “From A to B: A Commuter’s Manifesto”

  1. Thankfully someone has put into words what I’ve always felt about commuting. Thanks to Steampunk too for mentioning #9. In winter just making the commute sometimes seems like achievement enough. For many time poor parent types the commute can make up the bulk of riding time in any week. I do wonder though, what happens that makes a once perfectly normal person start rocking panniers and high vis?

  2. This was a great post. I live in the snowy north (Winnipeg,Manitoba) and commute year round. It is finally starting to melt around here and this post was pretty inspiring. Cyclocross bike is the way to go for anyone who is considering tackling the daily ride to work. I am a father of 2, one car family as well and the 30 km or so that I put in every day going back and forth to work really helps get those rides in. One other thing, if you can swing it and you live somewhere messy (rain and snow) singlespeed is the way to go. There is so much junk on the roads here that gears for the commute makes no sense.

  3. All this commuting talk made me remember a favorite story of my uncle…

    My uncle was working as a chef in SoCal and rode his bike to/from the restaurant. He was rather wild at the time and didn’t think much for…well anything really. Anyhow, he would occasionally take raw steaks, shove them in his socks, ride home, and cook them for dinner. His roommate at the time, who told me the story, always declined those meals…

  4. mcsqueak:
    When I first started cycling I really found the various forums online pretty useful for learning a lot of good information, but eventually you just see the same questions posted over and over and over…

    Exactly! Yep, when I started out I read a variety of forums all the time. I definitely learned a great deal & and I’ll still consult them when I’m doing some mechanical work I’m not that comfortable with or maybe to check some product feedback. They helped me a great deal, but yes, now I find them to be repetitive. I’d rather be out pedaling than reading.

    And on top of that, they can be a bit annoying. You have the surly mechanic who doesn’t feel he gets paid enough picking fights with people, others who should just be riding far too worried about gear, and all sorts of other nonsense. Don’t frequent any of them much these days. Plus, more time to banter on here!

  5. Cyclops:
    My problem is that it only takes me about ten minutes to get to work by bike so it ain’t really worth it unless I’m riding after work.

    that is flawed logic fella.

  6. others who should just be riding far too worried about gear

    Ahem. I occassionally subscribe to the school of thought that there’s no such thing. The rest of the time I may admit that you could, under certain conditions have a point.

  7. This is a great post. I’ve been commuting for the last month-plus and have been loving it. The wet weather is coming in, and I just got a pair of quick-release fenders for my bike, which helps keep me drier.

    @Dan O‘s response is very well written. I’ve gotten into that groove as well, and have really been enjoying the ride. We have showers here at my work, so I just shower after I get in. My coworkers think I’m nuts for riding in the bad weather, but my ride’s only 10km and takes me usually about 18-20 minutes, so meh.

    The added benefit to commuting – as others have posted – is that it gets me out on the bike. The miles really add up, so I’m happy ’bout it.

  8. @Gianni
    A second to Gianni’s respect for Jim and his commute commitment. It is impressive and runs deep. And it’s obnoxious, you punk.

    Long ago, Jim, being Jim, convinced me that I was a huge agina (lacking the V, pardon the anatomical pejorative) for complaining about wet weather while visiting Seattle. As a result, when I moved to Montana I committed to year-round commuting as a way to flash the proverbial garden hose. Suffice it to say that my winter commuting kit now includes a full arctic puffy jacket and a ski helmet. Having stayed rubber side down for over 10 years, I’ve now gone down twice this winter, and on returning home one a particularly chilly evening last month I happened check the thermometer outside my house and found it reading -19 F. Merckx is it cold here. Still, so far so good. Now if I could just figure out how to keep the beer from freezing up in the nozzle of the bidon on the way home…

  9. Joshua:
    Now if I could just figure out how to keep the beer from freezing up in the nozzle of the bidon on the way home…

    Time to step it up to hot sake (日本酒 test to see if this site supports more than just umlauts) in the bidon.

  10. Ha, ok so this site doesn’t handle non-english characters very well… it just wiped out half of that post.

    At any rate, “time to step it up with hot sake in the bidon”.

  11. @mcsqueak
    What? Once I took out the “<-” (which makes any HTML page think you’re entering half an opening comment or some fucked up tag), it handled the Asian charade just fine.

  12. Frank, yeah I didn’t even think about it interpreting the symbol as an opening tag, despite all the posts using HTML.

    Plus it’s fun to make you clean up my sloppy posts. You’re like my commenting domestique.

  13. Sorry to bring up and old post but I need some velominati commuters advice on a wheel set upgrade. As my commuter is also my bad weather training bike I’m stuck on whether to go for the some 20mm depth 24 spoke count clinchers or to go for the more classic 36 spoke 20mm depth rims?

    I can see a case for both being acceptable, the low spoke count wheels just look cool, but there is a lot to be said for the classic look of the high spoke count. My commuters an alu frame road bike I don’t use a rack but it does have guards on it.

    Even typing this out I’m starting to convince myself on the high spoke count I guess I’m just after a more experience follower of the rules to confirm they would be correct?


  14. Started commuting to university on bike, after a week it seems like my bag just need to carry my two locks and maybe a clean shirt if its very hot and i really hammer it. Other than that everything is perfect, wear my bib under my normal jeans or shorts so,normal shoes are in the local we have for our program and when i arrive i can leave my helmet and my cycling shoes there. Only problem right now is that i am looking for a rain jacket with a jersey like fit and unless i get me a long sleeve jersey that is not 100% waterproof no other product seem to fit the requirement of the thight fit. Any advice ?

  15. @westy

    then remove your seat.

    Had a terminal saddle moment couple of days ago, seat post bolt shattered and had to do 7 km without a saddle. On the the plus side I now know I can do 7k out of the saddle…

  16. @mark

    Forgot the down side, still haven’t found a replacement bolt and the replacement post I had to buy to get me home sucks cause I cannot get the ride position I had before. Suggestions for a decent 27mm post gratefully accepted

  17. @mark


    Forgot the down side, still haven’t found a replacement bolt and the replacement post I had to buy to get me home sucks cause I cannot get the ride position I had before. Suggestions for a decent 27mm post gratefully accepted

    ZIPP Service Course SL (27.2) 275mm or 350mm with/without 20mm setback. There’s a bargain out there somewhere.

  18. @Oli

    I’m pretty sure Thomson do a 27mm post – light and very strong.

    Thomson Elite begat 3T Palladio (returned) begat fizik Cyrano begat Zipp Service Course SL begat Zipp Service Course SL Beyond Black

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