A TPer's Take on "Bike To Work Day"

Thursday, June 27, 2013 | By AJ Johnson
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National “Bike to Work Day” is one of our favorite days of the year. Companies, stores and the like all pitch in and host breakfast stations for riders, encouraging more people to try doing their commute on two wheels. TrainingPeaks Education Specialist AJ Johnson shares his own “Bike to Work Day 2013” experience from yesterday, and reminds us that a bike is not just a means to exercise - it can be the means to having a fun, “out of the ordinary”, and social experience.

I ride to work two to three times a week but I don’t usually have the option of stopping at stations along the way. Yesterday, as I looked at the map of “Bike to Work” breakfast stations on www.biketowork2013.org, I saw that Boulder Cycle Sport would be a stop. Coincidentally I received an email from BCS that they would be serving pancakes from 7 until 9.

There are few things I love more than riding long and sitting down to a big stack of pancakes afterwards. It drives me a bit more than it should. What I love more than pancakes after a hard ride are free pancakes after a hard ride. So I hatched a plan to take advantage of this opportunity that comes only once a year.

I decided I’d earn my calories by riding from my home in Erie, Co., about 20 miles east of Boulder, to the classic climb of Left Hand Canyon, up to the little town of Jamestown, down and into Boulder via the backside of Lee Hill. Not only would climbing burn more calories and thus I could replace them with more pancakes, it was a more challenging route to my destination. I could have gone straight to BCS to devour my reward, but the rewards taste better when you’ve struggled to attain them. Especially when those rewards have blueberries and syrup.

My day started early, 5:15 AM to be exact. A quick cup of joe to awaken the legs and mind and a  slice of toast to settle a grumbling stomach was all I needed. My ride began just before 6:00 AM on the desolate country roads I know well. Colorado is known for its mountains, but the eastern plains are filled with large farms and horse ranches. This makes for a pretty impressive view of expansive grass and farmlands sitting below the still snow capped Front Range mountains. I took a slight variation from my usual route to work to change things up. The sun was rising in the east, just casting its light on the Front Range vista to the west. I thought of how this was such was a peaceful and enjoyable way to start my day, even if it means getting up at 5 AM.

I wasn’t the only rider out on the roads. I usually see a few hearty souls pedaling to work, but this day the number was at least doubled. I saw people on old mountain bikes, cruisers and classic road bikes with backpacks and a smile. I waved at each and every rider, hoping to see them more often.

The flat plains took me to Left Hand Canyon, likely the most traveled climb in all of Boulder, maybe even all of Colorado. I started to ride in earnest here, putting out more effort and thinking that the harder I went, the more pancakes I could enjoy. Normally this stretch of road is littered with cyclists but at 7:30 in the morning there were decidedly fewer. One rider I saw descending was pro triathlete Tim Don. Every day is bike for work day for him, though he must have been up and out pretty early to already be descending back home.

Reaching Jamestown I quickly filled my bottles from the large jugs of water the Jamestown Mercantile puts out (thanks!) and headed back down. Not descending all the way, I chose to make a hard right and climb more to the backside of Lee Hill, a relatively short but steep section that would lead to a fast descent to my glorious reward.

This climb has a summit, then a short but fast and twisty descent before kicking up once again for the true summit. Upon reaching the first summit, two cyclists were visible up the road, one on a road bike and one on a mountain bike. I was gaining on them on the descent and realized I’d catch them on the slight uphill. Coming out of the tight right hander that leads to the incline I reached for my drops and went hard. The rider on the mountain bike had seen me coming up and he kicked. Hard. Despite being on a full suspension bike that probably weighed double my road rig, I had to really dig deep to get by him. When I did, he just tucked in behind me and stayed right on my wheel. At the top I let off and had to ask who he was. Turns out it was 20 year old Eli Cohen, a former elite level 24 Hour mountain rider. For a guy who’s all about the endurance he sure has some serious top end get up and go. That effort was enough and I enjoyed the 10 minute descent down to Boulder Cycle Sport.

When I pulled up there were about 20 riders all sitting outside enjoying plates of pancakes and cups of coffee. I quickly parked my bike and got in line. The owner of BCS, Brandon Dwight and his crew were pouring batter as fast as they could on two outdoor griddles. The choices were plain, chocolate chip or blueberry and of course I chose blueberry. Real maple syrup was on hand (I had considered bringing my own) so I drizzled that goodness all over my stack of carbs.

Boulder Cycle Sport is right next to Amante’s Coffee, so the pairing of pancakes and coffee was perfect. Sitting down with a plate of pancakes in one hand and a cup of Amante’s coffee in the other I was thoroughly satisfied. It was a Wednesday morning, I’d gotten in a solid ride and I was outside enjoying free pancakes and coffee.

The time came and I had to throw my leg back over the bike and pedal to the office. With a belly full of pancakes I simply rolled along with minimal effort, as a high heart rate and digesting food are a poor combination. At the final light I saw a woman sitting down with her bike laid by her side, saddle bag open and tube in hand. She looked like a novice rider that may need a hand with change a flat. I asked if she needed help and she replied that no, her patch kit was working and she would be rolling along soon. This rider, despite not necessarily “looking the part”, knew just what to do and was completely self-sufficient - which I thought was awesome. I told her that should she need a hand that the TrainingPeaks office was just a mile away and we’d be happy to help her. She never stopped by - which is good. A few minutes later I was at the TrainingPeaks office, where we also had a tent and breakfast goodies out for riders.

But the name Bike To Work is really only half of it though, what about biking home? There are some stations for those riders that pedal back home and I saw that Oskar Blues Brewery was a stop that was kind of, sort of on my way home. But if riding with a stomach full of pancakes is ill advised, riding home with a belly full of bar food and beer is even less so. Exercising restraint I had a small sampling and then pushed off for home. Later on, on my ride home, I saw a guy on a mountain bike with an incredibly creaky chain. I wanted to tell him about chain lube - not to be rude or to act like a know it all, but to make his ride more enjoyable so he would be more likely to stick with it.

The final miles were pleasant and slow. I’d left when the sun was just up and now it was just about to set. The plains were now bathed in the light of sun about to set over the mountains and looking east the expansive feeling is impressive.

It was, all in all, a great day on two wheels. As much as I like to ride hard and see improvements in my fitness, I am also careful to take the time and enjoy the experience of riding. Sometimes it’s a great conversation with a training buddy, sometimes it’s an epic route and many times it involves stopping for coffee and a massive cinnamon roll. Cycling can be an adventure of any proportion, small or epic. It doesn’t really matter as long as you’re having fun.

This morning I woke up and rode in, but this time it was the normal routine - riding straight to the office and packing breakfast and lunch in my pack. I’m ok with that, it’s the ride that I enjoy the most. But if the opportunity arises to get breakfast along the way, especially pancakes, count me in.

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