How Bike Commuting 20 miles Each Way Affects My Mood

I am by nature a curious mix:  sometimes people call me  an upbeat and sunny-dispositioned fellow, but I also possess a dark, cynical, world-will-end-soon mood at times.  My set point and natural resting state is pretty cheerful, but too many hours of the New York Times or NPR news will put me in a sour mood, as I sit up and take notice of the awful things going on in the real world, a world which I manage to ignore most of the time.  Keep calm and carry on, and all that.

Now that I’ve been commuting to and from work (20 miles each way) for three months, I am pleased to report that my mood has shifted toward sunny me and away from dark, cynical me.  The constant exercising is somehow re-wiring my brain and making me disposed to feelings of contentment and satisfaction a much higher percentage of the day.

If you know someone who suffers from mild to moderate depression, see if they won’t try one month of bike commuting instead of driving (at least a few days a week) and have them report back to you.

My hunch is they’ll notice a positive change that will make cycling worth the trouble.  It’s often the getting started that’s the hardest part.Image


How Not to Get Killed or Seriously Injured on a Bicycle



A Play in One Act



Cast of Characters

Naive Bike Rider (Me): A man in his early 50s, eager to get fit, save money, save fuel, and keep the planet green for other people’s children (since he doesn’t have any).

Committed California Car Person (CCCP) 1: An elegant, dignified, clearly successful, clearly conservative gentleman of 6 feet plus in his mid 40’s, with blue eyes and salt-and pepper hair receding just the right amount, and with a smartphone sticking out of his shirt pocket.

CCCP 2: A pretty, thin, healthy-looking young woman with brown hair and green eyes, who always has a smart phone out and is constantly multitasking

CCCP 3: A fat, balding man in his 30’s with grey, flat eyes, polyester slacks pulled up to his chest, a faux leather racing jacket that says “Porsche” with the Porsche Logo prominently displayed on his lapel, and who also holds a smartphone in his left hand, which also sports a conspicuous wedding ring.  He smells vaguely of Diabetes.

The Office Cafeteria
The present.


Scene 1

SETTING: We are in the cafeteria of the &^%$# Corporation, a prosperous, modern looking gathering place for tech heads and others in the company.  The parking lot, visible outside through tinted windows, is a veritable showroom of gleaming Teutonic engineering: Mercedes, Audi, BMW. You know. The Toyotas, Kias, and Hyundais belong to the “staff,” or simply to employees who moved to California in the past 10 years, and never had a house increase in value a million dollars more than they paid for it, and so never bought a car with “home equity.”

AT RISE: Several people are gathered around a table, including SoCalElectricGuy, and several Committed California Car Persons (CCCP’s).

Me:  I got a new electric bike and I’m so excited because it gets me fit, and it’s fun, and it’s green and it goes fast and I am happy and…

CCCP 1: (interrupts me) Wait, why?  You already drive a perfectly good Toyota Prius.  What is wrong with you? (Phone rings, answers it in the middle of the conversation).

CCCP 2: (looking up from iPhone screen) What? Sorry,  I was texting my girlfriends about tonight.  Did you know Beyonce got her hair done?

CCCP 3: (looks up from smart phone) Bikes may be fun and good for exercise and all that,  but they’re way too slow for me.  I like to go 90 in the fast lane. (swivels gaze toward a very fit young blond woman ) Whoa , Susie’s looking fine today.  (Looks back down at phone while fiddling with wedding ring)

Me: (waits for CCCP 1 to hang up) Well, I know I have a perfectly good car, but not driving it to work is pretty much the point.  You see, the roads are too crowded, and the public transportation stinks around here, and joining a health club is too expensive, the air is filthy, and despite the fracking boom, petroleum is a finite resource.  I thought I might help solve a lot of problems with this one choice I’m making.

Dear readers: Do I need to finish this play for you, or can you write the final acts?



About My Electric Bike

I ride a bicycle 22 miles each way to and from work several days each week.  when the days lengthen out, I intend to do it nearly every day.  So that will be about 200 miles a week, assuming I don’t ride on weekends.

But I cheat a bit.

You see, my bike has a 500 watt electric motor and a gargantuan lithium ion battery pack that together can assist me for the entire distance from home to work ( I am on fumes when I arrive, so I have a charger here to get it ready for the evening’s ride home.  It needs at least 5 hours to get ready, but I always am at the office at least that long).

Some people seem to think that I don’t get any exercise on the electric bike.  Not so:  it’s a hell of a workout, but it’s just that I can go a lot faster than I could on my regular bike, and it makes the long commute doable in both directions.

My research thus far suggests that a suitable electric bike for a long commute costs a minimum of $2000, and you can spend a lot more than that if you want to go crazy.  The Mercedes Smart Bike (about 3,400 US dollars) and the Audi Worthersee (which will set you back a bundle more than the Mercedes) are just a couple of examples.

But my prosaic, mostly Chinese made Verve from EZGreenBikes in Dana Point, CA is thus far just enough but not too much bike for my particular needs: it’s heavy at 60 pounds, but not so heavy I can’t load it on a train, it doesn’t need to be licensed at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and it gets me worked out and to the office without depreciating the value of my auto or costing me fuel dollars.

I like it a lot, the riding, the sun, staying off of the freeway, the breezes, the exercise, and the way it makes me feel when I get to work and back home again.

The tricky part is going to be doing this every day and not getting killed in the process, and that’s the challenge I’ll talk about next time.

Ta for now.