[For the Not like a wussy series, we don't tap mere experts to make valued contributions. We invite the World's Leading Authorities within each particular domain. Nowhere is that more true than in today's contribution, from Jim McNeely on commuting. The Rouleur's knowledge of the subject is legendary, showing up as essays on Bike Trail Guys (BTGs) with a frequency and intensity rivaled only by his interval workouts during cross season. Enjoy.]
How to not commute like a wussy
by Jim McNeely, Squadra Coppi / IM Saab
Mike asked me to write an article on how not to commute like a wussy. That should have been easy but when I started it, the thing began to come out like a preachy, smarmy bit written by some overzealous bike advocate. Ick! So instead of writing that, I decided to tell you all how to commute like a wussy. If you’re going to be bad, might as well shoot for perfection, right?
First, only Boy Scouts need to be prepared. So strip your bike down to the bare basics. Ditch the reliable Conti Gatorskins in favor of slightly lighter Vittoria Evo. Did Cipo race with a seat bag? No! So ditch that too. Your boss will totally understand when you get to work an hour late because you had to walk from Silver Spring in your Sidis, and that foot pain will go away in a couple months, trust me on that. Other things you can leave at home include a tube, minipump, patch kit (you’ll never have a multi-flat day on the roads around here, I assure you), a good multi-tool, and a tire lever.
Make sure to ride your race bike at all times, even in bad weather. Your ‘cross bike and fixie conversion, and that old MTB with slicks, are “practical” which is a synonym Bicycling magazine uses for ‘uncool.” They have eyelets, lots of room to spread out, a relatively upright position… they scream “not a racer.” You definitely don’t want to be spending a couple hours a day on one of them, five days a week. And fenders? Don’t even think about fenders, not even the inexpensive, slick little SKS Race Blade clip-ons. Wet butts are cool – just ask any two year-old.
If you see any other commuters with a mechanical, even cute, single commuters, don’t bother stopping to help. Did Lance stop to help Beloki? Hells no. And you won’t stop either. I don’t care if it’s Jennifer Anniston on her Colnago Extreme Power. A racer just doesn’t stoop to being a good Samaritan, and Jennifer will understand that.
Next, don’t even think about getting a good light set. A $15 “be seen” light set is plenty, and the money you save will mostly cover the co-pay for the emergency room visit to treat your green stick fracture. Plus you’d probably need to get a Minoura light mounting bar to even mount a big light, and it’s daylight most of the time so who needs lights anyhow?
Don’t bother with logistics either. If that was your job we’d call you Maersk, but we don’t. Don’t bother finding a place at work, or near it, to shower and store your clothes, or a nearby dry cleaner / laundry. Your stank will build your reputation as a serious athlete, and carrying in 20 pounds of clothes and hygiene kit every day will build up your tolerance to back pain, which is a key ingredient to success as a racer.
Speaking of carrying lots of stuff, stick to the least-dorky bag you can get away with. If you have tons of stuff to carry, maybe you’re stuck with panniers. But if you can possibly cram anything into a huge backpack, do that. And if you can lighten the load a bit and carry it in an overstuffed, heavy, asymmetric messenger bag, that’s the ticket. Like I said, tolerating severe back pain is a key to being a good racer, plus readjusting the messenger bag every two minutes will build up the triceps of your right arm, which is useful and important for something.
You could dress like a commuter to fit in, but you probably don’t have a ski jacket to match your shorts for cold weather gear. Instead, dress to look good. Don’t use transitional clothing (knee warmers, arm warmers, vests). Don’t even consider keeping a cheap rain jacket handy or saving your ratty old shoes to use as rain gear. And wear something other than your team kit. It’s not like you’re your club’s sponsors are paying you to be a human billboard anyhow. Plus you wouldn’t want people to talk to you while you’re riding, maybe ask you about racing or your club, or worse yet express interest in coming out and trying the sport. So go incognito. I hear Primal makes some sweet jerseys that you would probably like with graphics based on bad puns, defunct rock bands and beer. Goat for it!
Just as important as all this gear is making sure to project the proper image at work. Co-workers may find out that you commute by bike, and may be interested in trying it sometime. Instead of bothering them with your pro-bike preaching, or volunteering to lead them in to work one day, you need to impress them with how tough it is, and how tough you are. You don’t want these amateurs getting out and cluttering up the roads, or lobbying for showers and a changing room at work now, do you?
When you’re riding, you should do your intervals on crowded multi-use paths. When the crowds get really heavy, do an impromptu handling drill. Instead of trying to integrate some of your training into the commute by stomps or accelerations on deserted parts of the path, use the paths for 20 minute threshold intervals. Some people would find a way to integrate training into commuting, looking to balance out the demands of race training on their busy lives, doing a little work on the trail or roads mid-commute then augmenting it with some work at Hains or on Military Road. But you’ll train after work, separately from your commute. Meanwhile, during the commute, go as fast as you can at all times, and if it looks like it’s going to be a close call to pull off a pass before you hit somebody – go for it! This will all make you faster (in fact if you ride hard all the time you’ll get super fast!) but there’s nothing like a standing sprint through a gaggle of little kids to add some excitement to your day. You may hit a few people here or there, but that’s okay – the babies in strollers bounce, the old people have lived long enough anyhow, and the roller bladers have it coming.
I’m not joking about the roller bladers.
Finally, and most important, you need to forget that you’re a racer and sticking to a training plan. You have an ego, and pride, and it’s not like you to stick it in your bag and let some hairy-legged guy mash by you while you’re riding zone 1/2 recovery into work. Catch him, and crush the impudent wretch! Your fellow club members, the Hains lunch ride crew and your fellow competitors at the Giro di Coppi or Lost River Classic will be impressed that you crushed somebody who thinks going 20 is ‘hammering.’ I know you’d leave me with a strong impression.