Figured I'd say hello. Been lurking for a while now. Don't post much.
Newbie with 13 commutes under my belt. 24 mile round-trip in mostly cornfield, Illinois.
Background: It had been 25 years since I rode. When I was 14-15 I loaned my only bicycle (my dad's brown hand-me-down 196X Schwinn) to a neighbor. He moved that weekend, with my bike. Since I was poor, I could not afford to replace it. Fast forward 25 years and I saw a neighbor struggling with his X-Mart bicycle. Looked like fun so I purchased a beautiful red three-speed Electra Deluxe Cruiser from a local bike shop. I suspect some (most?) of you look down on Electra's geometry but it was perfect for me - a beginner. I liked its fat tires, its easy-going style, and I especially liked being able to easily put my feet down... its simplicity. I had never biked on anything more than a three-speed so I really liked its internal 3-speed gears and its coaster brake.
Over the next six months, I worked my way up to ten-mile journeys both before and after work and decided I needed a bicycle more friendly to my commute goal. A co-worker suggested a different local bike shop who sold me a hybrid -- Bianchi Cortina. Given that more than half of my ride is gravel-covered chip-and-tar, good choice. It has taken me a while to get used to multiple gears.
I picked a terrible summer day for my first commute. In my inexperience, I figured colder was better... so I picked a 50 degree morning and wore a jacket and jeans. Against a 12 mph+ headwind. It was miserable. Toward the end of my very first commute, someone threw a beer can at me. This was on an isolated, deserted road. I was on the far right, the 60s era truck was approaching me from ahead. There was no reason for this... no aggression on my part... just someone being a class one jerk. Up to this point, I had no idea drivers harassed cyclists. Who drinks beer at 6:30 AM? The only reason I rode again is because I had to get home somehow...
Around my ninth commute, I managed to give myself 8 stitches by slicing myself on my unstoppered fenders. The bike shop should have installed them; I should have noticed they were missing. The stitches are out, the wound is healing, I'll live. Lesson learned.
On my twelfth commute, I got side-swiped (gently). The driver stopped and was apologetic (he had dropped his cell phone and was trying to fish it out of the passenger leg/foot area...
). I was so grateful to be alive and uninjured with no damage to the bike that I let it go. I know, I know, bad move... adrenaline clouds the brain in a high-stress new situation.
Today, a week later and obviously uninjured, was commute #13. I'll be honest... for a while I considered giving the whole cycling thing up. I still do. With three children under nine... I have to balance the long-term health benefits with the increased risk. I've purchased brighter clothing and a rear-view mirror, I've adjusted my route, and I've had a medical exam for increased life insurance. Not sure what else to do.... this is the first physical activity I've found that might (MIGHT!) get me out of Clyde territory. Apparently, it's possible to bike 325 miles and not lose weight if one drinks plenty of craft beers, multiple pizzas, and indulges in summer s'mores. Ooops.
Bottom line: Today I commuted and I'll probably bike to work again next week. I really like biking even though it will probably be the death of me. I figure as far as statistics go, I'm through injuries. In my first month of commuting, I've had a beer can tossed at me, eight stitches, and been in my first auto vs. bicycle accident. I'm done, right? Right?
So... hello... and thanks for creating a friendly community. Oh... and if you have any words of encouragement, I'd love to hear 'em. I've had plenty of people encourage me to give up. I guess they don't want me in the way!