Wednesday, May 26, 2010

First Rider Profile for 2010: Jennifer "Will" Granger

Jennifer "Will" Granger is almost 29, rides a bike named Tiffany, and bounces back from a close encounter with a turning truck.
What is your occupation?
I'm the front office coordinator at one of the clinics of South Sound Physical and Hand Therapy. We have a 5 person team doing the commuter contest and several others who also jumped on board.

How long have you been commuting by bike?
I bought my bike only about nine months ago. I've ridden her (her name is Tiffany) to work a few times, but this month is the first I have really made an effort. I've driven my car exactly twice total since May 1st. Both times involved bike repairs. I love starting my day with a ride and I can't believe how much easier it's gotten in just the past month.

How many times have you participated in the Bicycle Commuter Contest? This is the first of many, I hope!

How did you hear about the BCC? I think I found one of the info booklets in Dancing Goats coffee shop. My coworkers were putting me to shame running and going to the gym on their lunch breaks. I used to be really active and had slacked off the past few years, so I thought this would be a good way to get active again. My coworkers joined in too, so we keep each other motivated.

Describe your current average or usual commute I don't go very far at all in terms of to and from work. I live on the west side about 2.5 miles from the clinic. That giant hill is INSANE though. On the way to work when I am headed down hill, I avoid the traffic and the terror of being half upside down on Harrison by going over to 4th or 5th. Wet brakes make that hill particularly challenging for me in the rain. When I head home from work, my challenge is just to get up the hill at all. I call it my hillnemesis and judge my progress by how much of it I can ride vs walk. I only walk about two blocks of it now. When I started, I was walking before I even got through both roundabouts.

What got you started bike commuting? I knew I wanted to commute by bike when I bought my bike back in August, but it really took the bike commuter contest to get me actually doing it. I'm a very competitive person, so it works well to motivate me. The trick will be keeping it up, but I have trouble imagining going back to driving everyday. I'm cranky just thinking about not riding!

How have you adapted your habits to make bike commuting work for you?
Yes, I've gotten used to getting very wet. Other than that, I do have to plan things out a little better sometimes, think more about how long it will take me to get someplace not juts in terms of distance but also terrain. I've been doing all of my errands by bike as well as riding to and from work, so I grocery shop much more often in order to carry smaller loads that will fit in my backpack.

What are some of the benefits you have experienced from commuting by bike?
Well I know I'm in far better shape than when I started and I'm happier. I even drink less coffee now! That's kind of a miracle.I'm also much more aware of all the little amazing parts of Olympia. It's amazing what you miss driving all the time! Like 7 oars park: that place is really cool; it's this gorgeous little haven right off the crazy busy roundabouts headed west from downtown. I never took notice of it when I drove everywhere, but I've stopped and chilled there several times just in the past month, especially early on when I couldn't make it all the way to the second roundabout without stopping to walk. I've ridden to and from Evergreen a couple of times for events. Both times I was in awe of all the stuff to look at on the way. That's a really nice ride.I also haven't bought gas all month. That one has been fantastic!

What are some of the challenges you have experienced, and how have you overcome them? I’ve had a few. The most notable by far is that I got hit by a truck about a week into May. She was headed for a parking lot and made a right turn without checking the bike lane. I sprained my ankle and got a bunch of bruises, and my bike needed a wheel trued. I was very very lucky that that was all. Also lucky that I work for South Sound Therapy. I took personal advantage of the free consults our therapists do and had my ankle checked out to make sure nothing too serious was going on. The next morning was one of the times I drove my car, but I took my bike in to the Bike Stand, had them fix up my wheel and was back on my bike for errands that evening. My ankle’s still a bit ouchy, but it doesn’t hurt when I’m riding and it’s pretty good rehab for it.
I am MUCH more defensive when I ride now though. I make my intentions very clear and watch like a hawk for turn signals and where drivers are looking (or not looking!) My other notable challenges were going half the month with no fenders and arriving everywhere soaked, and a seemingly permanent flat that persisted after 2 new tubes. The awesome folks at the Bike Stand tracked it down to a teensy thorn inside the tire, but it was a frustrating few days of riding on a slowly deflating tire.

What is it that keeps you going, when the going is tough (weather, darkness, inertia, etc)? I have to turn in my mileage calendar and all the people on my team are going to wonder what's on it; I'm going to feel stupid if it's empty. Silly as it sounds that's what kept me going at first. It’s the one little difference between all the times I'd said I would do this and me actually doing it. I guess you could say that peer pressure keeps me going! Now that I'm in the habit, it just makes me feel good. It makes mornings easier to deal with and I sleep better at night. I’m also really really stubborn. I’m not about to let a truck, some rain, or a flat tire win.

How do you choose your route? In terms of commuting, I look for the way that is going to be the easiest ride: least elevation change, shortest, etc. Then I look to see what the safety concerns are. Of course, an easy ride isn't going to make me bike a crazy busy two lane road with no shoulders when there is an alternative. Rain changes my route some as I want to avoid going down steep hills with a lot of traffic due to the challenge of braking quickly in the rain.
If I’m just going out for a ride just for the sake of riding, I try for a scenic route that will make me sweat but not want to die at the end. I like riding to evergreen and back. It’s a pretty ride that’s about the perfect distance and difficulty if I want to challenge myself a bit.

What style of bike do you ride to commute? Tiffany is a mid 80's KHS triathlete pro road bike with the drop bars and all that jazz. I've added lights, a horn, and fenders to make her more communing friendly . I bought her from an awesome guy named Bill who was reluctant to let her go, but I promised her a great home. She’s a great bike with a lot of personality: teal and purple with white grips and accents. She looks like she may take you out in an alley, sing "I Think We're Alone Now" and give you mall hair. So far, this hasn't happened but I try not to turn my back on her for too long. Someday I'll probably spring for a frame that fits me a little better, but I am head over heals in love with Tiffany. Bill, if you read this, Thank you!

Any words of wisdom for the beginning commuter?
Just start doing it. Set a day to start and don't stop. It's going to be hard at first and it's going to rain and be cold; ride through it. It's totally and completely worth it. Oh, and keep an eye out for cars turning right.