KOM’ing Commuting

By Andrea Bowker, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Racer and Club Member

By Andrea Bowker, Duke’s Cycle Cannondale LapDogs Racer and Club Member

September 1 marked the start of the LapDogs Cycling Club’s Strava commuter challenge and elevation challenge. And suddenly I am carrying my Garmin in my pocket on the way to work.

In case you are not familiar with Strava, it is an online service that takes the data from your GPS and maps it for you, and lets you share your ride data with others. It also allows users to create segments, usually a hill climb, so that you can chart your best ride against your friends’, or total strangers, and compete for the King or Queen of the Mountain of that segment. And, in the case of the LapDogs’ challenges, it allows everyone to see who commutes the most kilometres, or climbs the most vertical metres, during September.

Commuting to work and/or school is something I’ve done since 1991 and I’ve been very lucky to have worked almost exclusively in the downtown core, making for a nice, downhill 8 km in the morning and a nice uphill 8 km in the evening. For the most part, my commute is quiet time, allowing me to work out the day ahead in the morning and clear my head in the evening.

LapDogs Cycling Club focuses not just on riding, racing and pub nights but also puts an emphasis on participating in our cycling community. Just this fall, these efforts include mechanics’ basics workshops and fundraising at Paul’s Dirty Enduro, (a long bike race that is as fun as it sounds). Another efforts in our fall fundraising drive is the Strava challenge, which this year manages to merge our desire to give back (through fundraising) with our desire to break the legs of our competitors (through Strava). Leave it to our bike club to combine those two forces.

I usually ride year-round, as many days a week as the job permits. I’ve been riding my trusty and uncomplicated Kona Paddy Wagon singlespeed for the last few years. My Speedplay Frog pedals, purchased so long ago at pre-fire Duke’s, have allowed for a comfortable yet quick commute. (They also rode great for trips across Wyoming and Vancouver Island, too) These days, I have to lock my bike outside, since there is no realistic bike storage at my new workplace. Any commuter has endured his or her share of theft – I’ve lost countless bike lights and an entire rear wheel. I chased down a guy once who took off with my entire bike. And one day a few years back I emerged from work to discover my saddle and seatpost, and the blinky light attached to the post, had been stolen. Once I did enough doubletakes to realize that I really had nothing to sit on anymore, I trudged down to Duke’s temporary location, which happened to be two doors down from my office. I stupidly wandered in and asked what they had in their “bin” – you know, the place bike shops have to put all the bits and bobs that are swapped off new bikes for one reason or another. The sombre response I got was that there was no more extra bits like that – everything went in the fire. I blinked and purchased an inexpensive post and saddle and thought that my loss was considerably more manageable than the devastation visited upon Duke’s .. and was very happy that they were there at all to fix me up for my ride home!

As a dedicated commuter, I naively figured I might do well in the commuter challenge. It certainly didn’t take long to realize that there are some seriously committed commuters, putting in dozens and dozens of kilometres every day on their commutes. My little 16 km a day isn’t going to add up to much, even if I toss in hill repeats and library visits en route. But the Lapdogs challenge is just another way of connecting with our community and giving back a little bit to the cycling world that gives us so much. This year, LapDogs members voted to support AbilityGives, which describes its mission as creating “life-changing experiences for young people with disabilities by helping their families obtain much-needed medical devices and mobility aids.” Sounds kinda perfect for a club of cyclists, doesn’t it? Cyclists are constantly deploying circle metaphors to describe what we do as our wheels turn around and around. Here we have commute, competition and giving back. And repeat the next day. A great cycle.