Adventures in bike commuting

Two months after the trial run, I started bike commuting. Turns out I needed a little push to finally make it happen, which came in the form of a wholehearted endorsement from a bike commuter friend. Granted there had been a fair amount of rain in March, and in April I was away for half of the month. But on May 3 I said, alright, enough with the excuses: let’s do it. Now it’s been five weeks of riding to work a minimum of three days. This week I went by bike every day. And like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Aside from a few critical points (usually big intersections or circles), the ride is simple and very pleasant. It takes me an average of 50 minutes to get to Begoña, where I catch the city bus to school, and then 45 minutes to ride back home down all the hills I climbed in the morning. In total it’s about 20 kilometers (roughly 13 miles) round trip. Here’s the route map.

My bike has been performing wonderfully. I’m pretty happy that someone stole my saddle a few months ago—the new one I have is pretty sweet and wasn’t more than 40 euros. Fenders would be a good addition, though I am toying with the idea of getting a new bike when I’m back in the States this summer. But I’ll always have a place in my heart for this bici.

Some thoughts and observations from the commute:

There’s nothing like riding through an empty Retiro Park at 7.30 in the morning.

Even if first I have to ride up this:

Learning the traffic light times and patterns helps a heck of a lot with the trickier spots. If I time this circle right (I have to go left, but cross the whole thing to get there), it’s amazingly easy.

It’s pretty fun to see where you’re headed a few kilometers before actually getting there. Feels like hiking when you can finally see the summit.

Bonus: where you’re headed—even if it’s the Towers of Mordor—looks pretty cool up close.

A testament to the ayuntamiento’s attention to cyclists: the bike parking area near where I park at Begoña has been stripped clean of its steel “U”s and all that’s left is the sign. Sad, really. Guess I should be glad that I’m not locking to something that can be pulled right out of the ground.

Shoutouts to Aalto and MiguelS, my original guides, over at; Villarramblas for figuring out the route, being my Tuesday morning companion (when he doesn’t oversleep), and making some really awesome cycling maps of Madrid; I. for pushing me to stop bellyaching and just ride; and to the random cyclists I’ve met along the way.

5 Responses to “Adventures in bike commuting”

  1. 1 leftbanker Sunday, 12 June, 2011 at 10:39 am

    I would suggest that you swap out your tires for street slicks. Mountain bike tires are really slow on the street. You will immediately notice a big difference in efficiency. Cycling shoes with clip pedals are also nice for long rides.

    I hump all over Valencia on either one of my two bikes (a city clunker and my sportier model) as well as on the cool Valenbisi bikes. Valencia is rapidly becoming a bike town. It should be; the weather is perfect and it’s as flat as a tortilla. Seattle has some real lung-buster hills.

    ¡Happy cycling!

  2. 2 Katie Thursday, 23 June, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    thanks, leftbanker! i know, my bike is due for a bit of urban remodeling. since i’m thinking about purchasing a second bike and am about to leave town for the summer i’ll probably wait ’til september to make the changes and/or decide about the second bike. the thing is that right now i use it to both commute and to get out in the dirt in the countryside (or just the casa de campo).

    today i was in a shop that just had me drooling over the bikes there–the guy remodels the one you’ve got or old ones that he gets a hold of… leather saddles, grips… old school-style leather panniers. ’nuff said.

    i’ll let you know if i’m ever in valencia so we can go for a spin and you do the same if you’re ever in madriz!

  3. 3 Chris Thursday, 7 July, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    What do you do with your bike when you get on the bus in Begona? I used to do a similar commute and leave my bike locked up. But I (like you) had my saddle stolen and thought it was just a matter of time before my whole bike was stolen. I recently picked up a folding bike so I can take it on the bus with me.

    • 4 villarramblas Sunday, 17 July, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Hello, Chris:
      May I suggest this advice:
      Also take with you all removable parts (as lights and the saddle).

      PS Katie, sorry not to show myself last month. Difficult time in my job and I’m going bed on non.-child hpurs.

    • 5 Katie Monday, 18 July, 2011 at 8:32 am

      Hi Chris,

      I just lock it up where it is in the first picture: by the entrance to the tunnel under the Castellana. Occasionally there are other bikes there, too, and it seems to be a pretty safe place because there’s a nearly constant flow of people in and out of the tunnel (and therefore past the bike). Plus I have a good lock (an OnGuard U with a cable for the wheels) and I swapped out the quick release on my saddle for a bolt. In the two months I’ve commuted, no one has touched a thing on the bike. We’ll see when I get back into it in September.

      Those Montague bikes look cool, I’ll have to investigate…

      Happy riding!

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