Biking to Work with Rob Reid
We first met Rob Reid on twitter (@robuncorked) in 2015. Bike Shop Hub was tweeting about our friendly competitor Henty and asking opinions about biking with a suit. Rob replied that he preferred to carry his gear on his bike so he didn’t have to ride with a soaked, sweaty back. He had received the Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier as a birthday gift from his wife and was a fan.
This past June, we reached out to Rob to tag along on his bike commute home from work. He has been cycling pretty much his entire life and has the battle scars and wisdom to show for it. The following is a collection of experiences and advice we learned from Rob on our ride published in his own words.
Name: Rob Reid
Company/Workplace: Ledcor Group of Companies
Occupation/Position: Manager, Business Improvement for Ledcor Technical Services (Ledcor group that builds and services fibre optic networks)
City: Richmond (live), Vancouver (work)
Bike: 2015 Norco Threshold A3 – Cyclocross Bike
One- Way Commute: 22.4 km (55 minutes)
Biking is Ingrained in Me
In high school, I had piano lessons after school and then hockey practice. I would ride from my house to piano lessons with my piano books in my hockey bag, my hockey bag on my back like an enormous backpack, and my hockey stick across my handlebars. I would then ride to piano lessons and then straight to the hockey rink for practice. In the dressing room, the other players would often tease me about my piano books.
Biking is just ingrained in me. I love being outside, breathing fresh air. Riding is way more relaxing than driving. And I have never enjoyed working out or going to the gym. As I’ve gotten older, riding to work has always been the perfect way to fit exercise into my existing routine. It’s part of my identity.
The Bike Commute to Work
I start in Richmond and ride along River Road, then over the No. 2 Road Bridge and up Russ Baker. Once across the Arthur Laing, I move over to the new Arbutus Greenway, which is fantastic. From there, over the Burrard Bridge and up Hornby Street all the way to Hastings. I’m on separated bike lanes most of the way to my office, which makes for a much more relaxing ride.
There are a couple higher-risk areas to cross (i.e. coming off the Arthur Laing northbound onto Granville, southbound off the Arthur Laing crossing over to Russ Baker), but for the most part, it’s really good. The Arbutus Greenway is beautiful too: a nice wide path with lots of greenery and a clear view of the mountains at several points along the route.
On my way home, I pick up my daughter from her daycare. So, for the last 5 km on my way home, I have a 2-year-old passenger. Richmond has a few bike lanes along some major routes, which is convenient, but I would like to see more separation from fast-moving vehicle traffic, especially when I have my precious passenger with me. My daughter absolutely loves the bike. I use an iBert seat for her so she’s right up front with me.
It takes me about 50-55 minutes each way. Ironically, that is exactly the same amount of time it takes to take the bus and then train or to drive and then train. The cost of parking is a major deterrent for me to drive.
Cars vs. Bikes
I have had several near misses with vehicles over the years, often to do with cars coming up past me on my left side, underestimating my speed, and then cutting in front of me to make a right turn.
A couple other close calls when there is a vehicle parked in a bike lane and I have had to swing into fast-moving traffic lanes to get around the parked vehicle.
Wipeouts, Crashes, Collisions
I’ve had a couple of wipeouts over the years that were entirely my own fault.
One crash I had was about 10 years ago. I was riding along a dirt path in the Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park on my way to work. I had a quick sip from my water bottle and when I leaned to put it back in the bottle holder, I dropped it. I slammed my brakes to stop and grab it but as I hit my brakes, I looked down at the water bottle and hit a big tree root. I did a complete end over my handlebars and landed on my chin, palms, and knees. Luckily, we had showers at my office so I had a change of clothes and time to clean up. But I still had to spend the day at the office, in business clothes, with blood dripping from my chin and hands.
I also had a nasty spill this year where I hit a rock when crossing a traffic lane and did a full wipeout. Even had a driver stop to make sure I was alright. That shook me up for a few weeks.
Frustrations with Bike Commuting
I want to see improvements to bicycle infrastructure
across the region. I get frustrated when I can’t find a safe route somewhere or where the safe route involves a substantial detour. I also get frustrated when the existing infrastructure is abused (i.e. cars parking in bike lanes).
I have challenges arranging picking up my kids. That makes it difficult at times, but nothing that would ever make me give up commuting by bike.
Work, Productivity and Naked Commuter Chit Chat
You feel more alive, awake, and vibrant on days you ride to work. I am more relaxed when I arrive and I feel like I have already had that personal time for myself to get acquainted with the day.
I am the Manager of the Core Management System (CMS) for Ledcor Technical Services, the group within Ledcor that builds and maintains fibre optic networks. I get to work very closely with our operations and project teams across North America.
Most of my colleagues are surprised when I tell them I bike to work because of the distance. But I always tell them that it’s actually not that far – only 20 km. To a seasoned bike rider that’s not far but to a non-rider that seems like a long distance.
Others are curious about how often and what seasons/weather I’m willing to suffer through. All of them! However, the business culture in Vancouver is getting pretty accustomed to bike commuters in the office so the shock value has faded quite a bit the last couple of years.
There’s a group of us at work that are all regular riders – so it’s a social connection as well, a group to chat with and hold each other accountable (or peer pressure each other into riding more).
I have had similar conversations to the Two Wheel Gear corporate locker room video. At my work Christmas party last year, I introduced one of my colleagues to my wife as someone I have more conversations with naked than clothed. There’s a small group of 4 or 5 of us that all ride in about the same time. So those morning locker room conversations are a pretty regular part of my routine.
Riding with the Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier
I was originally looking to get a set of panniers but I was really looking for ones that had a shoulder strap and could double as a backpack or messenger bag for when I had to walk a bit. The Classic 2.0 fit the bill perfectly.
I used to obsess over wrinkle-free shirts and planned my riding for more casual days in the office. But with the Garment Pannier, I can pack any set of clothes, even my nicest ones, and know that they’ll stay flat until I need them. There’s also plenty of space for my lunch and laptop, which use to push the limits of my old backpack and really weigh down on my shoulders.
I would love to get to a point where I use the Garment Pannier one day a week to pack all the clothes I need for the week, then use my smaller Pannier Backpack Convertible for the rest of the week (Read Rob’s review of the pannier backpack). However, at this stage with two young kids, I am simply not riding consistently enough to plan the whole week ahead. But I’m working on it.
Gear Packing Tips for the Commute
“Only bring what you need. And you need less than you might think you need.”
My office is business casual, so dress pants, shirt, and shoes but no tie. Given the length
of my ride, I bring a full change of clothes with me every day but I leave my dress shoes in my office (Read Rob’s review of the Classic 2.0 Garment Pannier to see how he organizes his bag).
Aside from clothes, I pack a spare tire change kit, lunch for the day, and sometimes my laptop.
If you have a locker, leave things like toiletries and towels at work. Don’t haul them back and forth. It helps to keep the load lighter.
Advice for Newbie Bike Commuters
I think some people struggle with understanding how to make it all work. Figuring out route and logistics, storage, change rooms, clothing, gear, etc. can all be overwhelming. But the only way to figure it out is to just do it. You don’t need a fancy bike, bags, or other gear to get started. Just use what you’ve got and get out there.
When I started my professional career at 25, I would try and ride to work a couple times a week.
I started with an old mountain bike, a backpack, and a washcloth where I’d wipe down in a bathroom stall after my ride and change into my work clothes that were rolled up into my backpack.
Just get out and do it.