As consciousness slowly fades into focus, my first thought is on how much more pleasant mornings are during the summer months. There’s something about waking up with the light that can change your entire day – especially if, like me, you value some space in your morning to clear your head and get a handle on the coming day.
About a year ago, I realized something: I almost never arrived stressed out when I took the bike.
Speaking of clearing my head: coffee. I’m a typical Portland coffee snob (I console myself that I’m at least self-aware about it), so I dutifully begin the daily routine of carefully measuring and grinding my 17 grams of Stumptown and brewing up an Aeropress. This is when good things start to happen. With the smell of fresh coffee proving Pavlov right all over again, I settle into the usual spot by the window and indulge in my black-magic liquid breakfast.
Ok, full disclosure: This is usually when I pull out my phone. But between the ‘gram and all my other daily digital consumption, I try to do some proper reading. Something that teaches me something. (Novels are for the night.) Starting the day this way is a luxury that most of us (myself included) don’t have a lot of time for. But some of the smartest people on earth have said taking daily time to read something educational is critical to success. So I figure it’s worth a shot.
Inevitably, though, I feel the clock – time to get going. Shower; clothes; EDC kit (wallet, keys, knife, sunnies); hat; backpack – out the door. At this point, I would normally jump in the rig and join the fracas, crawling my way across town through the overburdened web of pavement. But about a year ago, I realized something. After several consecutive days of commuting by bike, I wussed out one day and took the car. Five minutes later, I thought, “This is why I don’t do this anymore.” I’d been cycling to work on-and-off for a while before it hit me that, when I took my bike, I almost never arrived at my destination stressed out. It was a turning point that has stuck with me since. I didn’t start cycling with idealistic visions of freedom and self-propelled empowerment. But there I was, and those things had snuck up on me anyway.
Out the door, I walk past my truck and heft the weight of the garage door, ignoring its sleepy groans of protest as it rolls open. My bike isn’t the lightest whip on the streets (I prefer to think of it as “ruggedly built”), but the effort of pulling it down from its rafter hooks is, after so many repetitions, familiar and satisfying. Then comes the best part: that moment of settling into the saddle and setting off. The brand-new morning air hits your face, and you get a hit of energy that’s almost (almost) better than the first sip of coffee from an hour before.
I didn’t start cycling with idealistic visions of freedom and self-propelled empowerment. But there I was, and those things had snuck up on me anyway.
From there, the city slowly unfolds before me. Neighborhood streets stutter their way into busy thoroughfares. Colors change from the green/blue/tan palette of residential zones to the greys and rusty browns of the industrial outskirts of the city. Over the bolted-metal bridge, it’s suddenly all shimmering glass catching blood-orange flashes of the morning sun. It’s not just the sights – the smells and sounds change too. Even the texture of the air feels a little different, from the leafy rustling of neighborhood streets to the channeled gusts of city-center arteries. If nothing else, cycling is a sensory – even sensual – experience.
I was in full revolt when I started. I rode in whatever I wanted.
Doing the bike-commuter thing well is an art form. If you live in a city that has even the smallest cycling community, you already know there are plenty of people doing it wrong. The guy in full spandex racing gear for his 2-mile commute. The rider in full-neon, all-reflective-everything safety gear on a bike lit up like a Christmas tree (in full daylight). The rubber over-pants on a clear blue day. You get the idea. Being an aesthetically sensitive person, I was in full revolt when I started. I rode in whatever I wanted. But after getting caught in the rain and cold a few times (or arriving fully pitted out and drenched in my own sweat), I decided it was time to be more strategic about my riding kit. Turns out, if you look carefully, there are some great products out there that work really well on the bike but look just as great on the street or in the office. Some are designed for riding; others just happen to work well in the saddle.
But no matter how you do it – and you should absolutely do it in your own unique way – the important thing is to just do it. Road rage (or lack thereof) aside, there’s a deep and undeniable sense of satisfaction when it’s finally time to hop off and lock up. After all, couldn’t we all use a little more inspiration in our morning?
Arkiv R6 Modular Field Pack, by Mission Workshop
The R6 Field Pack is a bag with a modular system that provides freedom to evolve and adapt as needed. With an arsenal of accessories to choose from, the R6 series is ready to travel. Accessories range from simple cell phone pouches and tool pockets to larger organizers and laptop sleeves. Equipped with 6 Arkiv rails and available in two sizes.
The Icon Shirt, from Kitsbow
Made from Pendleton Wool, the Icon Shirt is classic menswear styling with riding-ready accoutrements, like articulated sleeves and cuffs and perforated stretch gussets at shoulders for increased mobility and ventilation both on and off your bike.
Merino Sweatshirt, from Rapha
This is a classic sweatshirt reimagined by Rapha. Performance fabrics and brushed fleece provide all-day comfort while a rib on the cuffs, hem, and collar ensures a perfect fit and feel. A discreet zipped pocket is stitched into the left-side panel for easy access to keys and phone.
Chino Joggers, by Levis
With the look of chinos and comfort of joggers, these pants are essential for the urban commuter.
Strayhorn Chukka, by Clae
Somewhere between a sneaker, a chukka, and a workboot, the Strayhorn Vibram offers sophisticated charm, durability, and goes with anything style.