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On biking in autumn

First, an update: I have continued my bicycle commuting healthily since I took it up in May. Schedule and weather willing, I've been riding to work twice a week straight into the fall. I'm running out of time, though: once Daylight Saving Time ends this weekend, my route home will be quite dark by 5:15 p.m., which will probalby shelve the bicycle until spring.

Biking in autumn is quite different than jaunts in the heat of summer. For a while, it becomes easier: no heat and harsh sun means less fatigue and sunburn. Jeans are a comfortable (if floppy in the legs) riding outfit. Water bottles go untouched.

Very rapidly, though, the weather turns, and all bets are off. Beautiful days begin at 40-degree temperatures with icy winds, making the riverside route a touch more masochistic than expected. Layering nylon outerwear blocks the breeze but creates sweat. And the shorter days create dark areas and reduced visiblity, making the ride far more treacherous.

Which is not to say I'm enjoying it any less. The views have changed; morning light is more angular, evenings scenic and comforting. The once-crowded greenway has been steadily emptying, providing less to look at but more room to ride. I've watched a new park by Chelsea Piers take shape and witnessed the return of the Intrepid. Fellow bikers are either intense riders in full gear or civilians in warmer clothing--I spied a woman in skirt, hose and overcoat the other day, talking on her phone, astride her hybrid Raleigh.

And, of course, I'm burning roughly 500 calories each day during my commute. Part of the genius of the bicycle commute is that I'm getting a workout during time that would otherwise be spent doing nothing. For someone who hates going to the gym, this is a great efficiency.

But it's the pleasantness, above all, that makes the bike ride worthwhile. Instead of spending time underground, I'm cycling through a beautiful park alongside the Hudson River, watching the sun rise and set, listening to music, moving at my own pace. I'm already looking forward to the springtime.

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The Ideapad debuted on November 1, 1998 and has been through numerous incarnations through the years. It is now a weblog and personal journal.
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