So much for bike commuting

After four years in Rhode Island exile, I’m back in Boston in June to work at the BMC. However, aspirations of bike commutership have been squashed – not so much by the car-centric nature of the city, but rather because I decided to move one block away from work. I’m going to walk!
The good thing about living in Rhode Island is that space comes at a discount. And I’ve put that space to work. In four years, I’ve accumulated a competitive road racer, competitive mountain bike, a vintage cruiser, a too-large-for-me straight-bar commuter, and an ugly-but-fast beater. In my new South End digs, I face a decision: which shall I keep?
Selling bikes is arguably sadder than selling puppies; you can’t mod your puppy.

The Cyclo-Colic reflex

I’ve got to admit, it wasn’t increasing gas prices that got me out of my car and back onto my bike this winter.  No, it wasn’t even a sense of solidarity with the brave staffers who continue to bike into Brown University.

I needed to poop.  Brown.

After a week of driving to the hospital to avoid icy streets, idiot drivers, and cold, I also realized that I hadn’t been moving the bowels every afternoon as has been the habit.  I also gained five pounds, probably in a positive in-out balance.  This Monday, I decided that something had to give.

There’s something about riding a bike that just really gets the good old GI moving.  Physiologically, there’s a process known as the gastrocolic reflex, in which your happy stomach convinces your gut to push some feces out to make room for more nutrition.  I dub this the cyclo-colic reflex, a phenomenon that I will assume true given some external validation.  Then there’s Indian food, which does the same thing in about two hours.  Amazing.

Perhaps this is another reason that pro cyclists are so thin.  Imagine the success of an Indian national cycling team – bombs away!


The miserable slog of winter begins in earnest.  Time to switch the sleek, skinny road tires off of the beater to fat, snow-loving monsters.  Which really don’t help all that much when it’s too dark after overnight call to avoid gigantic potholes obscured by standing water.

On a brighter note, it seems that the most prominent cyclist of Brown’s medical school is the Dean himself (Brown Medicine Mag)!

Brown Medical Schools Dean Ed Wing - Cyclist #1

Brown Medical School's Dean Ed Wing - Cyclist #1

Handwriting, riding on cars

If there’s something I’m guilty of, it’s perpetuating stereotypes.  This blog perpetuates the stereotype that many cyclists are huge snobs.  Whether that is true is yet to be seen.

But what is becoming increasingly clear to me is that medical professionals really do have terrible handwriting.  Illegible, unreadable, chicken-scratchy crap that might endanger lives if it weren’t for the uncanny ability of some nurses to decipher it.  It’s not just doctors – nurses can over-cursive so much that words disappear in a sea of slants and loops.  The text that is most consistently readable is surprisingly from the super-jacked security staff, who tend to print in heavy block letters.  The text looks serial-killer-y, but it definitely is readable – no point in writing a ransom note that nobody can read!  Anyway, I’m trying to buck that trend by printing in large properly capitalized letters with good spacing.  If/when I kill someone, it’s going to because I screwed up on something else.


It took three weeks, but I finally made a bike-related purchase for my car:  the Thule Speedway 961XT 2-bike trunk rack from for $100 with free shipping.  I will start supporting local bike shops for these large accessory purchases when they stop being snobs and/or price competitively.  The new “anti-sway” cradle units are a huge improvement on the discontinued (and $60 online) Thruway 968/969 units in that the new cradles will hold my bikes away from my bumper, reducing the risk of pedal damage to my back end.  The anti-sway units are also sold a la carte as a replacement part on the Thule website, a significant discount from buying the units as a retail product.  I don’t know if they are equivalent, but I do plan to replace our old Thule units with the new cradles.  If only I could open my trunk…

# of patients I’ve talked into riding their bikes:  2.

Nature is okay

It took me the big step of purchasing a car after years of being bike-only to realize that the entire area is plagued by pollen.  One day after washing the car, it’s covered with a mutant green fur.  And after Sunday night’s rain in Wellesley (among other places), the car looked like the aftermath of an alien splattering in Men in Black 2.  This explains why I always end up at work after a bike commute with my eyes feeling like I’d been hanging out with my pothead friends again.  Bad.  God bless 2nd generation antihistamines.

Sunday’s Brookline Bike Parade was pretty sweet.  There’s always a bit of a thrill when running a red light – running a dozen with the blessing of the cops on Beacon was just gravy.

Bike parade 1

And gravy.  Too bad I didn’t get pictures of the bike wrecks caused by kids weaving through traffic and inexplicably hitting the brakes.  That’ll teach them to hold their line.


Also got to meet the owner of one of the cooler pieces of bike paraphernalia I’ve ever seen.  Turns out that I shouldn’t have been so surprised that I’d find it at a Boston-area bike orgy.

Finally, my cycling friend and I decided that the parade was a bit too slow to call it a day, so we backtracked on Beacon Street to climb Summit Ave as a good complement to carnitas Super Burritos from Anna’s Taqueria.  God must love Boston.

corey hill

(Corey Hill:  It’s hard to get perspective on sloped ground – the house helps)


I think that I have the best landlord ever.  Last year, she asked us if we could pay increased rent for the year.  We said no.  Issue settled.

We have also not been nagged too badly for leaving bicycles in the stairwell during rainy and snowy days, even though it is a fire hazard.  But if I were a landlord, I’d be wary of a cyclist who wants to bring a snow-covered bike indoors – it results in a grime-laden sludge puddle.  There is a large permanent dark spot in my old dorm room.  Bicycle drip pans?  Other solutions?

I mention this because I have the chance to be a landlord for the summer.  Our third roommate isn’t moving in until August, so naturally, we had to hit the craigslist wire for a subletter.  Yes, our apartment comes with a parking spot, but it also comes with free use of a bicycle for the summer.  She’s using it; subversive success!

Speaking of subversive, I’m excited about tomorrow’s bike parade in Brookline.  This is my big opportunity to participate in a big bike celebration without the angry hippie qualities of Critical Mass.  Because if there’s something that nobody likes, it’s an angry hippie.

I must be spending too much time studying psychiatry.  This post may qualify as a flight-of-ideas.

My commute, in pictures

Ever since I’ve added Claritin to my midnight routine, I now consider my commute to be among the best in America.  Driving would take fifteen minutes; it takes twenty-five if biking briskly.

1washington bridge washington bridge 2

Views from the recently (re)opened Washington Bridge sidewalk.  It’s a bit tight for two-way traffic, but I think I’m leaving early enough to not run into anybody coming the other (normal) direction.

path 1

Moving shot from the East Bay Bike Path, a path that only kinda sorta follows the main road.  Yay rails-to-trails!

And views from further down the path into the lagoon zone:

path 2  path 3

And perhaps the best part is the return:  catching and passing dudes on carbon fiber bikes on my beater with my tie flapping in my wake.  Unfortunately, too tired to snap those photos.

Flirting with the dark side

I came oh so close to joining the Dark Lord’s minions yesterday when I saw a Langster posted at a remarkably low price on Craigslist.  Me?  Single-speed?  Faux-trendy?  I almost justified it all by claiming it to be a lightweight commuting tool.

Alas, I was outbid, and I wasn’t going to blow all of my iPod Touch money (get this – I need one for school!  HA!) for bike #5.  I also think I want a Garmin nuvi.  But if the price had held, I’d be fighting on the side of evil today.  If you bought a bike from a Boston College kid yesterday, I thank you.  Yikes!

I’ll also refrain from lusting for ankle tattoos, skinny pants, and post-adolescent angst for a little while.  Gosh.


Very excited about my commute to my new temp job:  four-and-a-half miles along shoreline, then a mad dash trespassing shortcut across a members-only country club to get to a 50-ft climb into work.  I think a pool is in order:  how soon will I get banned?  (I start May 11).  Question:  will I get banned more quickly wearing a cycling kit or a doctor outfit?  Or TWEED?

This is also the first time I have biked a significant distance (>3 miles) to a job at which I have to be dressed nicely.  Decisions to make (interim decisions in bold):
1) Bike:  Road bike speedy overkill?  Beater undercranked unstealability?  Slick-shod hardtail?
2) Shoes:  Cheap but acceptable loafers with flats/loops?  MTB SPDs?  Race SPD-SLs?  Dress shoes?
3) Clothing:  Wear tie and mentally suppress sweat?  Dress in gym stuff and change at work?

I’ve been told there are bike racks at work.  Unfortunately, I got kicked out by staff on Saturday while biking around the facility looking for them.  This may spawn an interesting series of events.

I hope I get a locker.

A wide berth

Step 1 of the medical licensing exam is in the books.  Next step – car shopping in Boston!

I decided to shave my exam-induced Yeti-face and dress up to look like a respectable citizen before test-driving some cars.  For good measure, I brought along some of my joke-y business cards to hand to the salesman to sustain the illusion of respectability.  It worked.  The dude handed me some keys and told me to come get him when I got back.  An independent test-drive?  Success!

Getting back behind the wheel of a car really puts a different perspective on cycling.  In particular – there are a LOT of cyclists in Boston!  While at a stop light, I had to suppress the urge to applaud a mini bike train traveling towards Harvard on North Harvard Ave.  I guess that I’ve never see that many cyclists on a commute since I’m going more or less the same speed and direction that everyone else is going, limiting my observation to the back of one or two butts per commute.  In the borrowed Subaru Legacy, things were different.

I felt extremely self-conscious passing cyclists in the car, mostly because I didn’t want to kill them.   On a bike, I give someone a nice little cough warning and off I go.  It dawned on me while driving that a driver isn’t symmetrically positioned in the car – you kind of have to estimate that the mirror isn’t going to bash the cyclist on your right.  Of course, I gave everyone a wide berth while passing, leading to some line-weaving that a car salesman probably wouldn’t have liked so much.  On the bright side, I can inform the world that a Subaru Legacy handles like a dream.  You heard it here first.

Moral of the story?  Dress natty, get car.

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