Fall is a wonderful time for commuting by bicycle. This fall has been particularly mild and enjoyable.
After the clocks fall back, it’s dark by the time I leave work. If I don’t have to get home quickly, I ride through Schenley and Frick parks. Almost the whole trip home is on trails, and avoids cars. Since it’s dark and a bit chilly, there are almost no dogs and walkers.
Once I’m on the Junction Hollow trail, it’s basically silent until I get to Squirrel Hill. My generator headlight is bright enough to keep the ride safe. Riding home alone, a silent bubble of light floating in a sea of darkness, gives me time to think and provides a good transition between “communicating with computers” at work and “communicating with people” at home.
It helps a lot that I commute often, and the route is familiar to me. I don’t spend any thought on operating my bicycle and I’m completely comfortable with the way it handles. Being familiar with the route allows me to anticipate the tricky parts, but cruise smoothly between them.
Most people who drive often occasionally experience the “autopilot” effect: “How did I get here?” Part of you drives the car to your destination without the rest of you even being aware of it or needing to pay full attention to it. I have the same experience on my bicycle, especially on the way home as my mind is processing the day’s effort at work. “I’m at the top of the hill already?” is a particularly nice revelation to have.
Unfortunately, fall doesn’t always last very long. But as long as there isn’t too much snow, nighttime park rides home can be very enjoyable in the winter as well.