You know what riding a bike and not having a car makes you really good at? Logistics.
I never thought too much about this until I started my current job, which often requires odd things and funny permutations of travel. For example, I might need to pick up the work truck at my boss’s house, which requires biking over there, but then if I’m going to drive to our tool locker and put a bunch of tools in the back of the truck for a work party, I can’t fit my bike in anymore.
Or maybe I’m going to ride to my office and pick up the work truck there to visit a backcountry crew, and most of my gear is at home and thus needs to be transported via pannier, but my backpack and work boots and various other things are at work — a matter ofÂ making sure I end up with all the right things all in one spot.
And no matter what, I always need to end up with a way home, regardless of where I’ve left my bike and where I park the truck and when I drop the tools off and how much gear I have to schlep back with me.
(It’s further complicated by the fact that we can only ever park two vehicles at work, and they both have to have parking passes, which need to be juggled between two work trucks and my two coworkers’ personal vehicles, which makes for an awesome logic puzzle. Good thing I don’t have another car to add to the mix!)
It feels like every different work party or site visit requires a different way of thinking through how to make sure I have all the right gear, tools, and transportation devices in all the right places for all three of us in the office and still end up being able to get myself and everything I need home at the end of it.
Luckily, having juggled this kind of thing on a daily basis for basically my entire adult car-free life, I’m pretty good at thinking it through.
When you have a car, it’s easy to just dump everything you might ever possibly need into it, call it good, and never think about efficiency. But when you’re riding a bike and have limited carrying capacity, it’s a very careful balance of bringing what you need for however long you’re going to be out, and leaving everything else at home. (Actually, I was probably better at this when I didn’t have panniers. With panniers, I can typically bring way more than I actually need, so it’s possible I’ve gotten a little sloppy.)
But the point is, I’m very practiced at thinking through little things like what shoes I want to wear when and how to make sure they’re in the right spot when I need them, what clothes need to be where if I’m going to change, what I need to leave at work so I don’t have to carry it the next day, how to leave myself enough space in my bag to pick up groceries on the way home… Thinking through logistics is something I do almost unconsciously — until now, when it’s become more complicated and requires a little more intentional thought.
But man, it’s a huge asset to my work that I have this practice already. It’s what keeps me organized. It’s what allows me to drive the work truck as little as possible, efficiently packing all the bike trips around it. It helps me think ahead to how I can consolidate trips when I do use the truck so I can do everything in one swoop and skip the extra back and forth. In short, it helps me keep my driving time to the absolute minimum possible, with no wasted time or extra trips trying to track down things that are all over the place, simply because it’s “easy” with a car and I haven’t thought it through ahead of time.
I guess that writ large, I’m thinking about how biking has imperceptibly shaped the way my brain works, especially when it comes to how I interact with the world and figuring out how to move myself/my stuff through it. I’d be curious to hear how driving or anything else shapes the way your brain works, too:)