Stop light sprints

Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen
Cyclists queued at a stop light. Photo by Mikael Colville-Andersen

Thanks to a little something I call stop light sprints, those damned self-entitled cyclists are helping me get faster. If you find yourself working a lot, you start to get creative with your training. I don’t drive to work – ever – therefore I always have an opportunity to take my leisurely 5 mile commute and turn it into something less leisurely.

First off – let’s talk about the gorilla I just invited into the room with the title. Stop signs. Stop lights. Those things where we all know that outside of Idaho and a few places in Colorado we are all supposed to stop. And the place where many of us don’t stop. Stopping and training. Aren’t those terms mutually exclusive?

Well, I’ve taken my stop light to stop light commute, short time for training, constant moral battle over what to do at a stop light on a bicycle, and glued it all together into a brilliant strategy for what to use stop lights for: stop light sprints.

Here’s the idea. I do the legal thingy and come to a complete stop at a stop light and wait until the light turns green. However, while waiting it is almost inevitable that some other cyclist will go around me and through the red light. I watch them continue.

But then, when the light turns green, I’m like a greyhound chasing the the lure around the track. I set out to catch – and pass – each and every cyclist that rode through the red light. I’m sure more than one fellow San Francisco bicycle commuter has wondered who in the hell that wacko was that caught up to them, panting and wheezing, struggling for air.

But these are the types of things that can really make a difference for someone that, like myself, has a day job (or three) but still has a strong desire to continue to ride and get stronger. You have to find creative solutions and motivations. These little “sprints” are of course entirely in my head. The person I am “racing” has absolutely no idea what I’m up to. But it both motivates me to push harder then I would if I were simply commuting, and frankly helps make my commute a hell of a lot more fun. Sure, I’m riding basically the same route, day in and day out. But throwing a little challenge in there helps make it more interesting.

There are numerous reasons why commuting by bicycle is better. Upping the fun factor of your trips is just icing on the cake.