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The Caltrain Experience


It’s been 10 months since I have been commuting to office with the combination of caltrain and bike. For someone who has never worked in a city using public transport for commute was something new and exciting. Life is different and the value of the minute hand on the watch begins to take importance. Difference between 7.59 am and 8:00 am is just a matter of waiting 30 mins for the next train and frustration doubles when you are on the platform and yet the conductor refuses to open the door that just closed.

Little bit if background for people unaware of caltrain’s services towards bikers; they have two cars dedicated for bikers where you are allowed to park your bike on the lower floor and be seated on the upper floor. And be prepared to get the dirty look when you step into that car if you aren’t a biker. Typically people bike to the caltrain for around 15 mins, spend 45 mins in the train and then finally bike back to their destination.

Since you spend close to 45 mins in the train people one-way people have various activities to keep them busy. Techies open up their mac and start working right away without wasting any time. Elderly folks spend time either reading on their e-reader or some traditionalist have paper books. Some gamer geeks start playing with computer games, while some watches movies or their favorite shows on ipad. Majority of them just have their ear/head phones plugged and immerse in their favorite music. Seldom will you see a painter who sketches the mountain terrains while gazing across the window.   
Train commuting could be tiresome and some folks are lucky to have found a group of like-minded people or their colleagues with whom they chat forever. For some individuals caltrain ride falls in their breakfast time and for some it’s their makeup time and for rest it overlaps with their sleep time. Stressful day, light music, cozy seats, tropical temperature, moving train, cradle effect all add up-to a power-nap. Some make the evening ride back home an event, no sooner the train departs the six pack is out; creative part is that they don’t repeat the beer brand each day.

Biking is a serious hobby at least in the bay-area and with decent weather throughout the year facilitates it. Along with bikes come myriad types of bike gears people engulf themselves into. Chilly mornings and breezy evenings force you to cover up from head to toe; most people have gloves and winter jacket to counter the cold. Some take it to the next level by having a full body bike suit, bike shoes, water bottle in the stand, rear view mirror in the helmet and much more and giving a feeling that they just came back from Tour De France; sometimes it makes me wonder if Lance Armstrong was indeed a commuter before he took up biking.

Bikes mostly fall under Mountain aka fat types one, Road bike aka racing style and Hybrid ones which fall the in between ones. Road bikes are feather light and with over 90 PSI tyre pressures, they just glide through road like Tendulkar’s straight drive without any follow through. Mountain bikes are on the heavier side and since they have huge tires there is more friction with the road and it take the same effort Dravid takes to cover drive a ball. And we have hybrid ones that are in between the mountain and road bikes. Along with them we have few commuters who use scooter’s aka Koi Mil Gaya mike to good effect, looks ridiculous but one can travel a greater speed with that.
The interesting part is the types of bike that are seen on the Caltrain, some are branded ones worth few hundreds and some elite expensive ones worth few grand and custom-made cheaper ones and finally the foldable ones that reduce to the size of a wheel. Some bikes are 21 gears; some are fixed gear and a few single speed ones.

It has been a fun experience so far and will post more on my experience with biking.

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