Thursday, May 17, 2007

First rule of The Race: do not talk about The Race.

I am lucky enough to be able to cycle to work every day, using three of the many designated bike routes that criss-cross the city of Vancouver. These are quiet side streets with various traffic calming measures and favourable stop signs designed to attract cyclists and discourage motorists. I have lived in four different places and worked in two during my five years here, and I’ve never been more than four blocks from a bike route.

This is my favourite time of year for cycling. Is it the warm, sunny weather after months of cold rain? The beautiful cherry blossoms and vibrant foliage of the trees that line most routes? The views of the North Shore mountains gradually losing their snowy caps? Well, yes. But it’s mostly because I can rack up some pretty impressive points totals.

Let me explain: cycling the same route every day can become boring, despite the beautiful trees, mountain views, and interesting driving maneuvers that can often be observed. The best way to spice it up is to treat each commute as a race against the other cyclists using the same route. My current system is:

+2 points if I pass a male cyclist
+1 point if I pass a female cyclist
-1 point if I’m passed by a male
-2 points if I’m passed by a female

Passing (or being passed) when at or just moving away from a red light does not count; the first people at the light must stop, while late-comers can breeze straight through.

I cycle year-round, stopping only for snow, ice or serious intoxication. My fellow winter commuters are hard-core; finishing the ride with zero points is a good day. Luckily, many of the city's summer-only cyclists are just starting to leave their cars behind and struggle up the hills on their bikes, desperately trying to regain last year’s fitness.

Last night I achieved a PB of +12.

In a few weeks people will be fitter and it will be too damn hot for racing. As small and, some might say, ridiculous, as my current victories are, I plan to enjoy them while I can.

I did tell you I’m a geek, right?


  1. I just wanted to say hello, I just found your blog via a comment on PZ Myers blog about that absolutely awe-inspiring video of flight patterns.

    I too am a Brit living in Vancouver and a research scientist (infectious disease microbiology) and I am also an avid cycler, see website (this not a bad place for cycling - although my immediate comparison is central London!!!). So it seems we have a bit in common. I'll definitely continue to read your blog as I am really not sure of my future in academic research science and it is great to get perspective on life beyond it!

  2. Hi James, good to hear from you! Your timing is impeccable as my next couple of posts are going to be about why I got into, and then out of, research.

    I don't know if you're familiar with Life Sciences BC (used to be BC Biotech) but I would recommend having a look at their website for industry careers in BC. I would rather not talk about my specific job and my company on this blog but I'd be happy to chat about general aspects of life on the dark side!

    So are you at UBC? I used to work with Dixie Mager at the Terry Fox lab. She's doing some really cool work with endogenous retroviruses. Once I get all the waffling about myself out of my system I'll start writing about that instead!

    Stay in touch!

  3. Hey,

    Thanks for the link. I'm not sure that biotech is necessarily the dark side though. The behaviour of the academic system (and I am talking about that in general rather than any individuals) towards people without permanent positions leaves a lot to be desired!!

    I am indeed at UBC, well technically, I actually work at Childrens Hospital so have very little to do with UBC most of the time. I'm a bacteriologist, so far I've had very little to do with viruses in my career however as I seem to be becoming a Jack of all trades in bacteriology nothing would surprise me.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly I also wanted to be a vet and spent many many happy days in veterinary practice when I was younger. I know quite a lot of vet refugees in research science, seems to be an obvious place for many of us.

  4. C'mon, viruses are way cooler than bacteria!

    Just kidding - I can definitely see the attraction of working with something that grows so easily! Do you tend to get as many publications as the yeast people?


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