Biking is Constant

Aparna Jain by Natalie Orenstein

It’s been a year of transitions for Aparna Jain. She left her job at Zynga to work at the Fox Network and she moved with her husband from Mountain View to the Bay Meadows housing development in San Mateo.

The constant throughout all the change? Aparna’s bike.

The software engineer began biking at the age of six in rural India, where she lived until she came to California to get a Master’s in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. There, her bike gave her access to the massive campus and to a totally new environment. Now she brings it with her on Caltrain each morning and bikes the rest of the way to work from the station in San Francisco, significantly cutting her commute time by avoiding walking.

And once or twice a week, Aparna wakes up early and pedals with a few friends all 24 miles between San Mateo and the city.

Although she’s a seasoned cycler, getting out of bed and biking for two hours before work didn’t come entirely naturally for Aparna. “Since I moved here I had been thinking of riding, and every day I’d say, ‘Next time, next time,’” Aparna remembers. “One day we just said, ‘OK, you better be there at 7 a.m.!’ It’s a hard commitment but if you have company, that helps a lot.”

As soon as she got into the new routine, Aparna began “craving” the morning rides. “It’s more of a stress-buster than a commute,” she says.

And probably the prettiest stress-buster around.

“One of the really interesting routes we took was the Bay Trail,” Aparna says. “I took the train to Milbrae and from there went to the SFO area. There’s a nice stretch of the Bay Trail which is about 45 minutes to an hour, and it was so beautiful. You bike along the bay and you see planes flying in and out, and the ocean and people fishing and running. There’s no traffic so it’s just a peaceful route.” And she still got to the office in time to shower and eat breakfast before settling into work.

Aparna figures biking is good for herself and her surroundings. “I’m not burning any fuel – just the extra calories!” she says.

She doesn’t limit her adventures to the work week. Recently, she and her husband took their bikes to Monterey’s 17-Mile Drive. “It was just a different world on our bikes,” Aparna said. “We’ve been there in cars, and you can stop and get out, but it’s not the same at all. A bike doesn’t have windows – you’re always actually experiencing the moment.” Plenty of her best commutes and bike trips wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t spotted a hidden trailhead or new route while on her bike.

Aparna’s advice to new bikers is to find people to ride with.

“It’s a lot more fun. You can discuss your ride and learn from them,” she says. “I have friends who do longer rides so I’ve taken inspiration from them and become a stronger, better biker. Especially when we do something like Twin Peaks. Those are nasty climbs, but it’s so fulfilling to reach the top of the mountain. And you’re 40 miles an hour coming down.”

Aparna appreciates that her housing complex encourages residents to make even simple trips to the grocery store by bike. And she cites resources like REI’s free tune-up classes as crucial. Support is out there, she says.

If you’re in San Mateo or San Francisco on Bike to Work Day, look out for Aparna and her cohort.

“I really like the spirit of Bike to Work Day,” she says. “I’m making sure I have my morning clear!”