Talking About Commuter Cycling in Interviews


When people think of a “cyclist”, they most likely imagine someone like Lance Armstrong: an athlete who races bicycles. They might alternatively imagine one of the thousands of recreational cyclists who cycle quickly for exercise.

I on the other hand am a commuter cyclist 1. I usually wear button down shirts and slacks (with one leg rolled up); not spandex. Depending on the route, I average between 10 and 15 miles per hour - nothing compared to the 30+ that competitive triathletes manage.

Being a commuter cyclist provides great answers to some common interview questions. Many tech firms look for folks who can work in a “fast paced environment” and deal with “high stakes situations”. They need people with “attention to detail”. If the company is a startup, they might have some combination of adjectives like ‘scrappy’ or ‘underdog’ to try to gently remind that nobody knows who they are.

When is the last time I did that? This morning, I decided to perch myself upon a 25 lb steel frame, and then played a game called ‘cycling’.

The other players are cars and trucks weighing between 80 and 800 times as much as my bike. Fast paced? The speed limit for the other players on certain parts of my route is 45 miles per hour. Low visibility? Half the drivers forget I exist. If they do remember I’m lucky to be tolerated: at least once per week a driver shouts at me to ride on the sidewalk if there is no bike lane, regardless of the law.

As for attention to detail, bikes are vulnerable to road imperfections that a car would never even notice. Having to dodge rocks as small as a quarter while maneuvering between pickup trucks should certainly qualify.

Finally, it is high stakes: The chance of me surviving a collision is so depressingly low that I consciously avoid looking it up.

And all of this is just a random weekday morning, before I set about my real work. The inherent exercise (cardiovascular exercise can boost creative thinking for 2-3 hours after the exercise) and eco-friendly nature of the transportation are just added bonuses.

If you have stories of commuter cycling, I’d love to hear them: twitter @jamescgibson.

  1. In part because I do not own an automobile in a car-oriented city.

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