Biking with coffee: the dilemma

Youd need nerves of steel to look this relaxed.

You'd need nerves of steel to look this relaxed. But then, he has a nice smooth road to bike on.

Anyone who has tried to ride a bike while holding a paper to-go cup of coffee will tell you that it’s no picnic. The fact that anyone at all has tried it is proof of a dilemma, one in which two desires—the wish to get to work on your own power and by public transit, and the wish (need?) to have a cup of coffee at hand for the journey—converge, with potentially disastrous results.

I will confess to being among that group of people who have tried this trick repeatedly. But my latest attempt has convinced me to give up my wayward habits.

One morning last week, I planned to bike down the worst road in Durham to the coffee shop and get a cup of coffee on my way to the new bus station.

To get a cup of coffee before the station was relocated, I had to bike down that worst road, get the coffee, and bike back the same way to get to the bus stop. Much spilling of coffee typically ensued. And always on the sensitive part of my hand, that spot between thumb and first finger. But I thought that, what with the new station, my prospects would improve. I would not only avoid the bad-road-and-coffee combo, but also I would skip the usual route’s terrifying loop under the railroad underpass and subsequent turn with no left-arrow signal.

It was a noble hope. But I had neglected to remember that the street which passes the coffee shop is one way, in the wrong direction.

I also forgot, once within the coffee shop, to ask for a small coffee in a large cup. This is the only way to do it if you are determined to bike with a disposable cup. Nonetheless, I paid, put in the half and half, and then stood out on the sidewalk trying to problem solve. The problems were many:

How to get on the bike whilst holding the coffee? How to balance and begin moving forward, and how to get down from the curb (thankfully a small one) and quickly back up on the sidewalk since the road, as I have mentioned, was one-way? Stopping precariously at an intersection; watching as my bus pulled in to the station but prevented from speeding to catch it on account of the traffic and the slowly spilling coffee; and then, having noticed a street that seemed to provide an entry to the back side of the station, turning left across four lanes of traffic only to discover that I am on a high hill with the bays of the station spread below me; I could carry bike and coffee down a long stairway, it seems, or take a long elbow of a street that will put me out—yes! right near my bus, which is waiting at the distant curb.

Knowing I have at most two, three minutes, I start down. Left turn signal with the coffee-cup hand. I can see that the bus is still there, hazard lights blinking, if only it will wait for me to get to where the driver can see me; pull up next to it & make the last of many near-calamitous stops, feet brakes spilling coffee on the web of my fingers again, the driver is writing things down in a little booklet & does not look at all like she’s about to leave. Thank goodness. Put everything down, put the bike on the bus, use the nice coffee-shop napkins to wipe the coffee off my cup and my hand, and finally, at last, get in. Success!

But at what cost? Even if I act tough and discount my scalded paw, there’s the cost of potentially getting run over or crashing or even just dropping the whole cup on the ground, just for starters.

Never fear, though, dear bikers, for there are better solutions. Stay tuned.

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One Response to “Biking with coffee: the dilemma”

  1. Emily Says:

    Rob Noti once showed up at Sunday Brunch after biking across Chapel Hill while carrying an apple crisp. He made it up the steep driveway and the rooty, off-road bit through the bushes to reach our front yard.

    More impressive would be Tamara, who biked across Carrboro with no hands while carrying my new road bike over her head, to get it from its creator’s house to my house. I rode in front checking for traffic. The most terrifying part was when we came off the bike trail at the end of Estes–she timed it so she came off right as the light changed, then rode the short distance on Estes to my place.

    I, however, have done none of these things. I often stand by my bike after telling myself, You’ll figure out something! and buying the drink, and I want to do it! It makes so much sense! But I can’t bring myself to.

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