Anyway, I think this will be a stellar way to get to school. The catch (you knew there had to be a catch) is going to be getting to the trailhead in the first place. It's only about a mile from my apartment, but it's on the other side of I-40. After yesterday's jaunt, plus a thorough studying of Google Maps, there seem to be three viable options:
(1) walking my bike across the busy cloverleaf intersection atop the interstate (ugh) in order to take the most direct route,
(2) biking around the 'long way' and cutting through Car Dealership Row (which does also entail biking across I-40, but this intersection is MUCH less busy, and there's a sidewalk, so it doesn't feel especially intimidating), or
(3) driving to the parking lot at the trailhead each morning with my bike on a rack, then leaving my car there all day, i.e. biking only between the parking lot and school.
Option one clearly stinks (and isn't really safe, either), and knowing myself as I do, I think it's best to avoid option three as well. Once I get myself into my car and get going, I'm not going to be especially inclined to stop the car after a single mile and switch to an entirely different mode of transportation. I also hate the cheap bike rack that I have for my car and really don't want to leave it perched on my trunk all the time. Not to mention that I don't particularly like the idea of leaving my car in a public lot all day, either.
So this leaves us with option two... meaning that the commute will be considerably longer (closer to an hour each way), but that's really the only drawback. And a little longer of a ride might be nice, really... because if my free time is about to become as crunched as everyone's saying it will, it'll be good to have a workout sort of 'built in' to my commute. It's what I did in the Netherlands -- about a 40-minute ride each way -- and it was really enjoyable.
Anyway, nostalgia aside, this leaves me with the quandary of what kind of bike I'm going to want. My road bike, which I've had for five years and which I got for free (as a swim teammate's backyard castoff), has served me pretty well through four or five triathlons and school commutes in two different cities. But if I'm honest, it's not really the right size for me, and I can't ride it comfortably for any length of time without soreness in my hands and back. I've tried multiple adjustments of the seat and handlebar heights without much improvement; I think it's the distance between the two posts that's the true problem, which isn't something that can be fixed. The derailleur is also broken; at the moment, I have only two functioning gears. And, discomforts aside, I associate road bikes -- with their skinny tires and ultralight frames -- with races and workouts. Both of which I enjoy, but I'm just not sure I want to ride a racing bike to school every day. One of my best memories from the Netherlands is of my daily commute on my beat-up 50-euro bike -- strapping my bag onto the rear rack, putting on my headphones, pedaling casually, breathing the fresh air, not breaking a sweat. My road bike doesn't fit with that memory. (Not to mention I'm constantly worried about blowing out one of those skinny tires...)
So I think I've decided that I need to invest in a new bike. There aren't really any big hills between my apartment and DPAP, so a cheap cruiser-style bike would probably work fine for me. The dilemma I'm having is whether or not to buy a regular cruiser/comfort-style bike, OR possibly invest in a folding bike. There are pluses and minuses to both:
Cruiser Pros: very comfortable; sturdy rear rack; relatively inexpensive; nice-looking (matches the picture in my head). I'm leaning toward this one new from Target, or maybe something similar from Craigslist if the right deal comes along.
Cruiser Cons: very heavy (44 pounds!) and couldn't be carried on car rack even if I wanted to (because of the curved bar shape on women's bikes)
Folding Pros: ease of storage!!! (Could be kept in car trunk or apartment closet rather than having to stay locked up downstairs outside and get degraded by the weather, and could come into school building with me instead of staying outside to potentially get stolen.) Brompton is the 'gold standard', but only available in the UK; Downtube and Dahon seem to be the most respected American brands. This one is my favorite -- love that upright riding position, just like on a cruiser -- but due to price, I think this one is probably the one I'd end up choosing.
Folding Cons: more expensive; less comfortable; not super sturdy; not sure rear rack could accommodate a backpack
Anyway, I think I'm leaning just the tiniest bit in the direction of the folding bike, but I think I need to take another spin or two on the trail with my road bike to decide for sure. It's hard to decide if the storage benefits of the folding bike would outweigh the ride comfort of the cruiser, and if it would deserve the heftier price tag... but on the other hand, the folding bike would hold its value much better, and would be something I'd definitely keep for years to come, whereas the cruiser would probably get sold on Craigslist before our next move.