I’m not sure if it was because Lent was quickly approaching or because my waistline was slowly encroaching, but I recently decided to make an extra point to ride my bike. Now I know this statement alone does not carry heavy weight, riding a bike is something that all of us do on a weekly, if not daily, basis, but I took it one step further. For those of you unfamiliar with Lent, it is the practice of abstention from a certain comfort in our day to day lives. Religious reasons aside, I have given up driving a car for 40 days and taken up commuting by bike for the sheer sake of challenge. I am happy to say that after one week into this exercise, I am still going strong and have yet to sustain any physical harm from my fellow road users or any serious repercussions from showing up a little late to work. After a mere seven days of going cold turkey, I am far from an expert but I want to share some pointers for anyone looking to start commuting by bicycle for the first time.
- Plan ahead. Mornings are stressful enough already, do yourself a favor and pack up all your gear the night before. Map out your route and make sure to give yourself extra time in the morning to account for your new two-wheeled commute.
- Make time. It takes time to use a bike as your primary method of transportation but I have found it is not time lost. Commuting by bike gives me time to relax before or after work and clear my head. A useful endeavor that I never seem to make time for at any other point in the day.
- Make work your home away from home. That prospect might scare some of you but work should be your secondary home base. Store a spare change of clothes and everything you will need to clean yourself up before you start your day. This could include wipes, deodorant and/or a towel.
- Shower. For those really lengthy commutes, a shower before work might not be a bad idea. Investigate whether or not your work has a shower specifically for this purpose or even join a gym close by so you can freshen up after a long commute.
- Cars are hard to give up. Cars are great! I love driving my car but I love riding my bike more. That being said, you can’t always do everything by bike so don’t be afraid to ask a friend or a significant other for a ride if you’re in a bind. You can find a creative way to repay them later.
- Get creative with storage. Get a rear bike rack or a bike basket to take the weight off of your back during your commute. This is also a great way to minimize those unsightly back sweat stains if you commute in your work clothes. Don’t forget to pick up a bike pannier or two to hold your gear.
- Dress the part. Depending on the length of your commute, you may want some comfortable riding clothes. Club Ride makes some great apparel that is stylish and functional for commuting. Last but certainly not least, be sure to wear your helmet.
- Prepare for the worst. Make sure you have all the necessary tools to repair a flat. At the very least you should have a hand pump, a spare tube and some tire levers so you can get back to riding as fast as possible.
- Be aware. Learn and use the proper hand signals for turning and merging into the road. Be sure to always look for approaching traffic before making any lane changes.
- Trust the weather man. Check the weather report often so you can always be prepared for inclement weather. Invest in some fenders for your commuter rig so that, if you do get caught in the wet, you’ll still be able to arrive with a little dignity.
- Layer up. In addition to a set of fenders, a proper rain jacket or a vest can be a true lifesaver. Make sure you always have a spare jacket in case the weather suddenly changes and you need more protection or warmth. A high visibility jacket is always a good call to keep other road users aware of your presence.
- See and be seen. Always bring front and rear bike lights, even if you are planning to start and end your ride during the daylight. Plans change and you never know how long you’ll be out or how late you’ll be coming back. Keep a set of lights on your bike (if safe to do so) or throw a set in your bag just in case.
- Lock it up. Protect your investment! Your bike is no longer just a source of recreation, it is your ticket home. Be sure to always carry a bike lock and use it whenever you have to leave your bike. We have a great video in our learning center on how to properly lock up your bike.
Stay tuned for more bicycle commuter tips once my 40-day challenge is over! I’m sure I will be overflowing with experience by then.