Biking to work or college is an all-around good thing. You get plenty of exercise, fewer gas emissions are emitted, and you save a few cents from your gas money budget.
After three summers of being a semi-regular bike commuter, I’d like to offer you my Tips for Biking to Work.
1. Get yourself a decent ride. I’d recommend either a road bike or a hybrid (a cross between a road bike and mountain bike). Thinner tires mean you encounter less resistance on roads. You don’t have to break the bank with a $6,000 ride. My hybrid cost $400 at our local bike store. Steve’s was a $5 garage sale find that he fixed up for an additional $100ish. I upgraded last fall to a road bike we found on Target.com for $500. That baby WANTS to run! Love it. The only downside was that it doesn’t have the jobby-do that allows you to hook up a rack over the rear wheel. So I use a backpack to haul my clothes and lunch when I bike to work.
2. Speaking of which, It helps to plan ahead. If you know you will be biking to work several days in a given week, take a couple changes of clothes to work on a non-biking day. I also sometimes take extra food to stash in my desk or office fridge so I don’t have to carry as much. But most of the time, I don’t remember to do either of those things. Organization, I still be working on that.
3. Stash stuff in your desk or office in preparation for your rides. Starting in April, I make sure I have the following in my desk:
1. A pair of work-appropriate sandals so I don’t have to haul shoes in my backpack.
2. A small purse for days when I might go out with work peeps for lunch with enough room to carry my wallet and cell phone.
3. A cosmetic bag with a brush, hairspray, face wash, perfume, deodorant, and a small towel. I’m fortunate to have a real office with walls and a door, so I change in there. I have a coat rack behind the door that I hang my bike clothes on to help them dry out. No, they don’t smell too bad! (At least, no one’s complained yet.)
4. Plan out your route before you embark the first time. There are four different ways to get to my work from home. Some towns are more bike-friendly than others, and some streets are more bike-friendly than others. I stick with the route with the widest shoulders, fewest hills, and smoothest railroad intersections. My commute is 7 miles one way, and usually takes me about 30 minutes (14 minutes driving).
6. You may want to brush up on your state’s bike laws and guidelines. The League of American Bicyclists is a good place to start.
5. Accept the fact that you’ll become a weather geek. I became fanatic about checking the weather. I generally don’t bike if there’s a greater than 30% chance of rain, if winds are greater than 15 mph, or if there’s a heat index or advisory. I guess I’m just not as hardcore as some! Wunderground is my weather website of choice, but I actually prefer the Weather Channel app for my iPhone.
6. Don’t forget your helmet! Using a helmet is good basic insurance against a serious head injury if you’re hit by a vehicle or encounter some other obstacle that makes you crash. A few years ago, I – while helmet-less – was in a crash that landed me in the hospital with a painful concussion. Decent helmets can be found for under $50.
7. Biking really doesn’t require much other equipment, but a few things I’ve found to be extremely helpful are:
1. Bike gloves. They absorb some of the impact of your front tire, protecting your hands and wrists from jarring.
2. Padded bike shorts. I couldn’t ride without them. Pearl Izumi is a good brand with a variety of price options.
3. Insulated water bottle. I fill it with ice and water, and it stays cold for over an hour in the hot sun.
8. Accept the fact that people will think you are a little strange. Americans are a car-culture people. Weirdos who bike or walk for any reason other than exercise are considered just a little out of the ordinary.
But with gas prices, the obesity epidemic, and a slowly-but-surely growing awareness of the impact our choices make on the environment, I think this notion will change. And you, my friend, are one of the trend-setters!