Tips for Bike Commuting

Aaron Rosenthal

Bike:  Know your bike, what it can and can’t do.  I use my old touring bike.  This prevents me from commuting when there is snow on the ground.  Use of a mountain bike with studded tires would allow you to commute when I can’t.  Use tubes with Slime to give you added protection against flats.  Remember, you are commuting, not racing.  Don’t worry about the extra weight, weather it is in tubes or other things you carry.  Speed is not of the essence.

See and be seen:  My attitude about night righting is “If someone is going to hit me, I want there to be no doubt they saw me before they hit me!”.  I like to illuminate myself like a moving village.  I have reflectors on my ankles, wrists, panniers, wheels, and Bar Mitts to name a few.  My NiteIze reflector vest illuminates and can be seen from a mile away.  I use an obnoxious flashing light in the back (what the hell, I can’t see it) and a strong light on the front.

Safety First:  Be particularly aware of sunrise and sunset times.  If you are going south and crossing a street going E/W, when you look to the west you can see great, but the driver coming east has the sun directly in their eyes and may not see you.   It is worth the extra few seconds to wait until all is clear.  Always keep in mind that even if you are in the right, you are going to lose in a fight with a car.

Not so pretty is OK:  The biggest excuses I hear about not wanting to commute to work is that clothes will be wrinkled, hair will have the “helmet-head” look, you’ll arrive sweaty and stinky etc.  My advice?  Get over it, you don’t have to look at yourself so it’s not your problem!!  Seriously, many work places have showers.  If not, take a washcloth and do a quick spit bath.  Keep favored toiletries at work.  Put your hair in a ponytail or bun (hey, some of us should be so lucky as to have that problem).  Your colleagues will be so impressed that you ride to work that they will forget about the fact you didn’t use your curling iron.

Prepare the night before:  Set out your clothes and work stuff, and make your lunch the night before.   This will make you feel prepared the morning of your commute and reduce the chances for excusing your way out of riding.

Choose your route:  Explore the safest and most enjoyable route.  More than half my route to work is on trail.  On this section I see no cars.  Instead I see the other bike commuters who are just as weird as I am!  Saying “Hi” to the same people each morning getting in their exercise via biking, running, walking etc. is motivating in itself.  Keep in mind, the safest route may not be the most direct or fastest.  The morning I wrote this I saw 2 Blue Herons fly 50 feet overhead!  You won’t get that experience in a car. 

Routine:  Once commuting by bike becomes part of your routine you will miss it when you don’t do it.  Are there times I wish I had a car to make my ride home after work quick and warm?  Yes.  But once I’m on the bike my thoughts turn to what neat experience will I have today. Once I’m on the bike I stop ruminating about work and focus on the ride.  What can be better than that?!

Editors note:  If you’re looking for more information on Bicycle commuting, additional articles are easily found on the internet.  In fact, just within the last week, an article was posted to the PeopleforBikes.org website touting the health benefits of bicycle commuting.  Posted by Jay Walljasper, who writes, speaks and consults frequently about biking and other ways to improve our communities, the article found at http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/good_news_health_studies_show_bike_commuting_is_one_of_the_best_ways_to_sta  references a number of other resources to help support the health improvement perspective he uses as the theme for the article.
BFC Feb 2013 - Volume 6, Issue 2, April 2013

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