I’ve been bike riding to work for the past three years now, and have found several hidden benefits. We’re going to get into how I started this fun little habit, and share all about how easy biking to work truly can be.
More and more metropolitan areas are investing in bike-friendly paths and shared streets. There’s a clear trend towards more green and healthy means of getting around town, especially here in the Twin Cities.
As with many things, getting started is the most difficult part of the endeavor.
- You’re nervous about whether your legs will hold up for a long ride.
- You worry about getting lost and being late for work.
- And oh yeah, what if you get hit by a BWM driver?
- How do you dress for the ride based on the weather?
- How do I pack all my work crap? Change of clothes, laptop, lunch, shoes. And so on…
But please, my friends, don’t freak out! I’m here to tell you it’s a lot easier than you might think.
When I gave it a shot the very first time, I put a little bit of preparation in to the experiment, and it went just fine. Well, almost just fine…
How to Get Started
- Get a bike. Any bike. All I had to start with was a too-small mountain bike complete with trail-friendly (and therefore not ideal for street commuting) knobby tires. You know what? It managed to get me 12 miles there and 12 miles home.
- Study your map. Google Maps has a super handy tool for cyclists. Within the app, you can select bicycling as a mode of transit and the route will adjust to reveal the most direct path free of heavy traffic.
The duration Google Maps provides is based on a very leisurely pace, so you can conservatively time your route with a decent margin of safety. I found that my pace was just a notch above Google’s, so I was able to shave about 5-10 minutes off the ride.
- Pack your gear. I started with a backpack. Roll up your change of work clothes and pack with your laptop, but remember to use a trash bag as a liner if you’re worried about rain in the forecast. On my very first cycle commute, I got DUMPED on with torrential rain, and despite not having a waterproof backpack, the laptop survived. The moral of that little story? Don’t take chances with work equipment!
- Bring water, wear a helmet, and GO!!!
- Oh yeah, and if you’re a balding dude like me, be sure to pick up a head-sock, so you don’t get a sunburned scalp through the helmet vents!
After your first day of cycle commuting, you’ll feel a few things. One, you’ll feel tired as hell, especially if long stretches of cardio are foreign to you. Two, you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Hey, you just rode your bike all the friggin’ way to work and back! Big kids do that – little kids just ride around the block!
You might even become a bike accessory junkie. Try to avoid going too far overboard.
Yeah, you’re saving yourself about $10 a day with this new habit (not including the long term health benefit savings) but you don’t need to blow it on fancy-schmancy “Hey, I look like I could ride in the Tour de’ France!” gear.
Bike Riding to Work: Gear Tips!
- If you’re going to get a proper bike, do your homework. Head to a local bike shop to figure out the right size frame for your body. There are many internet resources for this too. A favorite site I like to check that’s a nod to old school blogging: Sheldon Brown’s Bicycle Technical Information. I’ve made the mistake of buying a cool replacement bike, only to learn later I should have gone one size up.
- Use Craigslist. Period. Don’t blow your dough on a brand new bike. There are PLENTY of well-cared-for bicycles on the used market. I bought my wife and my bike used and we saved $1,500 on bikes that otherwise would’ve cost us $3,000 new. Oh, and don’t spend more than $800 on a used bike. You aren’t racing anyone to get into the office, and if you think you need a carbon fiber frame, tell me later how comfortable it was going over bumps.
- Figure out your ideal packing style. You can get panniers that hang off each side of the rear (or front) wheels. I use this style for my commute since I have to pack a laptop, work clothes, and lunch. I see many commuters who prefer a backpack, but I find it too hot on the summer rides home.
- Keep your lock attached to the rack at work. This way you shed a few ounces of weight, and, you don’t have to worry about whether you remembered your lock or not.
- For rides of 8 miles or more, invest in a few pair of padded bike shorts. Your backside will thank you.
- Become your bike mechanic. Save yourself some cash by YouTubing your way to expertise! Nothing is intimidating about working on a bike. You can learn how to replace a flat tube, swap pedals, replace a chain, you name it. And if you’re riding to work often, you’ll need to do these things on a fairly regular basis.
I now have a helmet that’s “higher end” – as it’s a little lighter. I have shoes that clip into the pedals, to make me “one with my bike” (sigh…) The best upgrade? I have a cell phone holder than doubles as a bottle opener.
A wise man once said (I think?): Beer plus bikes are like peas and carrots.
Start Your Pedals!
Riding my bike to work reconnects me to one of my all-time joys. Growing up, one of the freedoms I enjoyed was hopping on my steed and heading off to meet up with friends for fun and shenanigans.
When you’re riding to work, you’re not thinking about work in a bad way. Your brain fires off in more creative ways. You think about the problems you want to tackle. You wax poetic. And the key to all of this: commuting by bike is a way to enjoy the summer before it quickly passes by in a blur of air-conditioned cubicle farm monotony.
The benefits of the exercise, fitness, and savings on gas, auto insurance, and auto maintenance are all just icing on the cake. You get on your bike, and you’re a kid again. Replace the stress of being stuck in rush hour hell with the joy of reconnecting with a time when you had all summer long to make your adventures.
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