Our favorite day of the year is almost here: National Bike to Work Day! Are you ready? Keep reading for what tips on prepping your bike, your route, and your look.
This is guest post from Daly, one of our brand ambassadors in Reno, Nevada. All photos are hers.
I remember during my very first lesson as a young girl to learn how to ride a bicycle, I rolled down a small hill and crashed squarely into a tree. I was okay. I had a bruised ego but fortunately was not hurt. Since then I didn't pick up another bicycle until many, many years later as an adult. Who knew I would eventually be bike commuting to and from work and riding a bicycle to get around town, through all weather and all year round?
You can too with a little planning, preparation and practice it can become an enjoyable part of your daily life, like it has become a part of mine! These tips have worked well for me through the years and I hope they are helpful to you, especially as you start to get ready for Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 19th.
The bicycle – your transportation
It helps to have the right bike for what you will be doing in a size that fits you. Any bike will work for bike commuting but the style of bike can make a difference in how you carry your things and your position/comfort.
I started bike commuting on my road bike. It did not have a bike rack or fenders typically found on city or commuter bicycles so it required me to wear my cycling kit and carry my lunch and clothes in a backpack to change into at the office. After a while, all the prep, packing and changing in and out of my clothes started to get old so eventually I got another bike that had a bike rack to carry my things and fenders (to prevent sand, mud, rocks, liquids, and other road spray from being thrown into the air at me by the rotating tire). I could finally dress for my destination and let my bike do the hard work of carrying my things.
You don't really need any special gear for bike commuting but there are some basics that can help make your ride safer, more comfortable and convenient.
- Helmet – this is a no-brainer (no pun intended) but it will protect your head from the curb or pavement should you fall.
- Lights (front and rear) - the lights I use are rechargeable and I turn them on day or night.
- Flat tire kit – spare tubes, tire levers and a way to inflate the tubes (CO2 cartridges or a travel pump). Here is a short Instagram clip of what I carry in my kit: https://www.instagram.com/p/BRTP4dugL-B/
- Bags and/or baskets – to carry your stuff. A backpack or messenger works for many people, but was not comfortable for me and arriving at work with a sweaty back through my office clothing is not professional. Po Campo makes attractive, functional bags and panniers that are designed to carry the things you need to work or play.
Planning your route
You don't necessarily have to take the same way you drive to bike commute to work. In fact, the route I would drive is entirely different from the route I take to ride my bike to work. I prefer quiet residential streets, slow roads or streets with bike lanes when bike commuting. Not only is it safer, it is quieter and less stressful (who wants to breathe exhaust fumes the entire way?).
Bicycle commuting should be a fun experience, right?! Because it is! Here are some tips for planning your route.
- Use Google Maps directions for bicycling. There are settings that display trails, dedicated lanes for bicycles and bike-friendly roads to help you plan your route.
- Street View in Google Maps can be used to preview your route to see what the roads look like and whether there are stop lights or stop signs at intersections for safe crossing.
- Drive your route to get a feel and first-hand view.
- If possible, ride your route on a weekend morning when there is less activity on the road. You will also get a sense for how long it could take for your bike commute to work. Add 10 or 15 extra minutes to that time estimate in case you get a flat tire along the way.
If you are going to be bike commuting to work, there are some basic bicycle upkeep that you need to know.
- How to change a flat tire if there is a puncture. Your local bike shop or non-profit community bike shop can show you how. It is easier than you think!
- Do the "ABC quick check" before you ride. Check the Air pressure in the tires, check the Brakes and the Chain (no slack, free from rust and gunk)
- You can always take your bike in for regular tune-ups at your local bike shop if you don't want to get your hands dirty. But in my opinion, maintaining my bike is more enjoyable (and much cheaper) than maintaining my car.
- Prepare your bike and stuff the night before … and other stuff – I really should listen to my own advice but bike commuting is such a habit for me that, I admit, I check my bike and pack my stuff for the day the morning of. BUT if you can make sure your bike is ready to go and pack your things the night before, you'll have no excuse for running behind schedule and not riding your bike.
Just ride slow, enjoy the scenery/route and you'll arrive at work with no sweat and no fuss! So what are you waiting for? Go get ready for Bike to Work Day!
Daly Costanza is an avid bicycle commuter and bicycling advocate. She rides her Electra Ticino 20D as a means of transportation and recreation all year-round. If she is not spotted along her 12-mile route between the office and home, she can be found on a bike-friendly adventure with her husband riding on a bike-share or around wine country. Daly is also the founder of Cuter Commuter, an on-line bicycling life shop.