I love cycling to work. I avoid road rage and replace it with my daily exercise. Overall it saves me tons of time and makes me a happier person all at once. Add to those wonderful things that I also save money and it’s really a no-brainer for me. Every time I share with someone that I bike to work I’m greeted with shock and dismay. How do you do that; aren’t you smelly at work? Isn’t it dangerous? For many, seeing a different way to do things (like taking two years off in your 20’s to travel) is scary and therefore they’re unwilling to give it a try. For the rest of you, keep on reading.
By the way, this week is bike to work week in the USA. Go ahead, give it a try, now is the time.
There are a few things you need to be sure of before hopping into the saddle:
1. Endurance. Make sure you can bike that far in one go, and that you’ll still have energy at the end of the day for the return trip. I find that my energy levels are higher when I exercise but I still have to take my mileage into account. My current ride is about 7.5 miles each way. At one point in DC that one-way distance was closer to 12. It might take time to work up to doing a round-trip multiple times in a week so be sure to try just one day first, or even a practice ride over the weekend.
2. Scout a route. For me, I prefer sidewalks because there aren’t cars. Still though, I usually try to ride on the right hand side of the road so that cars trying to enter the roadway are looking my direction. The route you drive might not be the best route to take on a bike. Seek roads with less traffic or wider sidewalks, many areas even offer bike trails. You may find that your bike route is shorter on the miles.
3. A person is smart, people are stupid. Same rules apply to drivers. You can never be sure what they are thinking or doing or whether they see you or not. Be careful. Check out the League of American Bicyclists five steps to riding better.
4. Know what you need. Invest in yourself and your gear, but first figure out what it is you actually need. If you bike a couple of days with a backpack you’ll soon feel the need for a rack system to put over your rear tire. Don’t just go out and buy all the stuff first, instead get to know what you have and buy it for yourself as a reward. You’ll be more likely to ‘use it in good health’ rather than to regret all the cash you threw down. (Just for the record, you don’t need a $1500 bike and a lot of spandex. My bike cost me just $100 on Craigslist, I’ve been using it for years, and a normal wicking t-shirt does me just fine.)
5. Shower before work. Many office buildings have showers, you just need to ask around and you’ll eventually find them. If not, try to find a gym nearby…some even offer ‘shower’ memberships to cyclists. Don’t be that gross guy in the office.
6. Enjoy! A few of my favorite things: the morning mist on the ranch I pass at the start of my morning ride. The kids waiting for the school bus. People walking dogs. Time yourself and make the ride into a race, try to beat your speed from the day before. Whatever it is, just make sure you enjoy the ride.
Biking really is a nice way to start and end a day. My 7.5 mile commute, in traffic, takes about 20 minutes and will take about $3 in gas each day. My bike ride takes about 25 minutes (I tend to ‘avoid’ traffic signals) and costs nothing. I love it, and you will too!