As we all know, gas aint getting any cheaper. Finding time to workout aint getting any easier, and our population, for the most part, aint getting any skinnier. So, in an effort to help all three of these problems, more and more people are considering becoming bike commuters.
Now let me be up front here, I am NO expert, hell, if you read this blog even semi regularly, you know I just started las week. However, it is going well, and I thought I’d share how I got ready to make this happen. Plus Michelle sent me an article explaining how to become a bike commuter, but it left BIG gaps. So here we go, feel free to use what you want and toss the rest.
Determine the best ROUTES to and from work
Notice I said routeS, meaning more than one. I have 3 routes to my office. They are all about the same distance. One gives me 12 out of 16 miles on a major bike trail. I like it for that reason. 75% of the commute has no cars. However, last year the trail was closed for 6 months for a major overhaul, and the detours sucked butt! Having alternate routes will allow you some variety and a contingency plan just in case.
Notice I also said find the best route home. One, of my routes to work is a one way road south. I honestly don’t know the northbound route for this one, but I will find out soon.
I don’t own a route finding bike GPS, I still work old school with google maps, and click the bike for bets bike directions. I have had good luck with this! Then there is the old standby, just sorta head toward work and see where you end up (on a day off of course, that’s how I’ve found all three of mine.
Ride the Routes
I always tell people before their first day of work, drive the route and see how long it takes you. This will give you an idea of how long it will take you to get to the office. Then give yourself extra time the first few times in case you have a problem.
Also, if you have never ridden during rush hour, the time may be longer. Rush hour results in more cars, longer waits at lights, grumpier people etc. I have found that the road crossings of my bike trail which are normally wide open, now have a steady stream of cars.
Consider Starting with one-way Trips First
Most public transit have bike racks on their buses. You can either take the bus to work, and ride home, or the other way around. If you haven’t used the bike racks on buses, just go to park and ride on the weekend. There is always a bus ready to load (at least around here) and the drivers are very helpful in assisting you. We are also lucky that our commuter train (when the tracks aren’t blocked with mudslides) also allows bikes.
I cheat. My wife and I work at the same company, so we can carpool in, and i ride home. We get the morning carpool lanes, but she gets off work before me, so she doesn’t have to wait everyday for me.
Know Your Distance
How close is close enough to work? Mine is 17 miles away, the perfect before and after work kind of workout. Others want a closer commute. Again, is public transportation an option? Can you drive part way and bike the rest?
You don’t want the distance to be too far, or too hard a route, at least going to work. The boss might not like you worn out and falling asleep on the job.
Where are You Going to Park the Bike
Figure this out LONG before your first ride. We have a bike rack in the parking garage. This means I need a decent lock, but my bike stays dry all day. Outside racks are ok, if they are somehow monitored and secured, but it sucks getting on a wet bike to go home.
Other options, a storage room, meeting room, part of yours or a friend’s office, a corner of the work area. I have used all of these. Talk to the boss, or the person in charge of parking (if you have one) or other cyclist. There are plenty of ideas!
Shower or Not?
If you ride to work, you may be sweaty, or have helmet hair! (I don’t have much left, but I hate having my hair come out of a helmet and baseball caps aren’t dress code. We are lucky enough to have a shower. Barring that, is there a gym nearby? Otherwise, it might be time for babywipes and hair goop. Don’t forget the pit stick!
Work Clothes and How to Carry Them
Now some people bring in extra clothes at the beginning of the week and leave them at the office. That is too organized for me. I bring mine with me. I have a set a panniers and a rack on the bike, so I am able to bring everything I need. I also see many people use a backpack. Still others bike in their work clothes.
I would recommend a way to carry what you need with you. Remember though, you need to get things ready to go the night before. You will be leaving earlier and getting to work will take longer than in a car. Trying to gather everything in the morning just adds stress to what should be fun. I pack my panniers and have the bike in the house overnight. Makes life easy.
It may be darker than you are used to, and there will be more traffic. White light in front, blinking red in the back, is the minimum, the more lights the better. Reflective clothing helps a lot. Also something other than sunglasses to help you see! Being visible and having good visibility will help immensely.
Finally I recommend talking to the boss when you start! Let him or her know this is happening, and that you might be a little late. Mine was very supportive, and wanted to know the details. We also have a deal where certain activities reduce our Medical premiums, we are trying to add bike commuting to the list.
OK, like I said, I am new at this, I know I have forgotten something, help me out team, what points did I leave out, or advice for newbies like me on the road to work?