Bike Commuting 102: Get Your “If’s,” “And’s,” and “But’s” on the Saddle

[[image:commuter102_mini.jpg::inline:1]]So, you read Bike Commuting 101 but you still have some reservations or concerns? Not to worry, there are answers to be had and miles to be pedaled. Political, religious or social issues aside, riding a bike is just plain more fun.

Published September 24, 2007 by C.I.C.L.E.
By Jeff Rossini

[[image:commuter_102.jpg::inline:1]]So, you read Bike Commuting 101 but you still have some reservations or concerns? Not to worry, there are answers to be had and miles to be pedaled. Political, religious or social issues aside, riding a bike is just plain more fun.

There are many risks and concerns to consider when approaching bike commuting. You will have to find a new route to your destination (most likely) and a way to transport your self and still be presentable, just to name a few. But there are plenty of resources available if you know where to look, and what to look for. The key to a successful bike commute is being prepared.

Find a Safe Route

There are many websites available that enable the user to customize a mapped route from point A to B, and even points C and D if needed. MapMyRide is one such site that caters to cyclists – and not only gives you total control of mapping your route and providing distances, but also allows you to mark points of interest ( i.e. water fountains), see elevation changes, estimate the number of calories you will burn, and more. Current interfaces like Google Maps and Mapquest, while useful in their own way, do not allow the user to locate less heavily trafficked or more residential streets. While these sites have not advanced to the point of displaying roads that have designated bike lanes, I would not be surprised to see that in the near future. Do some exploring in your car before you make the switch to bike commuting. A safe route makes for a safe ride.

Find a Way to Smell Nice
Riding a bike is great exercise. However, exercise produces sweat, and sweat smells. If you are biking to work, or even just to meet a friend for coffee, you don't want to be sticky and smelly. When you have a long day ahead of you after your bike commute, it is ideal to be able to shower. If you don't already know, ask your employer if there are available shower and/or locker room facilities in your place of work. If so, you have it made. If not, you simply have to get more creative.

Carrying a wash cloth or small towel with you can accomplish a lot in the way of freshening up. You simply have to get the towel nice and wet, and wipe yourself down after allowing ample time to cool-down. Baby wipes (unscented unless you like smelling like a baby…) work wonderfully – and are compact enough to store in your desk drawer or in a backpack. Keeping some scented body spray in your pack or desk will never be a bad idea.

Find a Way to Transport All Your Stuff
If you are concerned about having to bike to work in your work clothes, there is hope. A longer commute will demand that you bike in some sort of athletic clothing, and carry your work clothes to change into once arriving at your destination. It is surprisingly easy to fit everything you need into a backpack or panniers, which are the saddle bags you can attach to your bike frame. Carrying a backpack will cause your back to get a little sweatier, and panniers add instability to your bike (depending on how much weight you put in them), so you should find the method you are most comfortable with.

Be a Safe and Alert Rider

Probably the top concern of bike commuters is safety. It can be scary sharing the road with cars. One of the best ways to be safe on a bike is to have a safe route, as discussed above. But more importantly: be a safe rider. The key to being a safe bike commuter:

• Have excellent bike handling/control skills.

• Be visible (and loud) – this means wearing bright clothing, using lights and reflectors, and riding on the street rather than the sidewalk. Horns or bells are good ways to alert drivers when they are encroaching on your personal space.

• Be predictable – make sure that any driver will understand your intentions by not swerving or making sudden moves.

• Be alert – be aware of what is going on around you at all times and be ready to move to safety if needed.

Bike commuting requires you to rethink many of your daily norms, but if you invest the time suggested in order to prepare, your adoption of two-wheeled transportation bliss will last longer and be much more enjoyable.

Be watching for the third part in this series which will address what gear you should, shouldn't, and might want to have. Happy riding.

Be sure to check out C.I.C.L.E.'s comprehensive Beginner's Resource Section for more valuable tips and information.


Jeff Rossini lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona. He recently began an experiment of biking to work, 8.3 miles one way, every day for the month of August. Did we mention he lives in Phoenix? Jeff is blogging about the experience daily and you can read his anecdotes and tips for bike commuting at thevelorution.blogspot.com.