Friday, March 19, 2010

Bike 21 Commuting Habit tips, 1st edition

Now that I've got bike commute #21 in sight (you know, to make my bike commute habit "official"), I thought I would just share a few thoughts on my bike commuting experience so far. None of these are earth-shattering revelations, but I think are worth repeating here for anyone just getting into bike commuting.

1) Be prepared to ride. It seems like this goes without saying, but if you don't ride everyday, this is pretty critical. Every other tip is basically a corollary from this basic axiom. Early on I would try to pick my bike commute days at the spur of the moment while getting ready in the morning. Instant recipe for failure. There was always something I was missing or needed to do that slowed me down and caused me to abandon the ride.

2) Coordinate with your family. Well, that is if you have a family or someone else that depends on you to be home at a certain time. There were several days I wanted to ride but for one reason or another I needed to be home at a certain time or to pick up the kids from school. Plan ahead of time to avoid these conflicts. Set a recurring appointment in your Outlook/Google/iCal calendar and share/invite your wife, significant other, mom, parole officer, etc. so they remember you will be riding that day.

3) Pick the day(s) you know you have the lowest chance of a conflict and stick to it. There are always exceptions, of course. I figured out Wednesday was the best day for me to ride, so I plan on riding every Wednesday. Monday mornings being what they are, Mondays were out immediately. Tuesdays & Thursdays my kids have activities after school so those days were out. Fridays I usually like to get home as soon as possible, but this is my backup day if I miss my Wednesday ride.

4) Leave a change of clothes, toiletries, etc. at work. I had read this tip before on another cycling web site, but it took me awhile to come around. When I started seriously trying to bike commute I bought a rack for my bike and a set of panniers. I would load up the panniers with my change of clothes, a change of shoes, a towel, and the sundries I needed to shower at work. The stupid thing about that is I have sets of work polo shirts and pants provided to me for my job and a pair of work boots already at work. I don't normally wear them, though. Now I've been leaving a pair of jeans, some underwear and socks, and some basic white tees in my cubicle to change into when I ride to work. Then I will also wear one of the polo shirts and my boots. The work pants are really horrible; they are pleated and too baggy. I just can't bring myself to wear them. Anyway, if you don't have room to keep things at your job or don't have showers, then I guess you can stick with panniers or a backpack to hold your gear and then try to clean up with wipes or just the bathroom sink and a towel.

5) Check your bike the night before. Again, this is more critical if you only ride once or twice a week like I do. Air up your tires. Make sure you didn't remove anything from your bike that you might need, like say lights or tools from your saddle bag. Make sure your saddle is still attached to your bike. I saw a guy biking to work with no saddle one day. That couldn't have been fun.

Some optional tips:
  • Have a helmet to wear. I think there is a saying: "Opinions about helmet use are like a**holes...everybody knows one and he doesn't wear a helmet." No..."A**holes are like helmets, everybody has stuck their head in one." No..."Helmets are like opinions, you either have one or you don't, a**hole." No, that's not it, either. Oh, nevermind. My recommendation: wear a helmet.
  • Carry a spare tube. Also, make sure it is the right size for your tire. I think I have three spare tubes for my 26" mountain bike. I don't have any spare 700c tubes for my other bike. that. I. use. to. bike. commute. Hmmm...
Well, that's it for now. Look out for more bike commuting tips in the future. Maybe.

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