Since we moved a bit farther from work, I wondered how it might affect my bicycle riding. It has turned out to be a great ride and a chance to improve my fitness in an all-around way.
My round-trip distance is about 15 miles. My ride to work takes me about 6.5 miles and I take a longer route home so I can get a better workout (it also allows my to avoid riding up a steep hill). The home route has the same elevation gain but it is more gradual.
Important tips for bike commuting
Watch for hazards! I learned this the hard way a few weeks ago, just 100 feet from my bike rack. As I turned, I hit a patch of gravel and down I went!
The result is this lovely wound to the palm of my hand some scraped up shoes, brake lever and jacket.
I was so mad at myself. Mostly it was hurt pride as someone heard me go down and asked if I was okay. I laid on the ground for a split second before I decided I didn’t have any major injuries then got up to lick my wounds.
Other hazards to watch for are:
- Opening Car doors
- Wet surfaces (they can be slick, with less traction in turns and increased stopping time, plus the brakes might be wet, too, decreasing stopping power)
- Uneven surfaces
- Road grates and railroad tracks (make sure to approach tracks perpendicular or you could get tossed off your bike)
Plan your route and have an alternative route. Planning will help prevent frustration when you can’t go the way you had hoped or it is interrupted by construction. When planning, try to utilize bicycle paths or at least roadways with bike lanes. This will help with safety and I know it gives my wife some peace of mind as I’m out in the asphalt jungle.
Planning your route also helps with monitoring your progress. You can organize your schedule based on fairly consistent arrival times. Also, I like to push myself sometimes and keeping time helps me see my progress.
Be a purple elephant! What I mean by this is visibility. Drivers of cars and trucks aren’t always looking for bicyclists (unfortunately). Bright, neon colors for clothing and vests help improve their chances of seeing you. Lighting is also critical. Taillights, headlights and handlebar lights are all good tools to increase your visibility. I find that the Wal-Mart type taillight products are okay but, for headlights or handlebar lights, you really need a more serious set-up like what you’ll find through a bicycle shop or online bike retailer.
Let others know you’re coming. A vocal warning that your “coming up on the left” is really appreciated by slower commuters, rollerbladers and joggers. It can also prevent a knee-jerk reaction which can cause an accident. Some sort of noise device, like a bell is also very effective.
Carry repair gear. A replacement tube, some tire tools and a pump are the basics. You never know when you might catch a stray nail or puncture weed. With practice, you can be back on the road in under 10 minutes and usually not be late.
I’m fortunate that I have showering facilities at work so I can get freshened up. You can reap physical benefits with better cardiovascular health and muscle strengthening. You have a chance to enjoy your surroundings more since you are out in the open. You also have the opportunity to learn. I usually listen to an audio book, podcast or speech when I’m riding, this is a great way to enrich your life.
You just feel good!
The feeling of accomplishment is a psychological benefit which helps our mood. You can set goals to reach along your journey. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Maybe you ride to work just one day a week, to start. Then, you can ramp it up from there. Add to everything the savings in gas money, doctor’s bills and wear and tear on your car. You usually get a premium parking space at work too!