Bike Commuting Tips

I am a big advocate of using your bike as transportation and then using your transportation time as training.  I base my home buying decisions on what it takes to get to work and try to structure my time accordingly.  After commuting to work by bike in cities like Dallas, TX and Boulder, CO, I have seen some pretty big extremes of traffic, weather, and driver hostility.  I figured I might as well share some simple tips that have kept me commuting for a decade.My Old Buddy

  1. Get a good backpack.  I don’t really believe in the messenger bag.  I know folks will dispute me heavily, but it has never really made much sense to me.  Having the weight distributed evenly and centered is key, especially if you incorporate any training into your commute.  I have a Vaude pack that I bought when I first started and it is still holding up decently.  It is made out of reflective material and has a bright yellow waterproof cover that I can pull out when needed, that also has reflective stickers.  It is big enough to carry clothing and a laptop when packed perfectly.  I absolutely love it and although one of the zippers quit working I refuse to get a new one.  It would be like throwing away an old friend.
  2. Be organized.  Packing the night before and laying out your clothes for riding based on the weather makes the mornings much easier.  This makes getting out the door pretty quick in the morning.  Keep a rain jacket, red rear light, spare money, snack bars, and flat fix materials in your pack at all times. 
  3. Leave your car at work.  If you live in a 2 car household, most times you can get away with only one car at home.  When in Dallas, I would often leave a vehicle at work.  I had to drive often and so I needed a car at the office.  I have used this on and off in Boulder, depending on the demands of the week.  Drive in on Mondays and drive home on Fridays if you need the car on the weekends.  This is also a good way to transport a weeks worth of clothing.  (see below)
  4. Leave your clothes at work.  Depending on the weather and how long my commute is, I have varied on how often I leave clothes at work.  I definitely leave a pair or two of shoes.  They are small and easy to store.  And they are one of the heaviest items you carry.  Commuting is much simpler if you don’t have to pack your back pack.
  5. Leave food for lunch at work.  I store food in the work fridge and in my office to keep my going during the week.  Dragging a lunch back and forth can be a real pain.  It’s not too fun to find a squished banana in the bag.
  6. Ride in snow.  Don’t ride on ice.  It is fortunate that I have lived in areas (of course this was part of my choice to live in these places) that have mild winters.  Dallas was pretty much snow free, but Boulder gets plenty of the wet stuff.  Riding in snow can actually be pretty fun.  Traction can be good, especially if you have access to a cross bike.  Riding on ice is just stupid.  It might not be too bad on studded tires, but generally speaking my commutes are shared with cars.  I have had many a wipe out on ice that could have sent me into traffic.  I tried to avoid those.  I have seen many a rider eat it on ice.  There just isn’t enough traction to make it work.  Boulder is pretty cool in that they plow the bike paths before they do the roads.  So if you can get to a trail you are in good shape.
  7. Get a good set of lights.  If you commute all year, inevitably you will be riding in the dark.  Having a good set of lights is mandatory and often required by law.  I am amazed at the number of folks who ride without lights.  I have been caught out a few times and it scared me to death.  I recommend a bright blinky on the back and a blindingly blind light on the front.  1000 lumens is good standard.  You can get buy with less, but I like a bright light.  I keep the chargers at work so I can have a fresh light for the ride home.
  8. Be aware of road construction.  I am currently under an alternative cycling route due to two spots of road construction.  It adds 5 minutes to the ride, but makes it much safer.  It sucks to get caught in a tough road situation and end up fighting 60 mph traffic or having to turn around and head back.
  9. Work in training.  Even 15 minute commutes can help you get fit.  I often work in some great workouts in a 30 minute commute.  There are plenty of workouts that will benefit a bike racer or someone just trying to be more fit that can be completed in 1-5 minute efforts. 
  10. Don’t be a wuss.  Weather can vary quite a bit and I have found that some of my most fun days have been when it was storming, hailing, or snowing.  Drivers can be rude.  Change up the route.  Hit dirt roads. Think of it as an adventure. 

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