Want more face-to-face tips? Attend our next FREE Bike Commuting 101 Clinic on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 6:30pm at all three Century Cycles stores. For more details, plus the schedule of ALL of our FREE Bicycling and Maintenance Classes, see:
The weather is always a big concern for aspring bike commuters. If you really want to be committed, follow this rule: Decide to ride first, then check the weather to decide what to wear. If you check the weather first and it looks iffy, you're more likely to back out of riding that day. Regardless of what the forecast says, be prepared for any conditions. If it's warm when you start, pack extra layers in case it cools off. When it's cool, dress in layers so you can peel them off if it warms up.
Biking is supposed to be fun, so don't feel guilty or beat yourself up if you miss a day of riding. You deserve a break once in a while to avoid burnout, and you'll make up for it later. If you get in a riding day here and there, you'll start to enjoy it more and more. Before you know it, you'll be looking for more excuses to ride, rather than excuses not to ride.
2. Consider durability over speed when selecting your bike and gear. A lightweight racing bike may get you to your destination faster under the best of conditions. But commuting on a day-to-day basis will inevitably find you riding in less-than-ideal weather. Plus, your schedule might not let you keep up with the necessary maintenance on your bike as well as you'd like. Choosing a heavy-duty bike that can stand up to some abuse might keep you on the road more in the long run, instead of leaving you stranded by the side of the road with a broken spoke, busted shifter, or loose brakes. You might also consider heavy-duty tires and tubes that resist punctures better.
If your commute does not involve any steep hills, you might also consider a single-speed or fixed-gear bike. By removing the complexities of shifters and derailleurs, you remove a couple of potential points of failure.
Using a lower-end bike for you daily commuting also has the side benefit of making it less attractive to potential thieves who might be lurking in your parking area.
3. Do a dry run on a day off to scout out your route. On your first day of bike commuting, if you just hop on your bike and go without any prior experience, it's sure-fire way to be late for work, and invite other unexpected frustrations that will make you less likely to want to bike to work again.
On a weekend or some other day off, do your ride from home to work to scout the streets and roads that you'll have to take. Look for alternate back streets that might provide just as short a route, but take you on roads with less car traffic. Look for ways around problem spots, like certain multi-way intersections that can be more dangerous than others, roads with less-than-ideal shoulders, and roads with more than the usual number of potholes.
Of course, doing this test-ride ahead of time also gives you an idea of how much time you'll need to allow yourself to get to your destination.
Ask for route suggestion from neighbors, friends, or co-workers who bike. Use maps and online resources such as Google Maps (now with Biking Directions). But remember that any resources can be out-of-date, so do a sanity check (even by car if necessary) before committing to any particular route.
4. Prepare your commuting gear the night before. Getting ready for a bike ride to work takes a little more time than the usual routine of showering, dressing, and driving. To avoid a last-minute rush in the morning (which can more likely lead to forgetting something), get all of your stuff ready the night before:
- Pack up your change of clothes and your spare riding clothes.
- Do a quick safety check of your bike.
- Make sure your lights have good batteries or are recharged (and pack a spare set of lights just in case).
- Pump up your tires; the amount of pressure they might lose between the evening and the next morning won't be significant.
- If you pack a lunch, do it the night before, so you can just grab it from the refridgerator and go in the morning.
- Set your helmet, gloves, and cycling shoes near your bike.