It’s been almost a year since my first day at Montague and after 9 months of commuting by bike, I think it’s time to take stock of what I’ve learned from the experience.
First, I should clarify that by no means does working at a bicycle company automatically make you the ultimate bike commuter. Yes, I naturally love cycling and being active, but like many other working people I spend a lot of my day sitting in front of a computer. However, cycling a few miles each day back and forth to work made me realize a few things that I would love to share:
You don’t need a fancy bike or accessories (but you’ll probably want them…)
You can effectively commute with any bike and any clothes (as long as you’re warm enough), but when you spend time on your bike every day you soon realize you don’t want to sacrifice on quality. I love the simplicity of my Boston single speed and I can easily go without a lot of gears, but not without some upgrades to make the bike truly mine. I’ve customized my bike, gradually adding more and more aftermarket parts to make it unique in my style. New grips for summer, different tires for the winter, silver components and brown accessories to round out the look. My bike became a fashion icon and the streets are its runway.
My bike is a VIP guest – everywhere.
My bike lives in a closet right next to the entry so I can grab, unfold and go – it’s as easy as slipping on my shoes. Like the other employees at Montague, I keep my bike folded at my desk in the office. This gives me peace of mind, saves a minute locking things up and ensures my seat is always dry when I’m ready to head home.
Streets are as dangerous as you make them
With all the different road users sharing the streets, there’s inevitably some… “tension”. I’ve seen recklessness and rudeness from drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. There are drivers that take turns right in front of me, other cyclists that run red lights, and pedestrians that make me occasionally slam my brakes as they step into the street without looking. We all need to be more courteous road users and realize that safety is paramount, but these things happen so you must be prepared. I can prevent the worst by simply riding as carefully and with as much foresight as I can, equipping my bike with lights and always wearing my helmet. After all, my brain means more to me than my hair.
Commuting with the bike is not necessarily seasonal
Commuting by bike makes you automatically more aware of your surroundings. You’ll notice a tree changing with the seasons every morning you pass it, and you’ll experience what the seasons actually smell like. You become more attuned to small temperature changes from day to day and you dress accordingly. Winter riding is indeed more challenging, but not impossible if you prepare accordingly. Knowing that I can change my mind, fold my bike and still take public transit anytime the weather gets worse, I would ride all year (something I never thought I’d say before).
Take care of your bike
My bike is not only my means of transportation, it is my companion and my friend. So naturally I take good care of it. A little cleaning here and a little chain lube there goes a long way. Yes, maintenance takes a lot of time and sometimes even a few bucks here and there, but if you want your bike to tackle all seasons and last for years to come, then believe me it’s worth it.
It’s ok not to bike for a day
Dealing with the weather is an essential part of bicycle commuting. However, it is totally fine not to take the bike when the weather conditions are poor or if you’re feeling lazy. Riding a bike is usually the best part of the day, so I don’t want it turn into a chore. If I’m going to be miserable doing it, I’ll take to bus. In fact, sitting in a crowded stuffy bus after spending money for a ticket will make you appreciate your regular bike commute even more. It also makes you redefine victory: ‘Winning’ to me is taking the bike even when it’s pouring rain.
Last but not least: Happiness comes with a bike!
9 months and over 2000km later, all I can say is: I’m feeling good! Not only am I feeling fit and healthy, riding my bike clears my mind and sets me in a good mood. With my car I often times couldn’t help but think about how much carbon emissions I’m creating while sitting in traffic. On a bike I feel like I’m part of a global movement that tries to make this world a little better. Every morning when I jump on my bike, I feel like a super hero saving the world each mile at a time, strengthening my super powers with every pedal stroke. Doing something good for both yourself and the world without wasting time and money – how awesome is that?