As we know, May is National Bike Month here in the U.S. (in Canada, with its later spring, it’s June), and the coming week (May 14-18) is Bike to Work Week, which culminates on May 18, with Bike to Work Day. Throughout the week, look for specially themed bike events, and most importantly, get out on your bike and enjoy the ride!
If you’re a regular bike commuter, you’ve probably got your morning routine down, but if Bike to Work Week is going to be your first commute or if it’s your first ride in some time, a little preparation is required.
If you’re going to commute to work, regardless of how long the ride is, you need to make sure your bike is in good working order. Most importantly, check that your brakes work, that your tires are in good shape (this means no dry rot, no visible threads, and no strange bulges once properly inflated), and that the drive train (gears and chain) are functioning properly.
If it’s been a while since you’ve last ridden your bike, you should probably give it a quick ride around the block, and if anything seems amiss, take it to your local shop. It’s probably good to do this sooner rather than later, if you’re planning on riding for Bike to Work Week, since spring is a busy time of year for bike mechanics and they can get backed up.
A bike that rides well is important from both a safety and an enjoyment standpoint. No matter how psyched you are about riding to work, you need to make sure that your bike is in good enough condition to get you there.
If you’ve never ridden to work before, you’ll definitely want to do some scouting. Even if your regular drive doesn’t take you on the interstate, the fastest driving route isn’t always the best cycling route. Google Maps is a good place to start – if you enter your home as the start point and your work and the end point, and select the bicycle, Google Maps will not only suggest a route, but it will also show you bike lanes and bike friendly streets in the area.
Be sure to plot your route home as well, especially if your route to work takes you down one-way streets. You don’t want to ride your bike the wrong way down a one-way street. It is both illegal and very dangerous.
After ensuring your bike is in good working order, do a practice commute on the weekend. You’ll be able to get comfortable with the route, since traffic will likely be lighter than during morning/evening rush hour, and it will give you a sense of how long it takes, and if you’ll need to allot yourself any extra time.
The Day Of
Before the morning of your first commute, you’ll have to decide what you are going to wear on the bike. This is largely a matter of personal preference, but there are some questions to ask yourself:
• Do you sweat? How much does this bother you/will it bother your coworkers? (Can you shower at work? Can you ride more slowly? Can you do a wipe down at a bathroom sink and then change clothes?)
• Do you want to commute in your work clothes? If not, how will you transport them with you? (Backpack? Basket? Panniers?)
• Does it look like rain? If so, are you prepared? Do you have rain gear? A change of socks?
You’ll also have to consider some logistical matters:
• Where will you leave your bike during the day? (Are there bike racks? How secure are they? Do you need a sturdier lock? Can you bring your bike inside?)
• Will it be dark when you leave work? (If so, you’ll need to get yourself some lights).
None of these presents an insurmountable barrier, and considering these questions should not discourage you from attempting the commute. If, for example, there aren’t bike racks at your work, ask if you can bring your bike inside. If this isn’t possible, then inquire about what other options are available to you.
Have you been commuting by bike for a long time? Have anything you’d like to share with first-time commuters? If you’re new to commuting, is there anything that would be helpful for you to know? Are you planning to ride during Bike to Work Week?