Bike Commuting Tips
9 Simple Tips that will lead you to find fitness, perform productively, savor the summer and energize your everyday.
1. Just do it.
Before you go out and buy a bunch of fancy gear, just get yourself on your bike and to work. It doesn’t matter if not having the right equipment makes the ride uncomfortable You’re doing something new, so it’s going to be uncomfortable regardless of how much thought you’ve put into your preparedness. The best thing to do is just get out the door and go for it. Eventually you may want a tricked-out biker outfit, a sweet ride or a bomber backpack, but to start, you just want to get to work. So go.
If you start biking to work right away (before you’re prepared), the process will help you figure out what you need, and you’ll iterate your way to awesomeness by knowing what to buy and by appreciating it so much more when you get the good stuff.
Ignore this advice at your peril. If you decide you need to go out and get all prepared before beginning your commuting habit, two things will happen: (1) you will fill your head with crippling anxiety, making your ride more difficult and (2) you’ll end up buying a bunch of stuff, then realize, once you actually start riding, that you actually want a bunch of different stuff, which will make you sad and less likely to ride. So worry about what you need later. And buy yourself some of that cool bike gear as a reward, after you’ve developed the habit of riding.
2. Keep work clothes at work.
Whether you work in a corporate office tower or a quick-serve restaurant, it’s likely that you can find some corner of personal space (under your desk, in a cubby hole, etc…) in which to store your work outfit(s).
If you wear a uniform, this is probably already easy to do (just leave it at work). If you need to don business attire, opt for an easy slack and shirt combo. Dark clothes are practical. Wrinkle-free is essential. And boring outfits are best because you can wear them over and over again and no one will notice … or at least they’ll pretend not to notice. Plus, you can always keep a few more boring tops around to switch things up. Seriously, most colleagues will applaud your effort and will overlook your propensity to wear similar outfits day after day.
And if you think you need to dress in something fresh and unique every day, you don’t. In fact, by opting for garment monotony, you’re taking part in a proud movement that is reaching its way into the fashion industry. Check it out in Harper’s Bazaar.
3. Don’t sweat the sweat.
There’s nothing to fear from a little lather. It dries. And you’ll gleam post-exercise glow when you get to work.
Bonus: Depending on your propensity to perspire, keep some grooming essentials at work to help you freshen up before the day. Consider keeping these items on hand: hair brush & accessories, tooth brush & paste (which you should have anyway), deodorant, face wash and a hand towel.
4. Rely on Routine.
To ride or not to ride.Take the effort it takes to make that decision out of your life. Similarly, remove mental obstacles like what to eat, wear and where are my keys from your busy morning.
Keep your backpack packed with your commuting essentials so you’re ready to go every morning. Inside your pack, you’ll probably have a lock, an extra layer, any work items and a snack (to prevent mid-ride bonks).
Keep your helmet, wallet, etc… in the same place, so you can just pick up and go. And I recommend eating the same breakfast every day — something that won’t give you a gut ache, but will give you enough calories to get to work (maybe also have a second breakfast planned for when you get there; one of the big joys of biking is eating).
Your routine, preparation specifics and essentials will depend on your commute of course. And things will certainly change with the seasons. But you’ll figure it out as you go. Effort is mostly is mental. And finding a routine keeps that mental effort to a minimum.
5. Find Friends.
Biking is fun. Biking with buddies is better. And a little positive peer pressure can keep you in the saddle. Colleges make convenient bike pool buddies. And there might already be a group of ride-to-workers in your area.
Temperatures fluctuate, seasons change, and sometimes it rains (or snows), but your body has an enduring capacity to keep you comfortable. Of course, better weather usually makes for an easier ride, so start out with pleasant days if you can. Once you build your resilience, you’ll find you can ride in all sorts of less-than-perfect conditions, and that your day is actually a little more perfect as a result. As a bonus, you’ll find the fresh air (cold, wet, whatever) will do your lungs a world of good. You’ll get sick less often, and enjoy a more adaptable body, which will help keep your mind healthy as well.
7. Start Podcasting.
Just because you’re not in a car, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some in-ride entertainment. I listen to pump-me-up music when I’m in a hurry. But I also enjoy countless hours of spoken word entertainment. Having something downloaded is great because you don’t have to worry about wireless or radio connections. And a good podcast is like having a fun friend along for the ride.
8. Ask for Help.
If your workspace isn’t bike commute friendly, it might want to me. Your employer may want to look progressive, and they certainly want to incentivice behaviors that boost productivity and save on health coverage. A few things you could ask about: showers, a health care discount and secure parking for your steed are just three things your employer could do to make your ride and your workday more pleasant. Even if your wishes aren’t granted, at least they’re on the corporate radar. And if any come to fruition, it’s not just you who benefits. Your co-commuters and your company also reap the rewards of a bike-friendly workspace.
9. Make it a Habit.
Given that you can always skip a day, it’s better off not to. Your body adapts to routine, so you’ll probably find it easier to ride five days a week than three.
Here’s my advice: start-out by giving yourself permission to skip a couple of days a week … then whittle that down to one and, eventually, none. Then just get yourself out the door every day, no matter what. Of course you’ll miss some days due to extenuating circumstances (illness, inclement weather, etc…), but just decide to do it everyday and you’ll end up riding 99% of the time, and loving it.
If your commute is just too long to ride twice a day, every day, try for one-way-a-day — riding to work Monday morning (leave the bike at work) home from work Tuesday evening (leave the bike at home), etc…
I’m no athlete, and I find about an hour’s worth of riding a day to be perfect. I get some exercise, boost my energy & creativity and let my thoughts percolate. If the ride is too short, I don’t get those benefits, and if it’s too long, I just get tired. Try anything you can to give yourself an hour’s worth a day; two half-hour chunks is best.
Whatever you do, know that you’re doing awesome. Biking to work will change your life. You’ll be more focused at work and more mindful in your personal life. Your body will thank you and your employer should thank you. Most importantly, riding with the wind on your cheeks and the sun (or rain) in your eyes is one of the easiest ways to immerse adventure into everyday living.