Let’s Go Commuting: Getting Ready for Bike to Work Week
May 20, 2016
There are plenty of compelling reasons to give bike commuting a try. It saves money (the cost of a vehicle, insurance, maintenance, tolls and fuel only seems to go one direction – up!), helps the environment and can burn off a few extra calories while improving your fitness base.
Despite all the benefits, it can be tough to break the habit of commuting by car. So what better time to give bike commuting a try than during your local Bike to Work Day, Week or Month celebrations! These events are held across Canada, the US, and around the world (Strava recently launched their own Global Bike to Work Day), and typically happen when the weather starts to warm up and dry out.
Here in Vancouver, BC, organizers setup commuter stations around the city where riders can stop by to enjoy free food and drinks, pick up bike maps, enter to win prizes and get their bike checked by a mechanic. How’s that for an incentive?
Since the hardest part is often deciding to make the commitment and roll out the door for the first time, here are a few simple tips to help you on your way:
Get a bike
Dust off that bike buried in the back of the shed if you need to – any bike will work for now. It doesn’t need to be new or fancy, although a nice city or road bike will certainly make your commute faster and more comfortable. Give it a quick safety check or book a tune up at your local bike shop to make sure things are running smoothly. Sometimes all you need is a little air in the tires and lube on the chain.
Once you have a bike, find a properly fitting helmet, practice some basic cycling skills, and learn the rules of the road including hand signals. Some local bike clubs even offer bike education classes to help you feel more comfortable riding on city streets. There are also a ton of helpful videos on Youtube like the one below. Safety first – I want you to be commuting for a very long time!
Plan your route
Start by using Google Maps to get a rough idea of your route (Google Maps defaults to driving directions, so be sure to click the cycling icon, highlighted in red below). Check with your local municipality or bike shop to see if they have any cycling-specific maps that can help you avoid busy streets and find a nice quiet bike lane or side street. Fellow bike commuters are also a great resource to help you find the most bike-friendly route. Use these as a starting point, but remember that maps can be wrong, so do a test ride on a day when you’re not rushing to get to work on time. This will give you a chance to figure out how long it will take, not to mention how you’ll feel afterwards.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been out on a bike, start small and build over time. Even a few kilometers done once or twice a a week is plenty to start off. If you have a long commute, consider breaking it up by driving or taking transit part way and then riding the last portion. As your fitness and confidence improves, you can gradually extend your ride portion or ride more frequently. And don’t be afraid to take a day off!
Make it fun
Riding a bike should be FUN, not a daily grind. Think of your commute as a twice-daily dose of exercise and adventure. Stop to take in the sights, smells and sounds that make commuting by bike much more intimate than sitting in a car. Ask your co-workers if they’re doing part or all of your route if you want some company. Having a bike buddy can help you learn the ins and outs of commuting and give you some extra motivation.
Remember “Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” With the help of your bike, you really can have a happy commute and arrive at work or at home with a smile on your face.
From one commuter to another, I look forward to seeing you out there.