The Urbanite’s Guide to Commuting via Bicycle
If you’ve decided to take the plunge into commuting to school or work with your bike in order to save the environment, save some time, get back into shape or any other reason, we support you. Riding your bike every day takes a true commitment and little preparation but ask any bike commuter and he or she will tell you, in the end, it is always worth it.
We’ve put together a small guide to help you get started on you daily commute.
Find a Bike
It is important to find a bike that best fits your personal preferences as well as the terrain and distance of the commute. Some of the most common types are:
- Road Bicycle – This bike is pretty expensive and typically used for racing. There are variations available in the frame material or structure that make it more apt for cruising in a more relaxed position.
- Classic Bicycle – This bicycle is also known as the Upright Dutch bicycle. It is very stylish and usually has a basket for carrying things. This bike is good for shorter distances or easy city riding.
- Hybrid Bicycle – The Hybrid is a mixture of a mountain bike and a road bike. The bike is built for upright riding which makes longer distances more comfortable. Yet, these bikes can also handle a little off-roading if your path to work isn’t 100% paved.
- Folding Bicycle – The solution to how to save time walking to and from the Metro or bus stop. The added bonus: There is no need to worry about your bike being stolen when it’s out of your site; it folds up compactly and fits right under your desk.
There are many other bikes on the market in just about every price range. You can also consider buying a bike second hand in order to save a little cash. Just make sure everything is in tip-top shape.
Get a Good Lock
No matter where you go, thievery is possible. There are many types of locks on the market that range from cheap to less cheap, but it’s important to remember you get what you pay for. Bike thieves can easily get past slim wires and faulty combination locks. When looking for a great bike locking system at a good value, we recommend the TiGr lock. It is lightweight and elegant yet tough. With two versions available, the Classic and the Mini, both are easy to store on the bike and ideal for locking up the wheels and the frame at the same time. The TiGr lock provides maximum protection and minimal effort on your part.
Be Prepared for the Road
Please remember, you are not a Superman or Wonder Woman and accidents happen: Buy a helmet. Visibility is probably just as important. Seeing and being seen when it’s light or dark out is key when you are riding a bike. Skip the battery-powered lights and go for a power generated one that lights up as you pedal. When you are riding after sunset, you can see the road ahead of you and oncoming cars know you are there. Don’t forget to pick up a bell to let pedestrians know when you are close and they should move out of your way.
You might also consider carrying a case in your bag that includes items such as:
- Lube – Keep your chain functioning properly
- Multi-tool – To tighten a screw or change the position of your seat
- Map – Just in case your phone dies and you are lost in the middle of no man’s land
- Patch Kit – To fix those flats
- Small Pump – For when you are running a little low on air
Be Prepared for the Ride
There are two options when it comes to finding the right riding gear: Wear a full bike-specific lycra outfit to work every day or don’t. For those who want to keep the pack weight light, buy your clothes with your ride in mind. When shopping for pants, think stretch. You want to wear pants that allow you to move around a bit while looking good and feeling protected from the elements. Maybe even more important than your pants are your under-pants. Avoid long uncomfortable commutes with cycling specific panties; any seamless pair will do.
You will sweat. Bring a change of clothes if you sweat heavily or a small shower kit if you sweat less heavily. Be sure to include things like wet wipes for a quick “cat bath,” and maybe a small brush or comb to fix those flyaway hairs.
Know the Rules
Know the traffic rules and pay attention to where you are going. If it is your first time going to work or school on your bike, practice your route ahead of time and go when there isn’t much traffic around. Take your time and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Getting to work isn’t a race. Some of the main guidelines are:
- Don’t Run Red Lights – You are responsible for following the traffic rules. Stopping on red is the law but it also keeps you from endangering yourself and other cyclists, drivers or pedestrians. You could also get a traffic ticket if you are caught by the police.
- Don’t Shoal Other Riders – You may be in a hurry to get to where you are going but, most likely, so is everyone else. Shoaling is when you arrive to a red light and then skip ahead of the other cyclists to get a head start. It is dangerous and rude.
- Respect the Pedestrian Areas – If you expect pedestrians to keep biking lanes and areas free when you come riding through, pay them the same respect. Don’t ride through the middle of pedestrian crosswalks or sidewalks.
- Make Sure You Indicate – Your bike isn’t equipped with blinkers, like a car, to let others know where you are planning to go. Learn which hand signals are used on the road to indicate which direction you want to turn. Try to make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians when making a turn so everyone comprehends what is about to happen.
- Use the Cycle Lane – When there is a bicycle specific lane available, use it.
Relax and remember that cars shouldn’t pressure you while you are riding. You have just as much right to the road as they do. It’s probably a good idea not to ride with headphones on to listen to music; you want to be alert while riding and you need your senses for that.
Get on the Move
You’ve made the decision to start riding your bike, now you just have to start doing it. Riding your bike, getting out and doing exercise fires up the endorphins in your body. By the time you get to the office maybe you’ll find you won’t even need a cup of coffee to get working hard and stay focused. One thing is for sure, by getting out of the car or train you’ll get to see, hear and experience so much more of the world around you. As you make the trek every day to and from the office, or university, or wherever, be safe, stay dry and have fun!
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