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  Bike Commuting 101

Tips on Preparing to Commute

  1. Navigating Traffic and riding with the flow is important to a commuter's success.  Remember our goal is to save the planet and our skin is first and foremost. In order to do this you have multiple ways to stay safe and circumnavigate your routes through town. Being seen is probably one of your best defenses against being hit. If people see you then they will usually slow and take extra precaution when going around. If you are not highly visible then they have less time to recognize there is a cyclist in the road and prepare their action. Ways to be seen are numerous, there are high intensity lights you can run day and night, reflective clothing, bright colored jerseys and safety flags, if so inclined.
  2. The rules of the road are pretty simple, in my opinion you should try to find as many paths and side streets as possible for your routes. These paths and streets are most generally faster and safer. In various routes I have explored for my commutes, time can vary by up to 10 minutes in any route chosen. This is based on traffic flow and hills involved, so pick your routes by time and safety. When you do have to be in traffic the law says you are able to take up a lane as any normal vehicle on the road. In real life this makes a flow problem, use routes with shoulders if possible, if not then give yourself enough room to react to traffic changes and people who are not paying attention.
  3. In summary you need to pick your routes for time and safety if efficiency is your thing, however it is always good to take in some scenery on the "long" way home!
  4. Commuting in the spring time requires planning in the clothing department as well. The days can bring rain, wind, heat and snow.  Mostly you need to have layers that are easy to shed and breathable. If the clothes you choose are convertible for multiple weather applications you can have multi-climate control with fewer articles of clothing. That translates to less extras to haul around.

Other tips:

  1. You want to check over your rig and make sure it is in good operating condition.  Things to look for are properly inflated tires with no cracks or threads showing, clean and lubed chain, proper seat height and angle, bolts tight, and proper shifting and braking. 
  2. A tool kit is a handy addition to take care of any road side repairs.  In your kit you should have tire levers, a patch kit, multi-tool (w/ chain tool), handy wipe, extra tube and pump.  (Usually if you carry all this you will never need it, the moment you don't carry it you'll need it!)
  3. Next you need to ascertain your clothing requirements according to weather concerns.  This time of year it can vary greatly and some extra clothing for any sundown riding is definitely warranted. Types of clothes you want to think about are cycling specific clothing with versatility, i.e. sleeves that zip off, wind resistant, water repellent (repellent is different than water proof), flexible, long sleeves and pant legs and some reflective piping.  Gloves come in many different configurations and are a good idea whether it is warm or cold.  You can commute in very cold temperatures with the benefits being very little sweat if any and the ability to control temperatures with layers.  (Do not overdress or you will be miserable, a little clothing goes along way when you are burning all those calories!!)  Multiple layers allow shedding and variation when the weather gets warmer in the day.  Donít forget commuting in early morning and late night is always colder.  Any wind adds a special dynamic to the commute; you will generate more heat going into the wind with higher speeds going with the wind.  Wind front jackets with breath ability are the best choice for this.  A helmet is always a good idea and there are many styles of beanies made to fit under the helmet itself.  These are not all the factors but some of the main issues to address.
  4. Many commuters I know have racks for bags.  They come in many different styles and sizes. You can decide based upon your length of commute and amount of gear you need to haul.  Bags will help you keep things off your back and on your bike.  Some commuters still love the backpack, they like the absence of clutter on their bike.  These are riders that have one bike and use it for multiple venues.  For this there are several multi-use quick release racks. 
  5. Lights are a good thing to have day and night, the flashing LED style are very good at drawing attention from motorists letting them know you are sharing the road with them.  Now if you are going to be riding paths and poorly lit areas at night you will need something that aids your vision as well, this requires more power than most small LED lights have.  A high power LED or Halogen unit will be required. 

**This is not a comprehensive article and by no means covers all areas but is a good quick reference for starting your commuting adventure; think of the satisfaction you'll get riding by all those people stuck in metal boxes fighting traffic while consuming resources and calories.  Meanwhile you help the environment and yourself by riding your bike!!