You finally decided that enough is enough, the traffic is eating your health, time and good mood, daily! You brought your bike up to speed, you bought a helmet to be safe and are finally ready to go to work with your bike. If you have chosen the path of the bike commuter this blog is for you.
First off, congratulations! This decision is probably one of the best anyone can make. It will make you feel great, reduce stress and get you in shape incredibly quick. I know it had this effect on me and I could never go back to driving my car daily to work. Still, it's important to be ready for the specific hurdles you'll encounter by going car-free.
Safety first, second and third! We believe in safety above anything else, if you get hurt you won't be able to ride your bike, right? (not to mention other nasty effects ).
First buy a good helmet/headset.
The head is the most vulnerable part as head injuries are extremely dangerous. A helmet can and will literally save your life.
Secondly, check your brakes.
When you ride you can go pretty fast at times and the truth is, a lot of drivers don't pay or are not used to pay attention to bikers. Almost for sure you'll encounter an unexpected car jumping in front of you from a corner or other. You need to know you can stop fast and trust your instincts.
These are the most important safety tips but there's a lot more you can do.
For example, you can get a mirror. It might seem a bit weird at first, if you are not used to having a bike-mirror but once you start using it you'll never want to get back riding without one. It's great to see what's behind you and who's coming from the left without turning your head back (and thus, not keeping your eyes on the road ).
Buy a good light, preferably one that flashes intermittently, if you go back from work after 7 when it starts to get dark almost everywhere. Riding without a light at night is like being invisible for the cars.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you are on the bike, the cars behind you can't know what you're about to do so you need to signal your intentions clearly with your hands. It's pretty intuitive, just point at the direction you want to go when you change directions, but many new bike riders forget to do this simple thing.
You’ll get used to this fast though if you keep it in mind. When you break, remember that you don't have brake lights so be careful to do break on the side of the road when there's no car directly behind you.
Now that you are up to date with the safety measures, it's time to actually ride.
Let's talk about practicalities.
As you'll learn, biking to work will require a bit more forethought than just jumping in your car with your suitcase.
The biggest difference is that there might be some sweat. No matter how fast or slow you're going, you can't avoid sweating when your ride your bike. This is good, your body is cooling itself off, your heart is beating fast but...your clothes might suffer a little bit.
As for shoes, it's a good idea to wear sports shoes and change with office type of shoes at the office if that's required. If you'll need to just ride directly to a meeting and can't change you can use the office shoes with a shoe protector.
The backpack! This is the great treasure of the bike commuter. The backpack is where you'll keep all that you need for riding, changing and unexpected events. I like to keep my change clothes in there, my shoes sometimes and my lock.
Word to the wise, buy a few allen screwdrivers and keep them with you at all time for easy maintenance on if needs be.
Of course, you'll also keep all your office necessities in there and anything else you might or might not need. The great part is that even a big backpack will not hold you down much, in fact, you'll barely feel it as you ride. Needless to say, I love my backpack.
A few more tips: I've learned a lot about what I need and how to ride in my city after commuting for a few months. A lot of what applies to me, might not be relevant in your area ( for example, is different how you ride when there are bike lanes everywhere vs when you need to ride in heavy traffic ) but the gist of it is that unexpected things happen and unexpected needs arise. What you thought was perfectly ok when you used to get out on the bike for a weekend it's not up to the challenge of daily use. It's important to adapt and don't give up at the first hurdle. Look on the internet for what other commuters do, someone surely had the same problem and solved it, no matter what it is.
And lastly, learn to maintain your bike in order.
Just by keeping the chain clean and oiled, the brakes in good shape and the frame clean you'll be doing just fine. I strongly suggest you use biodegradable products for cleaning and oiling as these kind of products can be very harmful to the environment( yes, they are a tad more expensive but not by much )
For more advanced repairs, I recommend going to a bike repair shop when they'll take care of it and it's usually not very pricey.
I hope this covers almost everything and that you'll be more motivated to make the switch. If you have any questions don't hesitate to leave a comment, I'm happy to answer all and any.