How to simplify your bike commute
There are several ways to simplify your bike commute. Even if you implement a few of these, you’ll see a huge difference in your daily ride quality and an increase in your frequency of opting for the bike.
1. Ride a simple bike – Ride a bike that has tried and true technology that’s not going to cause a lot of mechanical problems. A steel, fixed geared bike will probably go for years without major mechanical problems that will leave your stranded. Opt for a bike without all the bells and whistles.
2. Check your bike every weekend – regular riding will cause wear on the consumable parts of your bike and you’ll want to make sure you catch any problems early:
o Tire pressure
o Tire wear and damage
o Tightness of quick releases and other fastenings
o Brakes for wear and stopping power
o Chain for stiff links, rust and dryness
3. Clean your bike regularly – At least once a month, or after a particularly dirty commute, you’ll want to to clean your bike of any dirt and grime that can cause problems in the long term.
4. Always carry flat repair materials – Invest in a saddle bag, pack it with an extra tube, tire levers, patch kit, pump and hex wrenches and always keep it on your bike. This way you always know you have what you need to fix a flat and keep moving.
5. Store hygienic necessities at the office – Keep an extra of everything you need to clean up from your commute (deodorant, towels, wipes, etc) at your office. No need to daily carry them back and forth.
6. Leave a pair of shoes at the office – If you ride with clipless pedals or need to wear more dressy shoes at work, store a pair at the office. Again, no need to carry them back and forth each day.
7. Take all your clothes for the week on Monday – I’ve heard suggestions of driving on Monday to take everything in for commuting the rest of the week. However if your bulkier items (shoes, towels, etc) are already at the office, then five changes of clothes will easily fit inside a normal sized backpack or panniers.
8. Always keep an extra set of clothes at the office – Keep an extra belt, pair of pants, shirt, pair of socks, bra, underwear, etc at your office at all times. There’s nothing worse than being halfway into your commute when you remember you forgot an essential.
9. Pack the night before – By packing your clothes and lunch the night before you’ll reduce your stress the next morning. You’ll also be in a better state of mind so not to forget something.
10. Only pack the essentials – Do you really need three tubes, the Sam’s club bottle of gel and an extra helmet? When packing your bag the night before, ask yourself if each item is a necessity.
11. Carry smaller sizes – If you don’t have a place to store your hygienic items at the office, try going smaller. Put your liquids like gel and shampoo in smaller bottles. Purchase travel sized deodorant and toothpaste. This will reduce your daily bulk to carry.
12. Plan your route ahead of time – For most commutes there are several different ways to get from your house to the office. Use a tool such as Google Maps to plan a route that is more scenic, avoids dangerous roads and skips road work.
13. Check the weather nightly – Keep an eye on your local weather so you can plan to dress for the temperature and precipitation.
Top Five Reasons to Claim the Lane when Commuting:
1. Drivers give you more room – The day I started claiming the lane is the day I stopped getting regularly buzzed too closely by cars. As mentioned above, when you are all the way to the right, cars will almost always try to squeeze by. When you claim the lane, they are forced to slow down and wait for an opportunity to pass you which means they take plenty of room to do it.
2. You are more visible – Drivers are used to looking for other large, metal boxes. And they’re used to looking for them in the middle of the lane ahead of them. When you hug the side of the road, you are often outside their field of vision. By claiming the lane you are much more likely to be seen by oncoming traffic.
3. You avoid dangerous debris and obstacles – The sides of roads are usually covered in debris. Stuff that can slash your tires and/or fly up and hurt you. There are also things like sewer grates and uneven shoulders to worry about. By claiming the lane you avoid all of this.
4. It’s an easier, more enjoyable ride – When stuck squeezing the side of the road or riding on the sidewalk, feelings of stress abound. Constantly watching the terrain ahead of you, swerving out of the way of obstacles, slowing down for pedestrians and many other things to which you are forced to pay attention are reduced when you claim the lane.
5. You are making a statement – While not as important as the previous safety related reasons, this has long term effect. On many roads, bicycles are perceived as an annoyance that shouldn’t be allowed in the road with other “real” vehicles. By claiming the lane you are making a statement that we belong on the road and have all the same rights as cars.
Things to remember when you ride:
Wear a helmet!
A bicycle is a vehicle. Follow the rules of the road.
Be visible. Wear bright colors in daylight hours. At night, wear something reflective – or – at least wear something white. Use front and rear lights and reflectors.
Be predictable. Make eye contact. Ride on the correct side of the road, not against traffic. Look behind you before you make a turn or lane change, that lets drivers know you’re up to something. Use hand signals (not THAT one) and don’t wobble around. Don’t weave in and out of the lane when parked cars are spread out.
Plan your route. Your drive to work went straight down the busiest street in town. You’ll add about a mile and a half to your bike commute by heading down to the next street down that crosses the highway with a nice over-pass. Believe me, it is more than worth the extra 5 minutes.
Don’t ride on sidewalks!
Ditch the headphones. It’s great for your workout at that gym, but don’t listen to music while you’re cycling in traffic.
Take the lane: Don’t be afraid to get out in the middle of the lane in stop-and-go traffic, when changing lanes to make a left turn and to avoid being “doored.” You WILL be tempted to blow past a line of cars queued up at a stop light; don’t, just take your place in the middle of the lane and take your turn.
Glare can blind motorists. If the sun is in your eyes, the people driving up behind you DON’T SEE YOU.
Bells and horns are a great way to get the attention of people on the bike path; in traffic you’re better off yelling at the top of your lungs. This is not to say you need to be rude to drivers. You only yell to catch people’s attention, not to express your displeasure.
And, finally, the three most common causes of drivers hitting cyclists:
• Driver turns left in front of an on-coming cyclist who is going straight through an intersection.
• The driver doesn’t stop at a stop sign.
• Driver passes a cyclist and turns right into the path of a cyclist (described as a right hook)