As Seattle’s workforce gears up for Bike to Work Day this Friday, some people out there may be looking for advice to get ready for their first commutes by bike. For one take on how to be prepared, here’s a good video from the folks at Cascade Bicycle Club:
Personally, some of my advice for first time commuters would be a little different than in the video. I don’t really think it matters what bike you use, so long as it’s not terribly heavy, rusty and/or broken. The first ride is probably going to be a little cautious and slow, anyway. Plus, mountain bikes have the added advantage of not getting stuck in trolley tracks.
The best way to find a good route is to ride with a friend or co-worker. However, if that’s not an option, both Google Maps’ bike directions and Ride the City almost always give you good routes to start with. You will have plenty of time to play around with your route on future commute trips. If you are still unsure of a good route, tweet @SeaBikeBlog or email me and we’ll figure something out.
Once you have a route and a bike (and helmet, since its the law), you have everything you need to go for it. Put yourself out there and don’t worry too much about the little details. Give yourself plenty of time in case you need to walk a hill, scary street or unexpected construction site. You will probably get to work way faster than you thought you would, so reward yourself with a breakfast bagel or tweet @SeaBikeBlog about how you’re awesome for biking to work.
Biking to work is easy, fast, convenient and fun. Best of all, unlike driving to work, there are always ways to mix things up when you ride a bike. Learning what to bring, what to wear and what kind of bike to own is part of the adventure of switching from a car-centered life to a bike-centered one. The answers are unique for everyone.
If you are looking for more help, here’s some non-mission-critical advice:
- If you gotta look super nice or if its raining, a change of clothes ain’t a bad idea. Don’t freak out about getting sweaty, it’s really not a big deal. If you ride at a comfortable pace, you may not sweat at all (depending on the hills). If you truly have a job where you have to look completely spot-on, just bring along what you need to restyle your hair or touch-up your cosmetic products.
- If you have nice pants, you will probably want to roll/strap up your right pants leg so it doesn’t get dirty or ripped.
- Backpacks, messenger bags with cross-straps and bike-mounted panniers are preferred bag options. A single-strap bag may swing around and be annoying. If in doubt, use a backpack.
- Lights and a good lock are key if you want the freedom to go somewhere else after work.
- Rain jackets are wonderful. It’s not a bad idea to pack one with you even if it looks super nice that morning. Rain pants are almost always unnecessary and will make you sweaty (see point one above).
- Wear gloves if your hands are cold. Otherwise, don’t worry about them. The style doesn’t matter.
- Water is nice to have. You probably won’t need an energy bar or snack (unless your trip to work is really far). Also, it’s hard to ride with coffee.
- Don’t look at your phone while riding.
- Bonus points go to those who know their bus routes. Remember, in case of mechanical failure, you can always throw your bike on a bus.
- If you see a stunning view, pull over to take it in. This is what biking to work is all about: Loving yourself and loving your city.