I never thought I would ever succeed in becoming a bike commuter, but eventually, I did! My perseverance led to many years of fun and healthy bike commuting. I thought that I would share my experiences and the many lessons that I learned in my quest. Here are my top 7 tips to plan for success in bike commuting.
Tip #1: Try to get a job within cycling range
Getting to my previous job had required crossing a dangerous, congested bridge. That commute was over 20 km one way and took over an hour each way on a bike. I managed to do this bike commute a few times one summer, but there was no way to do that ride on a daily basis without injury or exhaustion. One option might have been to drive part way, but the bridge was really close to the office and I could not see any way to avoid it. Still, if not for the bridge, that is what I would have done. As it turned out, I could not succeed in becoming a regular bike commuter until I had a job that was within a reasonable distance from our home.
Tip #2 – Bike commuting part way is better than not cycling at all
If your commute is too far or your fitness level is too low, buy a bike rack for your car and drive part way and cycle the rest. You may eventually work up to a full round trip, but even if you don’t you will have improved your health. We have an excellent Thule Helium bike rack (reviewed here) that would do the trick nicely. This rack is also easy to store in your trunk while you are at work.
Tip #3 – Try to find a safe route to bike commute
Hopefully you can travel off-road or in separated bike lanes but if not, at least on a designated bicycle route. Cycling through rush hour traffic twice a day is a recipe for failure, because it is just so stressful. Eventually you will just burn out. I was very fortunate now as my commute was along the Central Valley Greenway and then the separated downtown bike routes.
Related Post: How to Create a Route on Strava and Follow it on Your SmartPhone or Garmin Edge Bike Computer
Tip #4 – Find safe, dry storage for your bike
In my work building I was pleased to find that there was a locked bike cage in the parking garage, with video security and frequent bicycle security patrols. Not only that, but they had day lockers for gear. Bonus!
So it sounded like I was on my way … Well, not so fast. Hmmm … when I cycle, I work up quite a glow. Okay, I’m actually a sweaty mess by the time I arrive. I am a professional, and showing up at the office in sweaty cycling garb would not go over well. My building did not have shower facilities, so I had to come up with a creative alternative. Time to start looking for a nearby gym!
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Tip #5 – Make sure you have a place to shower, change, do hair and make-up, and store your clothing
I found a gym a block away from my office. Not as perfect as in-house, but definitely doable. The price was right and I rented my own locker for overnight storage. I put a set of toiletries, make-up and a hairdryer into my locker. I was ready to start, or was I?
Tip #6 –Practice for your bike commute and then ease into it!
I have Joe to thank for this one. He nagged me a bit to take this step, but it turned out to be SO worth it.
Take a practice ride on a weekend to check the route, identify any trouble spots, and see how physically challenging the route will be once you become a bike commuter. This will also give you a chance to figure out which are the quieter roads. It is hard to figure out a perfect route using a map only. Many of the paths that cyclists can use do not show up on maps.
Record Your Progress: Check out Our Post on All Garmin Edge Bike Computers Compared
Once you feel confident that you have a good cycling route, start with one day or two days the first week and build up gradually. In my case I used an electric bike for the first two weeks before moving to a regular bike. You can read more about electric bikes on our electric bike blog.
Then I started doing one to three days per week on a regular bike, and slowly worked up to daily commuting on a regular bike. And I listened to my body – when I felt exhausted, I took a break!
If you are in your twenties, perhaps you can jump right in at five days a week … but for older cyclists, taking it easy on yourself is recommended. Too many people start with excessive effort, and then just quit because they are emotionally and physically exhausted. Kind of like hitting the gym for three hours on January 1st!
Tip #7 – Get the right equipment
You wouldn’t go camping without a tent – so don’t try to bike commute without the right equipment. I highly recommend getting a pannier that makes it easy to take along your dresses and suits without getting them creased. For me, it’s important to be able to ride my bike to work but still look like an executive when I get there. I have found the perfect pannier in the Two Wheel Gear Panniers – read my full review of the Two Wheel Gear Panniers here.
On that note, it is important to have your bike in good shape too. Joe has an entire post on how to get your bike in good shape for commuting: How to Set Up Your Bike for Bike Commuting.
Related content: All Garmin Edge Bike Computers Compared: 130 Plus vs Edge Explore vs Edge 530 vs Edge 830 vs Edge 1030 Plus
Bottom Line: It’s not Easy, but you can do it!
It’s not easy to become a bike commuter, but with a lot of thought, planning, and determination, it IS possible! I did it despite a lot of challenges (age, back problems, geography) – and if I did it, most likely you can too! Do your preparation carefully, and then give it a try – you have nothing to lose but stress and weight!
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