Using your bike for transportation is a great idea. It’s also an idea that can be somewhat daunting. I thought I would jot down my tips for, what I think makes for a successful commute (or trip to the store etc…).
- Choose your route wisely. The biggest mistake I see is people thinking they’re going to ride the same route that they drive every day. It may work in rare instances, but more often it ends a commuting career before it even begins. Google maps/Earth is going to be your best friend. Linked neighborhoods, and side streets can keep you off of busy roads. It’s a must.
- Pick the right tool for the job. I’m talking about bikes people. The right bike can make things so much easier. Wider tires, racks and fenders are must haves IMO. That means skipping the go-fast bike (unless that’s the only one you’ve got). You don’t have to spend a fortune. A fitness hybrid with some accessories can do it all. It may be the only bike you need. The FX line from Trek is a great place to start. Want to spend a little more? How about a Long Haul Trucker from Surly? Or a Sam Hillborne from Rivendell. Those are lifetime bikes.
- Get the weight off of your back. Backpacks are for noobs. Unless you’re carrying nothing more than a T-shirt and handkerchief, get it in a bag somewhere on the bike. You’ll thank me later.
- Light it up! It’s not any kind of news flash; drivers are more distracted than ever. I run lights day and night. I’ve got bits of reflective tape on my rear fender. I’m interested in being seen.
- Wear regular clothes. By that I mean something loose-fitting and comfortable. Technical fabrics? sure, but something that will move around a bit when there’s a little breeze will feel good. It also changes the way drivers treat you. Sad but true. Save the lycra for the Tuesday night World Championships…..if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Take the lane (when appropriate). This one may seem like a contradiction. I want to use up a good 2 feet inside the white line. Many riders want to squeeze themselves over as far as they can. The thinking is that if drivers see how courteous they are, they will give them safe passage. Wrong. What they do is try to squeeze by you, running you off the in the process. They may honk, and they may swear but they are going to have to go around me. If you’ve followed the first suggestion, this should only be necessary from time to time.
- Do wear a helmet. It’s still a free country (at least at the time of this writing), but it just makes good sense. It may not save you, but if you’re going to play in traffic-helmets today are so light and so comfortable……..just wear one.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Do you have additonal tips?