Tired of sitting in your car on your daily commute to work? Maybe it’s time to consider a different type of commute – on two wheels instead of four. Riding your bicycle to work improves fitness, saves money, helps the environment, and connects you to community. But how do you get started?
You don’t need a fancy bike – a used or inexpensive bike is perfect. Take your bike and head over to your local bike shop – they’ll help you get fitted, get your bike road-ready, help with essential gear (locks, lights) and share great cycling tips and tricks.
Go easy on the specialized bike clothing – commuters ride in everything from lycra to tweed! A few rides will help you figure out what feels good for you. Helmets are a necessity, especially riding near traffic, and lights on your bike ensure you are visible to cars and pedestrians. Fenders are great at preventing the infamous skunk stripe and they keep your drivetrain cleaner.
Now that you have your bike, clothes and a good lock, it’s time to do a bit of pre-planning. Check out the options in or around your work for secure parking and showering facilities (useful if your commute has big hills or is more than 8 km). You can check local gyms, too.
Next, select your route by using Google Maps’ cycle mode, city websites, and GPS-enabled apps. Carry gear such as food, clothes and laptop in a backpack or panniers. If the ride from your home to work is too long or impractical, a simple solution is to put your bike in the car, take it to a place partway to your work and ride from there.
Finally, pre-ride your route to get a realistic idea for the timing and the feel of the ride. You may even want to take a ridership course such as Bike Calgary’s Commuter Cycling Skills, Vancouver’s HUB Streetwise course or Cycle Toronto’s Street Smarts workshop.
Successful commuters know their limits and have a back-up plan. What weather are you comfortable riding in? Will you ride in the dark? How far do you want to ride? The goal here is to enjoy cycling to work; don’t stress about missing a day or two. Your limits may change but understanding them will ensure a great ride!
A strategy for when things go wonky will make sure a tough moment doesn’t turn into a rough day. Carry a simple repair kit with a spare tube and pump, a bike lock, and the phone number for a taxi company that has bike racks. Then you can deal with fixable problems or lock up your bike, hop on a bus or jump in a cab and get to work. You can come back and deal with the problem later.
So if you’re considering joining the world of cycle commuters, now is the time! You’ll get fitter, contribute to a greener world and best of all – actually enjoy your commute.