I once read somewhere about a USAT coach saying that age groupers who do triathlons and work full time jobs are the real heroes. And if you think about, there is a lot of truth to that statement. The pros do it for their job, but the rest of us work 40 hrs. per week and still manage to find time to train and travel to races. Working class heroes have to manage their time better than the average person and many times their just isn’t enough time, motivation or energy to go out and train after an 8 to10 hour work day.
So, why not incorporate your job with your training and specifically your bicycle training? Why not do what many people do already – commute to and from work by bicycle?
It can be done and is a great way to get in those miles that might otherwise be put off. If you take the extra time and effort and plan accordingly, your trip to work (and home) by bicycle can be more enjoyable than sitting in an automobile stuck in traffic. And how you decide to ride can be a reflection of your training! You may choose to ride slow that day if you are in need of a recovery ride or you can make your ride to work or home a quality day by doing sprints (I have fun chasing the green lights). If bicycling to and from work sounds like something you might consider, here are some tips to that will help get you started”
1. Try to Avoid Traffic
If possible, avoid routes with heavy traffic. Find a less traveled upon route that will still get you to work in a timely manner.
2. Test Ride the Route
Experiment by riding this route during a weekend or when you are off work and time how long the trip takes. Ride one way FAST and one way SLOW. This will allow you a better idea of the time frame allotted for travel.
3. Plan Ahead
Plan Ahead! Think about any items you may need for you commute beforehand to insure a safe and responsible trip. Items such as a pump, spare tube(s), levers, tire patch kit, small multi-tool, cell phone, etc. should all be considered as part of your emergency kit.
4. Figure out How To Carry Your Belongings
Decide if you are going to use a backpack or panniers (bags that fit on the front and back of your bicycle). Setting up your bike for panniers may require some added components. And because most people do not have an extra bike just for this purpose, a good backpack will work fine.
5. Find Some Inexpensive Tires
I suggestion getting a pair of cheap 700X26 or 28 tires for you “commuting” tires. I just purchased some Specialized 700X26 tires at Nashbar.com for $6.00 each! Save your lightweight, expensive tires for racing. These tires may be bulkier but the extra rubber and larger size helps prevent flats when you are toting a backpack and dodging chunks of rebar on the side of the road!
6. Get a Proper Headlight and Tail Lght
Get a headlight and tail light if you ride during dusk/dark. Those flashing Red blinker lights can be found at Nashbar (yes I shop there a lot) for about $6-$10. Headlights can range from $10-$200. I have a small one made by Cateye that works fine.
7. Prepare Rainy Weather
If your area is prone to nasty, wet weather, get a set of snap on fenders (also found at Nashbar – Hey Nashbar, where’s the commission check?!).
8. Travel in Layers
Carry extra layers of clothing and be prepared to shed any layers if necessary. If you live and travel in a typically colder climate, I recommend a pair of neoprene booties.
9. Wear Proper Clothing
Take the time to plan what you will wear on the bike as well as what you will wear at work.This can take some forethought and a checklist might be a good idea.
10. Find a Place to Change at Work
Do you have a place to change at work? You can drive the car on Monday and take a few days worth of clothes to leave at the office. Is there enough room in your pack for your clothes?
11. Don’t Wear Work Clothes on your Bike
There are two benefits to not wearing work clothes on the bike: 1) you won’t get them dirty and 2) you can get in some additional miles before or after work if time allows.
Everyone’s Situation if Different
I realize that everyone’s work situation is different and some of you travel very long distances (good opportunity for that LSD ride) making commuting by bike very difficult. But if at all possible, I highly recommend it.
I find that when I get to work I am WIDE awake with my blood pumping like a freight train. Only, it is pumping with vigor rather than road rage after being in stuck in wall to wall traffic! Those mornings where the sun is just rising and the temperature outside is cool and crisp…well, they are truly magical.
If you are like me, I have a severe need (addiction) for coffee, So, I have a stainless steel thermos that I carry my pack. I can almost smell it as I ride down the road. I also throw in an extra water bottle and snacks for work.
Benefits of Cycling vs Driving to Work
Are you curious about the financial trade off of cycling vs. driving? Well, try this. List out the things you will need to buy for your cycling commute and then compare that figure to a month’s worth of gas. I don’t know about your town, but here in Idaho, the price of gasoline is about $2.00/gal. So commuting to and from work by bicycle has proven to be a very practical means of travel.
I hope these tips and ideas will convince some of you of the overall joy of cycling to and from work. The BIGGEST hurdle is deciding if you are indeed in the mood to travel by bike! And becoming acclimated to this new form of travel can be frustrating at first. But after you do it a few times, you will develop a routine that will leave you mentally ready.
I know most cities have an alternative transportation agency that have an agreement with taxi companies that will give you one free ride home per year in the case of a problem. All you have to do is sign up. If you are eternally searching for ways to get in extra time on the bike for your training, give it a try.
You get exercise, save $$, and don’t have to spend you time looking at the car in front of you!